Could teachers run their own affairs?

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.


3 thoughts on “Could teachers run their own affairs?

  1. I am unsure, with the average age of teachers dropping sharply (cos they r cheaper), there is enough professional resilience/lifelong wisdom/… in order to sustain your small parnership proposal. Academy chains & LA´s are there for backup (amongst other reasons) of one form or another for when something goes wrong at a school – it only takes one ¨well intentioned¨ adult to cause a stramash that could destabilise a small institution.

  2. Some data points from North America.
    There are folks such as

    This is providing Ontario Ministry accredited courses in mathematics. It is all run on a fee basis. This is targeting those that need help getting better grades.
    This guys are setup near a local high school and align their timetable so students can do the rest of their studies there.

    In the USA there is offering accredited mathematics courses online for those looking for a greater challenge than their local school provides. These are run after normal school hours so students can take their other classes at a regular school.

    You can get a feel for the economics of this sort of specialization from these two. In one case it is experienced teacher[s] in their own small facility. In the other it is experienced teachers/mathematicians online. Neither setup looks like they are motivated by greed although once established the employees and owners are probably relying on the income.

    These seem like a far more satisfying model for smaller scale operations than trying to establish a small school to replicate high school. It would take a lot of coordination to have the range of options available at a typical high school.

  3. Sara Hjelm says:

    What you discuss here is what I would call a cooperative. Introducing free schools in Sweden, it was the original political aim to enable this. Parents running their own kindergarten or primary, teachers running their own school. Competition by free school choice quickly corrupted the system in all more densely populated areas, when smaller school “owners” were offered huge sums on a market and the result is what we have today.

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