Royal College of Teaching
Thank you for inviting us to comment on the call for there to be a Royal College of Teaching. Whilst there is potentially much to say on this issue, we have attempted to restrict ourselves to the brief presentation that you have requested.
In principle, we are very much in favour of the establishment of a Royal College of Teaching. We believe that morale within the teaching profession is currently at a low point and that this is associated with both a lack of professional esteem within the teaching profession and a decline in government and public confidence and respect for teachers. Therefore, we would welcome any attempt to raise the status of teaching as a profession and to restore public confidence and respect.
One of our hopes for the erstwhile General Teaching Council for England was that it would rise to this challenge. Unfortunately, this did not materialise, partly because the GTCE emphasised its regulatory functions over everything else, and also because it was seen by members of the teaching profession as an external imposition, not driven by the profession itself and lacking a genuine interest in the welfare of teachers.
An examination of the failure of the GTCE is, therefore, crucial to ensuring that any potential Royal College of Teaching is correctly founded. At the very least, we believe that such a College should be independent of government and that it should be owned and controlled by teachers themselves. We also believe that such a College should be open to teachers in all phases of education (from nursery to tertiary) and to both public and private sectors.
We foresee there being many potential benefits of such an initiative. It would help to galvanise the profession and raise aspirations, motivation and standards, as well as status. It would provide a vehicle and impetus for promoting continuing professional development in both subject knowledge and generic teaching skills, as well as the development of apposite dispositional and attitudinal aspects of being a professional teacher. It could also act as a very useful umbrella organisation in bringing together subject associations, phase associations, education unions and other professional associations allied to teaching, and in engaging in research.
However, we believe it is important to mention three caveats. One is that, given the relentless intrusion of government into education over the past 20 years or so – which has undermined and compromised teachers’ professional autonomy – we believe that, in order to build capacity for such an initiative, there would, perhaps ironically, need to be active promotion, support and brokering from Government in order to bring together interested parties and facilitate the necessary actions and dialogue needed to implement an appropriate scheme.
Another caveat is that we are sceptical about the view, expressed by some, that a Royal College of Teachers would ensure that “politics is kept out of the classroom”. Whilst we recognise that such a College would champion the profession as a whole rather than meddle in the employment issues of individual members or in the collective terms and conditions of particular groups of teachers, it must be acknowledged that much of what happens in the classroom is shaped by political decisions and underpinned by statutory measures. Therefore, we would expect a Royal College of Teaching to engage fully in the political process by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with Government and lobbying robustly as necessary in matters of policy and legislation (especially in relation to issues involving curriculum, assessment and initial teacher training).
Thirdly, we assume that a Royal College of Teachers would need to levy fees in order to raise revenue for it to function. In the current climate, many teachers would not be able to afford the kind of subscription fees charged by some of the well established Royal Colleges, such as the Royal College of Surgeons, whose members’ salaries are far in excess of what any teacher could ever hope to earn. There would, therefore, need to be an element of ‘pump-priming’ or a significant increase in teachers’ economic position (which has been exacerbated by the current pay freeze); otherwise, the establishment of such a College may fall at the first hurdle by struggling to attract members.
Please be assured, however, that we are keen to participate in a constructive dialogue over these issues, and we would want to be in a position to promote a viable scheme to our members.
We hope that you find these comments useful and we look forward to continuing to work with you as plans for the establishment of a Royal College of Teaching continue to unfold.
Teacher Development Trust: Towards a Royal College of Teaching (pdf) (General Secretary’s contribution p74-76) [added 30/4/13]