According to a Schools Week scoop, the proposed College of Teaching for England has ambitions to define teaching standards. This was inevitable and something that I predicted a while back. It is, however, no less worrying. In Australia, we have a set of standards drawn-up by educationalists and these illustrate one direction that this project could take. The Australian standards are quite vague, although they are largely illustrated with videos showing the epitome of progressive teaching practice.
Even though the standards are vague, if you have cause to question the concept of, say, differentiation – as I have done – then pretty quickly someone will tell you that you have to differentiate because it says so in the standards, as if this is an argument. And even though the standards are vague, it is hard to see how you could set up a school like Michaela Community School in Australia without falling foul of them and risking teacher accreditation.
The College of Teaching has been beset by controversy from the start. After a failed crowdfunding campaign, it managed to secure funding from a gullible government that was seemingly unaware that the College is potentially a vehicle for undermining the government’s own education policies. There have been heated arguments about who should be a member. Many teachers have claimed that it should be open only to teachers but then some educationalists have chipped-in and suggested that they should also be able to join because they teach university students – cue silly arguments about the definition of a ‘teacher’ and whether identifying as a teacher makes you a teacher. I saw an interesting feed on Twitter where the idea was put forward that if the College of Teaching was to set teaching standards then it would have to admit educationalists as members, presumably because teachers wouldn’t have the capacity to set standards for themselves.
And the College of Teaching has a strange habit of organising events in such a way that ordinary classroom teachers struggle to attend. Most recently, they held an event on a weekday in the same week as significant national tests were taking place.
Defining standards is clearly not a dispassionate exercise. Many educationalists cannot disguise their loathing for some forms of teaching. ‘No excuses’ often comes under attack, with one teacher educator recently drawing a comparison between Michaela Community School and Nazi Germany. If the teaching standards are captured by this constituency then there may be a new lever to pull to enforce more progressive styles of teaching on the profession.
England doesn’t need this body.