hunt_1609178cInteresting reports on Labour’s desire to license teachers and encourage them to re-license every few years. You can read the BBC report here, the Guardian account here and the Telegraph one here. The Labour government tried this in the dying days of its last administration and failed. The more conservative sides of the political spectrum (as well as the oh-so-predictable teaching unions) are lining up against the idea. Tristram Hunt, the Labour shadow secretary of state for education, summarises it like this:

This is about growing the profession. This is about believing that teachers have this enormous importance. Just like lawyers and doctors, they should have the same professional standing which means relicensing themselves, which means continual professional development, which means being the best possible they can be. If you’re not a motivated teacher – passionate about your subject, passionate about being in the classroom – then you shouldn’t really be in this profession.

It is quite hard to pick serious holes in this argument. It is something that we all actually would like to see as teachers. The last statement in the quote is interesting, and raises another issue, namely: can you stay in the profession without being motivated? Is it any more physically, psychologically and emotionally possible to do this?

The articles between them raise some questions that are worth putting down here, just as first thoughts:

  1. IF the current government is keen on setting up teaching as a proper profession, with a body such as a College of Teaching, then why should there not be a nationally recognised qualification, better than “qualified teachers status”, to mark that? It seems to me that we cannot have it both ways. If we want our profession to be regarded as a high status, high pay profession, as in some other countries, notably Scandinavia, then we have to be qualified to be able to teach to a high level of technical sophistication and prove that we have a depth of knowledge that is worth teaching from. This can be done by ensuring that teachers have Masters level qualifications in teaching and learning (a fundamental research desire being in my view the basis of being a good teacher), or by a professional qualification such as the one proposed.
  2. If we accept that the large majority of teachers in schools are led by headteachers and departmental heads who seriously want teaching to improve and standards to rise, then are politicians the right people to propose this? What the unions are objecting to, quite rightly, will be the top-down enforcement of it by people who want teaching to improve for their own political ends (the second half of the BBC article by Nick Robinson has quite a good summary of this issue). However, they seem to have given a cautious welcome if it enables better CPD for teachers along the way.
  3. If we accept that licensing can be established in a way that would gain the trust and respect of teachers, what mechanisms will be installed locally to enable teachers to be licensed fully and then be re-licensed, and would headteachers then have the power to force a poorly performing teacher to undergo re-licensing? The powers we have at the moment are a bit all-or-nothing. To have a set of licensed professional standards, perhaps based on the current teaching standards as a start point, would be a help, especially for heads of “academies” and “free” schools who have the power to employ teachers without Qualified Teacher Status.
  4. Can we please stop talking about teacher MOTs? We are not cars, we are not mechanical, we are passionate, committed people who long for their skills and depth of understanding to grow so our children will benefit and learn. To talk about teacher MOTs is a ridiculous and wholly typical downgrading of the professional status by journalists and politicians who have no concept of the level of the technical sophistication, hard work and consistent character required to be a teacher of children in a modern state. This week I wrote to my staff about my vision for this year and introduced to them my pretentious metaphor about harnessing horses that I launched on this site three months ago. As part of that letter, I tried to explain, using some of the words of Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves from their book Professional Capital, just how important and deeply professional our work was, in every sense of the word. Just do not ever use the MOT metaphor again.

About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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