New proposals for a College of Teaching offer a unique opportunity to raise the status of the teaching profession and encourage high quality, evidence-based professional development. But the measures are certain to prove counter-productive and divisive if they fail to include teachers of 16 to 19-year-olds outside the school system.
In response to consultations on proposals by the Prince’s Teaching Institute, we as members of the Policy Consortium applaud the idea of such a voluntary body. However, we caution against plans limiting membership to teachers in academies, maintained, special and independent schools and sixth-form colleges.
The scope of the College, as envisaged in the current proposals, excludes teachers in FE colleges. To do so, we argue in our response, is “absurd and indefensible” since further education teachers are responsible for considerably more Level 3 (A-level-equivalent) students than are those in state schools. This also sends out misleading messages to learners, parents, employers and others seeking assurances about quality.
The number of 16 to 18-year-olds entered for Level 3 qualifications (A level or equivalent) in 2011/2012 show a major proportion from FE colleges; indeed, with almost exactly twice as many as are enrolled in Sixth Form Colleges):
State-funded schools 170,882 43.1%
Independent schools 37,069 9.3%
Sixth Form Colleges 63,741 16.2%
Other FE Sector colleges 125,424 31.5%
We recognise there may be a need to limit membership to teachers rather than all professionals involved in supporting learning, at least in the initial stages. We also acknowledge the complications of recognising the professional status of many teaching post-19. But, to exclude teachers of 16 to 19-year-olds in FE at the start creates a particular risk of exacerbating already damaging professional divisions.
Two negative consequences of discrimination are immediately obvious. First, in tertiary colleges and others with mixed sixth-form and vocational studies some teachers could be Members but not others. Parents, learners and other professionals could read this as suggesting an inability to achieve the status on grounds of competence, rather than rules of membership.
Second, the denial of College of Teaching membership status to the majority of those teaching vocational curricula would exacerbate the existing status problem of vocational education.
A strong professional body dedicated to standards and professional development would be a great step forward and we commend the College of Teaching initiative in principle, but as presently suggested it is complicated by deep institutional divisions at 16-plus.
We suggest a clear statement of intent about the desired scope of teacher membership be set out from the beginning. We further suggest consideration be given to including all organisations that employ teachers (but not trainers), from primary through to 16 to 19-year-olds.
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