In this week’s Education Guardian, there’s an article written by Sir Tim Brighouse and Professor Bob Moon about a “New Vision for Education” group proposal for a National Teaching Institution.
A summary of the paper can be found on the Guardian Teacher Network site:
The paper in full can be found on the New Visions for Education Group website.
This group is proposing a National Teaching Institution that will be responsible for the coordination and development of training for all teachers, and that this organisation needs to be “wholly independent of government”.
It argues that INSET and professional development in England has been sporadic, disjointed, unco-ordinated, poorly evaluated and often irrelevant to the needs of both teachers and their pupils.
Together with various proposals about the funding and management of a National Teaching Institution it makes the following key proposals.
• recommend a curriculum for in-service teacher education (initially focused on classroom teaching in primary, secondary and special schools) that, drawing on the most recent evidence and analysis, would provide a foundation and route for career-long teacher development programmes
• establish a framework of accredited and non-accredited teacher development programmes through which schools and teachers could build and design programmes, within which providers of all types (public and private) could offer development opportunities, activities and courses;
• create an evaluation model, independent of government and OFSTED, which provides teachers and schools with appropriate information upon which professional development can be planned;
• create a national teacher development portfolio that is owned by teachers and gives recognition to the career-long process of development;
• disseminate any new thinking and innovation that is relevant to teacher development.
The training and development on offer would concentrate on raising achievement but would explore pedagogical developments as well as the personal and social development of the child.
Here are some quotes from the paper:
“The curriculum [for training] would be open and flexible, encouraging innovation, offering alternative visions of pedagogic practice but strongly focused on children and students growing their potential and achieving the highest standards.”
“Within the school environment . . . . most professional learning will take place.”
“We also believe that there needs to be an explicit values dimension to professional development that provides focus to the social purposes that schools serve (addressing all forms of disadvantage or discrimination, for example).”
“The teaching profession needs to become independent of government and take teacher development into its own hands.”
“International evidence suggests that the most successful schooling systems have a tradition where governments work within policy frameworks supportive of teachers controlling their own development.”
“Countries that have teacher development strategies agreed with their teaching professions and their representatives are the ones that create the best conditions for embedding high levels of achievement for all their young people.”
This is looking positive. There’s recognition here that the profession needs autonomy from government. It recognises the need to have a solid understanding of pedagogy at the heart of training and development. It implies that all education is greater than mere attainment and that we need to put learning in the context of a child’s life that may or may not be influenced by social deprivation and a range of inequalities.
However, there is no mention of wellbeing at any point through the paper. This is an important omission. The present and future wellbeing of the child must be an integral part of any programme for learning. This has been ignored too often and is, in our opinion, a significant factor in continued achievement. Most children can be coached to pass exams but it’s their skills, values and attitude to learning and living that makes this progress sustainable and meaningful.
Furthermore, in order to create an environment where this “attainment” is developed into a lifelong willingness to learn and a lifelong enjoyment of learning, as a profession we need to consider our response to the external factors that significantly impact on a young person’s life – relationships, family support or lack of it, housing and health amongst others.
The historical role of the unions is also considered in this paper, as is the role of universities.
For too long the unions have had a dual responsibility that has ultimately detracted from their purpose. The unions have been stymied by a succession of legislative moves that have diminished their role in campaigning for greater autonomy for the profession. They have been seen by the media and society as organisations solely concerned with teachers’ pay and conditions rather than organisations with an explicit purpose of guiding and directing education policy. They still have an important role to play for their members, but we believe that their inability to prevent governmental dictat on what is taught and how it is taught has been to their detriment. A National Teaching Institution independent of but complementary to the unions could strengthen their purpose enormously.
The universities are also important, but in the future there needs to be greater partnership between schools and academics. Due to government control of what is taught and how it is taught some of the excellent work of various academics on pedagogy has not been assimilated into practice. There’s no point in having a philosophy of education that remains in the universities and which is only incorporated into practice by a few inspired teachers who have the fortitude and the freedom to access the university courses.
Whilst we appreciate the New Visions group’s apparent need to be seen as uncritical of government in order to achieve its goals, we are a little concerned about the following quote from the paper:
“In suggesting that the Institute be independent of government, we do not seek structures that are oppositional to government. We believe that the curriculum of teacher development could be formulated in ways that accommodate changes in government and we envisage that, over time, the Institute would become a wise partner and critical friend in the governance of education.”
This is a major stumbling block. We need people and organisations to be “oppositional to government” if government policy isn’t mindful of good pedagogy. We need this organisation to oppose government doctrines if those policies are irrelevant and potentially damaging for children and young people.
For example, if we’d had a National Teaching Institution when the National Curriculum was introduced, would it have taken the form that it had? The National Curriculum, with its over prescription and unworkable amount of content, directed the style of teaching for many. Without the influence of respected educational thinkers, many class teachers felt that the only way they could get through the content of the curriculum was to return to subject based teaching in primary schools with a chalk and talk pedagogy – often going directly against their own philosophy of education.
If there was a National Teaching Institution in existence now, would it roll over and accept all of Mr Gove’s reforms without making a stand against the anachronistic measures and curriculum that he wants to see taught in our schools?
We don’t want a National Teaching Institution to be deliberately and provocatively opposed to government but we do want such an institution to be the voice for children, young people, teachers, parents and their rights – the rights to a good, sound, motivational, sustainable education.
The whole notion of a National Teaching Institute complements our recent posts on a reinvention and not a reform of education. The focus on meaningful, continual professional development is important, and if we are to tackle the whole notion of accountability outside Ofsted, the content of a relevant curriculum (away from a nationally enforced curriculum), the rights of the child as outlined by the United Nations, and meaningful formative assessment as opposed to a mass of examinations, then we need our teaching profession to be ready, continually in receipt of high quality professional development, and in full control of their teaching.
We look forward with anticipation to further talks, publications and involvement with this group.