At the recent Association for Science Education (ASE) conference, the National Science Learning Centre, Wellcome Trust and Royal Society held our always-popular annual Talking Science debate. This year’s topic was: how do we raise the professional status of teachers?
Dame Kate Detheridge, Headteacher from Churchend Academy, Reading, gave an impassioned speech on the need for a chartered institutional body for the teaching professional, a College of Teaching, which would allow teachers to take responsibility for their own training and development, as well as act as a unified voice for the profession. The Claim Your College campaign recognises the importance of initial support from the teaching community itself and is working hard to consult and promote itself widely.
The establishment of a successful professional college is, in part, a catch 22 situation, which the Claim your College campaign is working hard to remedy. Of course teachers will be more willing to support the scheme once it has proved itself to be effective and aligned with their needs. However to establish a successful scheme, the college requires teacher input and confidence from the offset. Part of this will come from the ‘Big Staff Meeting’ teacher consultation that Claim your College are running throughout 2016, to gain teachers’ views on what they want the college to provide.
The Talking Science debate included Rachel Tuffin OBE, who was able to give an insider view of the establishment of a new professional body from her own experiences in developing the new College of Policing. A theme which emerged strongly from consultation to establish the College of Policing was the importance of evidence to inform best practice. Evidence, research, lifelong learning and continuing professional development were themes which resonated strongly with the teachers present at the ASE debate.
Russell Hobby, General Secretary of NAHT, described how politicians wouldn’t tell surgeons how best to do their job, because the president of the Royal College of Surgeons would stand up and make a very strong evidence-based case defending current practice. A College of Teaching should strive to use evidence to achieve a similar status.
Evidence-based practice seems to be a real strength of many successful professional bodies, and the teachers in the room at ASE were supportive of such an approach. The importance of evidence dominated much of the latter part of the conversation, with calls for education research to be given greater priority and the expertise of older teachers to be recognised and usefully and systematically built upon. However, discussion was not only focused on education research, teachers were also keen to ensure they were up to date on the latest scientific advancements, to keep their subject specific knowledge and teaching up to date with the latest research. The role of a College of Teaching in promoting subject specific CPD (continuing professional development) should also be considered.
The message was clear: teachers do not want recipes. They don’t want to take someone else’s lesson and deliver it in the classroom. They need to be offered the responsibility to take risks and be creative through the confidence that they are delivering the up-to-the-moment scientific knowledge to the next generation.
Our audience at the ASE debate concluded that raising the professional status of teachers requires trust and respect from both the general public and policymakers. Which, actually, is pretty simple. Let’s loosen the reins and see what the profession is capable of.
If you are a teacher and would like your views heard on the establishment of chartered college of teaching, please see the teacher consultation survey. You can also run a big staff meeting to consult staff at your school.
One of our Vision recommendations is that teachers have a high professional status and there is a strong supply of science and mathematics specialists. Vision also calls for education policy and practise to be better informed by evidence. Find out more about our education policy work.