I am stepping back from supporting the College for Teaching, for now. I have already written about my thoughts, hopes and dreams for this proposed professional body for teachers, and encouraged others to do the same. I have engaged in the debate, and tried to help in practical ways the well intentioned group of people and organisations behind this noble idea.
I have been as supportive as I can be. But, that is changing today. I am taking a step back and detaching my active support, for the moment. Why?
Not be because I have concerns, or because I want it to happen quicker, or because I want it to go in a specific direction.
Because, although there has been the desire to make this campaign by teachers, for teachers; the will and infrastructure has not been there to make that happen.
I believe that, from the start, there should have been a programme for all parts of the profession to be involved, carefully working through the key questions any professional body must answer. This may yet happen, but, until it does, I’m out.
Because there are key aspects to this project that should be in place, and are not. I want to help, and to know what I can do, and where it fits, and be able to fit this into the rest of my week. That sort of public plan, so I can see how my efforts are helping, is not there. Again, maybe it is too early for this, but I’d have expected this to be in place.
Because I expected more readiness for the complexity of the questions the College of Teaching would raise. Because in order to claim back our profession from the politicians, we need a plan for how we will do this.
Yes, I have ideas about how to do this, I would love to have a way to help make it happen, and I hope to in the future.
But, for now, I will rejoin the sidelines.
In previous posts, I have applied lessons from evolutionary theory to the early development of the new College of Teaching. I hope it will also find a way to channel the creativity, innovation and diversity of our profession; a channel for all our voices.
By setting up a professional body within terms set by the current coalition government, we are in danger of locking our work into a mechanistic and technical model, losing the creative and progressive power of the work we do. We are NOT like doctors, or actuaries – there is no simple evidence-based relationship of intervention to outcome. Yes, we want the raise in status (and better pay) but we’d be wrong to think we can appropriate the professional approach of these technical fields without losing our trusted place in society.
This is not a concern about politicisation, but of setting the terms of a single voice and direction for a profession that should be diverse.
How would the College of Teaching have responded to Ofsted’s recent comments about the stagnation of secondary schools in England? By agreeing we must work harder and that we need better teachers? That is what I am afraid of! That is not the answer I want given.
I want a professional body which can speak for those of us who question the assumptions that underpin the political debate – and enable teacher to wrest control over pedagogy, assessment and curriculum from politicians.
More than the suggested representation of all unions, regions, etc – I believe the College of Teaching must also represent all pedagogies and have a formal place to access learning from educational technology; eg – the success of project based learning in raising attainment, or new models of CPD using twitter.
A monolithic College of Teaching will lead to our richly diverse profession stagnating. The College of Teaching must find a way to represent the multiplicity of voices within the profession and show we can handle the debate, on our own terms, with maturity – and space for all.
The proposed College of Teaching should allow for diverse evaluation models, and seek to create new professional routes to turn ‘failure’ into adaptation.
In my previous post, The Red Queen, Evolving the Profession , I wrote that the new College of Teaching should learn an important lesson about failure from evolution. ‘Running to stand still’ is the only way to keep up with any complex environment. So should it be for teaching.
Dynamism and adaptation is the reality of other professionals. After all, who’d want a Doctor that was still using trepanning, just because ‘it has always worked’ for them. Doctors are expected to keep up with research, understand the data, and to specialise where they have the most ability and interest.
Firstly, while I’d welcome the possible collaboration between SSAT and CoT, to use the lead practitioner model, I am concerned that this seems to indicate that there will be only one portfolio / evaluation tool.
One system to cover all teachers, pedagogies, curricula, resources, phases and settings? As we know, there is a danger of ‘teaching to the test’ in any learning system, and though the descriptors offered by the SSAT are excellent, the means of assessing them should allow for variation and diversity.
I suggest that the SSAT LP Framework becomes an ‘open standard’ that encourages a rich ecosystem of providers (both existing and new) to feed into. No school is the same, but it is right that there are national standards. These must be reviewed on an annual basis, and updated to reflect the leading edge of classroom practice and CPD.
Secondly, not every teacher can be good at everything. Though there are a small number of truly exceptional teachers, they are either channelled into SLT or leave the profession for consultancy.
We have a far too simplistic professional structure. In mainstream schools, there are just classteachers, and management. There is very little specialisation, and far too few possible roles. SENCos are a rare hybrid, but few schools provide the time for these teachers to specialise fully, or integrate their specialism into the practice of colleagues.
We all know fantastic subject specialists who are terrible at pastoral care, or data fiends who struggle to manage behaviour. These might be generalisations in a profession of generalists, but the wider point holds. All can improve, and we want more great teachers, but what will happen if the professional standards we set do not allow schools to find a more positive way to deal with this natural selection, and interests of individual professionals.
Instead of punishing this variation, we should be able to adapt and evolve roles to keep these expert educators in the profession. As we see in medicine, with surgeons rarely able to relate to humans, and GPs who can comfort our sick children, there is a model for doing this.
I also believe that teachers who specialise would also have better capacity to collaborate more effectively with other professionals who work with young people, including Edpsychs, pediatric OTs, social care, and GPs. This would add to the professional status of teachers
I believe in the College of Teaching and wish that more colleagues were positively engaging with the debate and helping to shape our professional body. The College of Teaching must avoid the event horizon of initiatives that have gone ‘supernova’ in the past, and work towards a new professional paradigm for education.
We need to be more honest about failure in education.
As we canter towards the College of Teaching are we danger of ignoring a fundamental principle of evolution?
It is not enough to maintain or even improve standards. As a profession, we need to develop an understanding that allows for the insistent pull of dynamic change. We need to understand the theory of the Red Queen, which is:
… an evolutionary hypothesis which proposes that organisms must constantly adapt, evolve, and proliferate not merely to gain reproductive advantage, but also simply to survive while pitted against ever-evolving opposing organisms in an ever-changing environment. (Wikipedia)
There are always going to be some teachers who obviously do not come up to scratch, and dealing with them is going to be part of performance management. But these teachers are not my concern.
It is the 60%, those in the middle of that normal distribution curve that worry me. Being held to professional standards and expectations, we are likely to see the best intentioned scheme in our recent professional history trapping the profession in a puddle of inertia.
We must have a profession who are constantly running to stand still. For example, It is not ok for a teacher to say that they cannot ‘do’ technology. Teachers who stay where they are, even if that is ‘Outstanding’ today, and just keep doing more of the same, need every incentive and the space to develop further.
A classroom/school where the force of fear (of inspection or poor management) is greater than the force of evolution, the learning cannot keep pace with the demands of the children
Of course, we must allow space for adaptation, and create less painful pathways for failure.
We need a profession full of experimentation, alive to the challenges that our environment, communities and families present us.
We need to allow for the wild cards, be prepared to cut away the dead wood, and embrace change.
This week, the fantastic Bill Lord gave an impromptu master-class in Headship.
This happened while we talked in a Google Hangout about the Arts in Education, as part of the work I am doing for the Arts Council England.
Despite the hugely successful and interesting #UKEdChat discussion the week before, (or maybe because of that) the Google Hangout was to have had only 10 people. However, initially no one turned up, and so I started off quite worried, and alone.
But, Bill came through (with an epic new facial hair arrangement, which we discussed for too long!). We were joined by others, but as tweets and comments after demonstrated, we were all happy to let Bill talk!
Bill explained that he had trusted his staff to create a rich learning experience for the kids, with the National Curriculum as 20% of the time, core, but not always front and centre.
He poured forth bon-mots by the dozen, embodied wisdom about leadership, and generally made me want to teach in his school!!
Bill also shared several great ideas for ways that the Arts Council England team could enhance the work they are doing.
If you don’t follow Bill on Twitter – I highly recommend it!
You can watch and enjoy Bill’s ideas for yourself:
(Apologies for the swearing and any bad jokes made in the course of the discussion when it is shared!!)
Thank you Bill.
I am currently working with Arts Council England, to help them improve the way they support schools, and we need your help with a short survey.
Specifically, we are unpicking how teachers find digital resources to support Arts and Culture in school.
We need to collect a LOT of evidence, to help inform the spending of public money to best effect and to improve the access to Arts and Culture for all children in England.
I would hugely appreciate it if you could take a moment to answer this short survey to help improve the quality and findability of resources for schools. Please share with your colleagues and networks and help us to get this right.
I will also be hosting #UKEdChat on October 30th, at 8pm, to discuss the place of Arts and Culture more deeply. I really hope you can join me.
What is arts and culture?
Libraries – Local and National
Dance - Ballet, Contemporary, Traditional (Irish, Folk, Indian, etc)
Museums – Local, Regional and National
Music – All forms; creating, listening, learning instruments, concert going.
Galleries and Studios - Visual, Video, Material, Electronic Arts
Authors/Poets – Literature, Slam poetry, Storytelling
Theatres - puppet, touring, Regional, National, etc
My name is Eylan Ezekiel, and I have been involved in teaching, publishing for schools, edtech and education innovation. Unsurprisingly, I am also an avid fan of teachmeets! Teachmeets tend to be on-off or annual events, often with the focus on a stage and speakers. Brian Sharland and I are trying a new model in Oxford, Atomic Teachmeet, for a monthly, intimate event, where groups of teachers share with each other in smaller groups, with short ‘open-mike’ sessions. We are running these events at Atomic Pizza on the Cowley Road. To see more about our model, take a look at the web site: http://sharland.github.io/Atomic-Teachmeet/
Apart from Atomic Pizza being a cool venue,it brings the TeachEat into the TeachMeet, and makes it far more social. It has wi-fi and scope (in the Narnia Room) to accommodate a large group. They have also offered us free use if we take weekdays. We have run a few small, test events, but are looking to really establish it across all schools in Oxford (shire) from September. We are looking to have 10-20 regulars, who might come most, but not every month, so it becomes a part of the local learning landscape. Hopefully, it will grow and help improve the attitudes to CPD in this city.
We are looking for sponsors to make the evening more convivial and successful in the longer term.. Given we don’t know numbers for each month, and we want it to be pretty fluid, we are looking for sponsors to offer contributions in direct proportion to numbers who sign up, to encourage more to come! So, for every 5 new people who sign up, your organisation might add an extra £30 towards drinks.
We think this will suit organisations and business who offer services to schools, rather than products, because Atomic Teachmeet will allow you to build a relationship with teachers, and for them to develop a positive long term association with your brand, rather than a one-off purchase!
In return, we will badge and reference your organisation on our web spaces, and are happy to have promotional material given out on the tables. Of course, we’d be happy to have you along too, though we are going to keep all chat strictly about practice in schools.
If you’d like to talk more, please get in contact with Eylan.
Everyone won at the ed-invent Brighton 2014 day on Saturday, as it was such a great day! I was very surprised when the judges announced that my pitch had won, as the breadth and quality of the others were so good.
I did have the advantage of coming with an idea, which meant I had already considered most of the key aspects of the pitch. You can hear a brief summary of my idea here:
I will share more about the idea in a future post, so for now, you’ll have to do with listening to the Audioboo.
The day was so useful for me, partly because I was able to get such great mentoring and advice, to help me think through key issues, such as the value proposition, business models, and (of course) names!
Many thanks, also, to all those involved in setting the day up, and to the judges for their time.
Finally, though I am not sure quite what I won (prizes had not been announced at the time of writing this), apart from a bar of choc, but I came away with a few important gifts:
- An absolute determination to give this idea as much of a chance to ‘live’ as possible – not just because other people told me it was great, but because I believe it in more than ever
- Confidence in myself to pull this project together (thanks Tony !)
- New friends
On the way home after a very long day (up at 6am, home at 12midnight) and too many miles (250!) the name came to me, and I think I should be able to announce soon!
SO… watch this space for more details.
— ed-invent.com (@ed_invent) July 12, 2014
Based on my most recent work with schools in East Oxford, I have seen a huge opportunity to improve the coordination and collaboration between, and across schools in the city. There are too many loose ends, and those threads need picking up, before local provision falls further apart. I would like to find a way to do this exciting work for the city I live in, and have a few suggestions to see this happen.
I have tried to find ways to change the quality of education in the city in the past (See ONSchool) , and have developed a great network of those who care about the issues around the quality of provision in the city. Yet, I have still been shocked to find just how isolated our local schools have become from each other!
For example, while almost all schools are changing their curriculum for September, there has been almost no sharing or collaboration on this huge effort. I could list the issues I have spotted and have worked on for St Francis (around CPD, Assessment, resource planning, staffing). I am sure these are not surprising to anyone working in schools.
What has shocked me is the extent to which without an LA able to support collaboration, divided political will between City and County councils (of different political hues), Academy trusts seeking internal priorities, most schools have been left to themselves and failed to forge effective links to help each other. While some are successfully facing down challenges and making huge successes for their children and communities, there is still not enough sharing of good practice across the City.
I would like to help change that. I am well placed, and have the skills and the energy. But more than that, this is coming from the classroom upwards – rather than being led from ‘above’.
Following a major piece of curriculum review work, at St Francis, (see here) I have recently focussed on creating links between the school, staff and children at St Francis out to the local community and other schools. The common key drivers are the move to a Storytelling based curriculum, and taking learning ‘Beyond the Classroom’.
- Buddying up staff to support planning
- Evolving assessment practices (avoiding a new system for each school!)
- Develop and extend CPD opportunities
- Encourage an evidence based practice approach
- Linking to other educational provision (independent schools, local services, universities)
- Improving external communication about learning
I have also begun work on a resource to support Beyond the Classroom work, and set up a regular TeachMeet, to support staff networking. Local heads and deputies have responded really well to this, BUT this is not (yet) a coordinated piece of work.
The Isis Partnership of schools in East Oxford has floundered of late, many people privately admitting that it struggles to find relevance and direction. Yet, this is the perfect vehicle for collaboration. What is missing is clear coordination, toward positive change. Individual school leaders are doing great work, but there a missing ingredient to support them
I would like to be that added factor. This post is a direct statement of intent – but also a call for change. I know, given current financial and political realities, that there is unlikely to be a ‘job’ waiting for me – but hope that with a bit of innovation, I can find a way to continue my work.
I am talking to those who could make this happen, and hope that, as we head towards a ‘Middle Tier’ in education, I can be useful to the development of a local solution to support the families of Oxford, and to enable better coordination in our local schools.