One of the interesting aspect of the College of Teaching debacle in England is that it has thrown a harsh light on the differences between teaching and other professions. Lawyers, surgeons and accountants are largely trusted to set-up and regulate their own affairs. Yet we don’t seem to be thought capable of doing the same and instead need input from professional development providers and higher education institutions. Perhaps we are just less capable? I’m not sure. I wonder if we can achieve more than we think.
For instance, let’s imagine a different kind of school.
Models of school provision are now changing across the English-speaking world. We have free schools and academies in England and charter schools in the U.S. It’s possible that the same kinds of schools will emerge in Australia. And yet the schools that we have seen so far all follow a fairly traditional structure, even if they are experimenting with new approaches to teaching.
Visualise, instead, a school run as a partnership between teachers. It would need to be pretty small – the limit on partnerships in Australia is about 20 individuals, I think. And these boutique partnership schools would probably have quite a limited offering within their walls – student choice would come from whether to attend a particular school or not rather than through the subjects on offer at an individual school, which is probably a more efficient way of providing options.
The teachers would employ their own support staff. They might contract-out timetabling and other administrative functions. They would have to deal with behavioural issues themselves and you might think this would distract them from focusing on teaching. However, the prevailing philosophy in many schools is that teachers largely should deal with behaviour issues themselves. So there may be no net change.
Such a school would struggle to offer a full range of extra-curricular opportunities but then why should it need to? Could it not link up with local sports clubs or drama societies and have specialists offering this provision? And the size of the school would be a bonus. Everyone would know everyone.
I think that as we awake as a profession, we will start to realise that we might be capable building all sorts of new ways to educate.