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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 371-i
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Great Teachers follow-up: COLLEGE OF TEACHING
Wednesday 17 July 2013
Chris Pope, Professor Derek Bell, Dr Patrick Roach and Dr Lesley Saunders
Peter Kent, Anne Swift, Dame Joan McVittie and David Weston
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 80
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Taken before the Education Committee
on Wednesday 17 July 2013
Mr Graham Stuart (Chair)
Mr David Ward
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Chris Pope, Co-Director, Prince’s Teaching Institute, Professor Derek Bell, Professor of Education, The College of Teachers, Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary, NASUWT, and Dr Lesley Saunders, Visiting Professor, Institute of Education, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Good morning and welcome to this session of the Education Committee. I am grateful to the four of you for joining us today. We are following up on our Great Teachers report of a year ago, and today we are looking at the proposal in that report for the establishment of a college of teaching. Can I start by asking you how realistic you think it is to draw comparisons between this putative college of teaching and existing colleges, such as the Royal College of Surgeons? How similar will they be? Will there be very significant differences?
Chris Pope: Certainly the model of the Royal College of Surgeons is one that loomed large in the work of the commission that I am chairing. I think you know the people who have taken part in that commission; Jonathan Shepherd from the Royal College of Surgeons was part of that. What we feel is definitely realistic is the idea of a professional body that teachers would aspire to be members of-in other words, something where the standards are high, where the body as a whole sets its own professional standards, and that teachers would want to participate in.
Professor Bell: I agree with Chris in the sense that there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from those existing bodies, but it is not a case of just picking that model up and saying, "It works there." It is like most things; we have got to look at it. The basic principles are there: setting the standards; ensuring professional development; the research input; and the promotion of the profession to reassure public standpoints, the public interest and all of that business. The question is how we do it. The other thing we have got to remember is that the environment today is completely different from when the medics set theirs up. We have got about 500 years to catch up on, so it is going to be a bit of a journey to do that.
Chair: Yes. We have very powerful unions as well, which are an important part of the landscape. Patrick, what are your thoughts?
Dr Roach: It is nice of you to acknowledge our existence-continued existence-on the education landscape. An important existence it is as well. From the point of view of the NASUWT, the idea of a college of teaching is one that we would endorse in principle. The acid test is what that means in practice. You draw comparisons with what exists in the medical profession, and it is important to interrogate very closely what exists in the medical profession: not one college, but many. There is an issue of plurality: recognising the diversity of professional skills and paradigms that are brought to bear in relation to medicine. The question for teachers is whether or not one college is the right way to go.
Q2 Chair: You pose that question; could I ask you, Patrick, what your answer to it is? Do you think there should be one, or do you think there could be a number?
Dr Roach: We welcome the opportunity to debate this very issue and the very idea of a college of teaching, and a blueprint has been offered up for discussion-a straw man idea, if you like. We want to debate that and we will be submitting our evidence and our views to that consultation, but we will be posing the question: "Why limit this to one college?" I do not think that is the only key issue. The blueprint touches on-although I think it could go somewhat further-the relationship between a college of teaching as a body promoting professional development and highquality professional practice, and as a regulatory system for the teaching profession and professions allied to teaching as well. We have very serious concerns that that is where the comparison with medicine falls down. Whilst we may have a Royal College of Surgeons, for example, we also have a General Medical Council and the BMA, which provides that representative voice for doctors. If we are to have a valid, legitimate, effective and authoritative college of teaching, then we do have to address that question of professional registration and regulation.
Chair: Thank you. Lesley?
Dr Saunders: Thank you. One of the key differences lies in the fact that the professional domains of teaching-that is to say curriculum, assessment, and, to some extent, pedagogy-are within the domain of central Government, and so there will be a necessary exchange or transfer of responsibilities and authority. That is not the case in the other professions, so there are some key differences to be negotiated here.
Q3 Charlotte Leslie: I should probably declare a slight interest, in that I have worked with Derek and Chris, to a certain extent, on looking at this idea. To pick up on Lesley’s point of repatriation of powers back to the profession, to what extent does the panel think that this Government-and any other Government that may come in-is aligned with that idea? We have heard this week that it has got explicit crossparty support, which is fantastic news. To what extent do you believe that governments are ready to hand back powers to the teaching profession?
Professor Bell: It depends how cynical one is at the point you ask the question. The fact there is cross-party support is very positive, and this is something that would have to happen over a period of time. The college, or whatever the body is that is established-assuming it is-would work with all the parties and start to move towards a phase where that transfer of responsibilities genuinely could be made with the confidence of the politicians, the public, teachers and students. That is absolutely critical. It cannot happen as just: "Here you go. Get on with it." This is me being probably overoptimistic, but it might be a case where political parties get together and see education as a longterm issue that they work together on, rather than continually fighting and changing because they do not happen to like a particular aspect of what is being done at the time.
Charlotte Leslie: Does anyone else have any thoughts on that?
Dr Roach: I will certainly offer up some thoughts. It is, on one level, encouraging to see crossparty support for the idea, but as I said earlier, how that translates into practice is critically important here. Fine words are great, but we have to assess this in terms of deeds. What we have at the present time is an increasing sense in which the generality of the teaching profession-if I may use that expression-feels somewhat professionally disenfranchised and professionally demoralised as a consequence of other facets of Government policy. We cannot take the idea of a college of teaching in isolation from everything else that is happening to teachers and the teaching profession at the present time. The mooted notion of an authoritative voice for teachers-which, by the way, we would have some difficulty with, because we are an authoritative voice for teachers-at a time when social-
Q4 Chair: So you want a college of teaching to be set up that does not have an authoritative voice for teachers.
Dr Roach: No, no.
Chair: You are saying you are supportive in principle and then saying that you do not want that to have an authoritative voice.
Dr Roach: Let me respond to that. Our response to the blueprint would be to seek to differentiate between a college of teachers and a college of teaching. We think that is an important distinction to make. I think you can have an authoritative voice for teaching that sits alongside authoritative voices for teachers, of which we are one.
Q5 Charlotte Leslie: Are you recognising quite a clear distinction between the very valid role of unions in protecting and promoting the interests of the individual practitioner, and the sibling role, if you like, of a college whose sole purpose is to protect and promote the practice itself and not the practitioner? Is that the distinction that you are making?
Dr Roach: If I may say, that is a very eloquent way, and a very helpful way, of expressing our view, but it is not just the individual practitioner. I want to make that point clear. Whilst unions like mine have a key role to play in protecting and promoting the interests of individual teacher-practitioners, we also stand up for the collective interests of the teaching profession, because without that collegiate interest of the profession as a whole, the individual needs and expectations of teachers are seriously undermined. I come back to this point: are Government ready for the idea of a college of teaching? If Government respect the voice of the profession and are prepared to sit around the table with the profession through its trade unions, with a college of teaching, and to say, "Let’s debate together, in a context of social dialogue, how we shape and move forward policy in education," that would be helpful.
Dr Saunders: I wanted to come at this from a slightly different perspective, which is: what is it that we think teaching is? There are still some ideas floating around about it being primarily a vocation-a craftbased practice. There needs to be recognition of the immense knowledge base that is required of teachers as well as a whole range of skills and, crucially, a set of values. Until and unless Government and others appreciate what is entailed in teaching, it will be difficult for them to cede some of that centralised power.
Charlotte Leslie: You are saying, in a sense, the college of teaching would have to prove itself to be a proponent of the best parts of professional teaching and then Government would have to respond.
Dr Saunders: Yes, I think so.
Q6 Alex Cunningham: Do you see any particular challenges for a college of teaching, particularly in light of the removal of the requirement for teachers in statefunded schools to possess qualifiedteacher status?
Professor Bell: My personal view is it is not appropriate that people are allowed in without any qualification whatsoever and with no clear programme for their training. There has always been a way in which people could come into the classroom, but they would start a training programme and that programme would lead to qualifiedteacher status, which is, at the moment, the licence to practice for most teachers and should remain so. There is no other profession that you would be allowed into without that qualification. That is something we have got to look at. We have got to be careful when we introduce new schemes that it is absolutely clear whether people are being led to a qualification.
Q7 Alex Cunningham: So a college of teaching would not, in fact, fulfil that role of guiding these people through any form of training or best practice, or anything of that nature. What is the role? If there are not professional teachers, what use is there in having a professional organisation?
Chris Pope: Taking the blueprint, which addresses that question in some ways, it is looking beyond just QTS. One criticism of the current system is that, whereas there has been a requirement-although there is no longer-for QTS as a minimum, there is absolutely nothing after that; in other words, you are just in the classroom and you can spend 30 years without having necessarily undergone any professional development at all, which is not the case in most other professions. There are two different aspects. This comes back to Patrick’s point about the regulatory role of any college of teaching. One way in would be to look at it from the point of view of regulatory minimum, and QTS would loom very large in that. The view of the commission in debating this was that what is needed is something that looks beyond that, and therefore QTS and issues of QTS would be absorbed into a much longer and bigger path. You ask what it would do if it is not nurturing professional development. Quite right; the whole point is that it would nurture professionalism and professional development. The mechanism that the blueprint suggests for that is one of a detailed mentorship and individual portfolios, and you will have seen that in the blueprint document. Therefore, QTS and the requirements of QTS would just be absorbed into that.
Q8 Charlotte Leslie: Are you saying that QTS would not be the end of training, as it is now, but mark the beginning of a journey up the grades from associate to fellow, like you go from registrar to consultant as a doctor?
Chris Pope: Exactly so. Therefore, the requirements of QTS would be part of it, but the college of teaching would almost certainly, in the structure that we have put forward here, require greater levels of professionalism for membership than the requirements of QTS, which you can think of as a minimum.
Q9 Alex Cunningham: But you could start at a much lower professional base. You could be a soldier walking into a classroom.
Dr Roach: I have no concerns about soldiers coming into the classroom, provided they are suitably equipped. That does mean the starting point for that should be, quite rightly, holding a recognised qualification for teaching. That should not be the end of the journey for the teacher. I absolutely agree with the concerns that have been raised by other colleagues here that, all too often, the opportunity for teachers to access continuing professional development is extremely limited, and we need to do more to ensure that teachers do have that access. That means that we have to address issues in relation not just to the professional expectations on teachers, but the professional conditions on which teachers are employed. We need to have a rubric that is not just in the context of what a college of teaching might promote, but a rubric in relation to any national framework in terms of the terms and conditions of teachers and professional standards that set out what the career journey might be for any given teacher. Previously, we had a set of progressive professional standards for teachers, linked to career development stages for teachers. I think that is something we need to have a closer look at, which builds on QTS and does not see QTS as the end of the journey.
Q10 Charlotte Leslie: One of the faults that many people have reported to me is that the progression in Advanced Skills Teacher stages has always been Governmentimposed and not generated and owned by the profession. Has that been a limit on how solid those various stages of career progression are and how they have remained? They have come and gone, and they still do not have recognisable status outside of the profession. My test is that you can go to a drinks party and say, "My spouse is a consultant surgeon," and everyone knows what that means. You do not go to many drinks parties and say, "My spouse is an Advanced Skills Teacher." People do not tend to know what that means; it does not have traction in the outside world, which is partly to do with what the status of teaching is about. Is that because the profession has not owned it?
Professor Bell: I think it is partly because those positions that you refer to-Advanced Skills Teacher and Excellent teacher-became jobs; they did not became professional levels. That is the biggest difference. As a consultant, you become a consultant and then you get a job. That is the big difference. We have got this confusion between professional levels and expertise and recognition for that, and the jobs that people do. That is one thing.
Going back to the point the Chair made earlier about what we can learn from other professions, we have always got to be careful about transferring models, but as an accountant, I could go in and be accepted by a firm of accountants as an articled accountant. I would be given training from day one. I do not start off trained to do the job; I get training as I come in. This is the problem with bringing people into schools without any pretraining. If they come in-and, given that we need extra teachers, it is not an unreasonable thought-there must be a training programme in place for them as they enter that is appropriately validated and accredited by a recognised body. That might be an existing training provider or it could be another body, which we might want to discuss at a later date.
Q11 Mr Ward: Why are we where we are? I am an accountant. I started as a trainee publicsector accountant. I had to train to be qualified to get the jobs that were then available and progress and so on. I spent 30odd years in schools in governor and other forms. I have never understood it. Why are we where we are in the teaching profession?
Chair: I would like short answers to that question.
Mr Ward: We cannot get to where we want to be unless we know why we are not already there, when we have a profession that has been around for a long, long time.
Professor Bell: The short answer is it has been overpoliticised.
Dr Saunders: Another answer is the history of the profession as being a feminised one for a long time, and therefore lacking status.
Q12 Charlotte Leslie: I just have one final question, about the medical analogy. Patrick, you asked whether we need one college or many. The Royal College of Surgeons encompasses all sorts of surgery-cardiac, neuro and so on-and there is the British Orthopaedic Association and various other associations within it. Recently, the College of Emergency Medicine arose from that and broke off as a separate thing. This is mainly to Patrick, as he raised it. Do you see the college of teaching being more along the lines of a single college, growing up with quite distinct specialities that, down the line, may break off and become separate entities? If not, how would you set up multiple colleges from scratch?
Dr Roach: You also want to promote professional ownership and agency here, and that is part of the debate that has to be had. For me, it is not about rushing to a collegeofteaching solution. Those are possible pathways in relation to how this entity, or these entities, may be established. The concept of a breakaway is not something that I would necessarily subscribe to, but we have got to have on the table as part of the debate the question of how we represent and reflect the diversity of skill sets: for example, primary teaching; secondary teaching; specialeducation teaching; working with disaffected pupils in alternative provision-whatever it happens to be. How do we ensure that, when we talk about a voice in relation to teaching practice, that diversity is properly reflected in a college? That, for me, is the question that needs to be asked. At the moment, the blueprint does not ask that.
Professor Bell: I would not start with the premise that we are starting from scratch and things will break off. We are not starting from scratch. There are a lot of organisations out there, as we know, subject associations being one group and the existing College of Teachers being another. Part of the trick of this is to bring those together. You can see a model where a royal college of teaching that has general support across the whole education spectrum could be that body that brings these people together. You have got your specialisms, you have got all of that expertise that already exists, and you are building on that; you are not turning round and saying: "Forget what you have done already; we are going to start again." That is the biggest mistake. That often happens in education: people try to start again, instead of from where we are.
Q13 Chair: How do you get the balance right? One of the purposes of the college of teaching, in everything we say it is, is, in some ways, to create a bulwark between the profession, which owns its own standards, and people like us, frankly-politicians. There is less of a blockage between political whim and action in teaching than there is in other professions. Saying that, which I think people broadly would agree on, how do you get the relationship between this college and Government at the right level? Can it be truly independent of Government? It will need to work with Government. How do you see the relationship between Government and the college going forward, Derek?
Professor Bell: As I said earlier, in my optimistic moments, it would be a way in which it would not be just the Government of the time; it would be allparty progress.
Chair: We cannot remake political policy-making because you want to have a college of teaching.
Professor Bell: No, I agree with that, but it is about that dialogue: that we do not get these sudden lurches from one thing to another, which completely knocks the profession, particularly in schools, into all sorts of situations where they feel, "It is not worth doing anything. We will just sit on our hands and wait until the next one comes along, because it will come back to what we did 10 years ago." We have got to get that dialogue going. Regarding how independent it will be, it has got to be independent in terms of its thinking and what it is able to say. What one would hope is that by constant dialogue, you would avoid these major clashes that, to be honest, do nobody any good. When we see clashes on television, whatever is going on, that degrades the profession in all its forms.
Chair: And if it is to succeed, it needs a consistency of policy approach from whoever is in power that we have not seen in the past.
Professor Bell: Yes.
Q14 Neil Carmichael: Surely one of the things that would characterise a college of teaching is its ability to talk on behalf of the teaching profession in an autonomous, independent, respected way. That would require it to be at arm’s length from Government and from politics. That is really what is lacking, and that is really what is behind David’s question. For decades, teaching and teachers have been aware of various Government initiatives. You can go back to the Houghton report, or whatever it was, that set up a salary structure, and all of that history, which basically means that teaching, teachers, their regulation, their payment, their this and their that is all something to do with the political system. The royal college could be that instrument that really does represent the profession in a proper professional way. Would you like to comment?
Dr Saunders: One of the broadly welcomed duties and powers of the General Teaching Council for England was to provide formal advice to the Secretary of State. That advice was compiled on the basis of a variety of sources of evidence, some of them coming directly from the profession, some of them coming from research, some of them coming from experts in particular fields. For a while in the early 2000s, at any rate, that independent advice, especially around teachers’ professional development, I should like to say, was extremely influential on Government policy.
Chris Pope: I would like to come in on this. There are two key things to address on this point of independence and the way that it would work with Government. Firstly, the financial independence is absolutely key. The organisation needs to be able to withstand political cycles and therefore-this is clearly in the blueprint-it needs to be financially independent of Government, in order to provide that continuity. That is one key element. The second thing is exactly Lesley’s point: that the dialogue needs to be rooted in evidence. That is the key way in which confidence will build between any future Government and this body, in that it needs to be seen to be providing solid advice rooted in evidence. That is the way to build up that confidence. My personal view is that this is something that will take time. To get to a situation where all the other professions are is not something that is going to happen overnight. It is 500 years of the Royal College of Surgeons that we are trying to compress here, but those, for me, are two absolutely key points.
Q15 Mr Ward: Derek, I think you are involved in looking at the chartered teacher scheme. This is not necessarily an alternative, but has it got legs on it? Is it something worth doing?
Professor Bell: Yes. It is not separate, because chartered status for individual people is a professional recognition, not a qualification, because it requires a commitment to maintaining standards, continuing professional development, etc. It is not like my Masters or my PhD, or yours, or whatever, which you do, you walk out of the exam room, and that is it. It is something that goes on. It is not different; it is something that would fit in a hierarchy of membership and professional recognition within a college. It is not separate from that point of view.
Has it got legs or not? I introduced it when I was at the Association for Science Education; we established the chartered science teacher. The last lot of figures I have got show there are about 300 or 400 who have registered to be a chartered science teacher and are recognised as such. There are a number who are at a level slightly below that, which is called registered scientist; there are 200 or 300 there. So, there is a small group of people starting there. If you add to that the fact that the Royal Geographical Society have got a chartered arrangement for teachers in geography, the mathematicians have set up a chartered arrangement for mathematicians, and I understand English have set one up for English, there are a number of bodies who have already thought it is worthwhile doing. As to whether it has got legs, the evidence we have got says yes, but at the moment it is still relatively small in terms of status. When you talk to people about it, people say, "Oh yes, that is interesting. I am like a chartered engineer or a chartered accountant." They recognise the term. That is one of the things that is important in all of this: that we do not get ourselves sucked into creating completely new terms that the public do not recognise. That goes back to what Charlotte was saying about Excellent Teacher status. They partly became jobs, but those standards were the standards that somebody who held a chartered position within any of the other professions would require.
Q16 Mr Ward: Aren’t you describing a dog’s dinner here? There are bits all over the place. You can have a charter in this particular topic or subject area but not in that one, and if you do not have it in that one, you are less of a professional than somebody who has got it in a particular topic area over there.
Professor Bell: It could be a dog’s dinner. In a way, this is why you need something like a college of teaching to come in and provide that consistency. The key thing is that the standards and the expectations that people are required to meet are maintained as equivalent. When I set the chartered science teacher up, I linked it to chartered scientist, which is exactly the same as chartered physicist or chartered engineer, so that nobody could turn round and say, "What you are doing is below the standard of any other chartered status." The requirements are exactly the same. I can send you all the details of those if you have not already got them.
Q17 Mr Ward: In terms of the administration of it that you have just referred to through the College of Teachers, haven’t you said that it does not have sufficient public profile or capacity to implement the chartered teacher scheme?
Chair: We said that.
Professor Bell: No, they said that. Let us distinguish between the existing College of Teachers and the college of teaching that we are talking about setting up. One of the roles of the new college of teaching, in my view, would be to look at these different chartered statuses and try to bring them all together so that they are recognised as being equivalent across the board.
Q18 Neil Carmichael: Lesley, we have already touched on the General Teaching Council for England, because you brought it in, but I want to explore some comparisons between that and a royal college. I was just wondering if you would like to set out your interpretation of what those differences might be.
Dr Saunders: The range of possible options for a royal college of teaching is still quite open, but I am getting a strong impression that the consensus is that it should be voluntary and not mandatory; that it should not seek regulatory powers; and that it should focus instead on career progression and professional development. You will know that the General Teaching Council had greater powers than that, including regulation and sanctions. There were some powers that it did not have, including setting the standards for teaching, and I think that is a critical issue to be discussed: where the power for setting standards, both for initial entry and for ongoing career progression and deepening expertise, should lie.
Q19 Neil Carmichael: That is a really interesting point. I am going to ask Chris about regulatory functions in a moment, but would you see a college taking a role in setting standards and career progression within the teaching profession?
Dr Saunders: I have a very open mind about the proposed college, because I think there are still quite a lot of issues to be thrashed out. In my heart of hearts, I think a college of teaching should have those powers and duties around standards. I am not sure yet exactly where they cut in in relation to the powers and duties of the Secretary of State and so forth.
Q20 Neil Carmichael: In parallel, we have got, for example, Sir Michael Wilshaw talking about head teachers being able to promote teachers and having the best teachers in the classroom, and so forth. From the point of view of a head teacher making those sorts of decisions, he or she might be assisted by a college with the sort of scope of responsibilities that you have just laid out. Is that something we could say?
Dr Saunders: One would hope that head teachers would be very much involved in the standardsetting. If this is going to be a body that is grown from inside the profession, then it is clear from talking to my colleagues here that head teachers will be playing a critical role, and therefore they would be part of the standardsetting process.
Q21 Neil Carmichael: What about dealing with head teachers and teachers who are not up to standard?
Dr Saunders: Well, there were two sets of sanctions that the General Teaching Council was able to impose. One was in relation to professional incompetence, and the other was in relation to professional misconduct. As I understand it, professional misconduct is now dealt with by the Secretary of State, or whoever is delegated to do so, whereas competence now resides at the level of the individual school or employer. It is absolutely crucial that those cases, where they arise, are able to be dealt with. What I would say from a small piece of research I did when I was at the GTC is that issues of incompetence can manifest as issues of misconduct. I will not go into all the details of that-there is a report available-but there is not such a clearcut distinction between conduct and competence as we might like to suppose. What is absolutely clear is that there must be a system for identifying and dealing with and imposing sanctions. There should, in my view, be a tariff-a graduation of different sanctions.
Q22 Chair: But you do not think this should be a role of the new college of teaching in any case. Is that right?
Dr Saunders: I am openminded about that. I suppose I tend towards the view that the college of teaching eventually ought to have very wideranging duties and powers, as befits a professional body, but to go for them at this point I think would be difficult and politically impossible.
Q23 Neil Carmichael: Lesley, we are touching upon professional conduct here; you opened that subject up quite skilfully. As a parallel, do you see the college of teaching taking the same kind of role as the Law Society has in the conduct and performance of lawyers?
Dr Saunders: I honestly do not know. As I said just now, it would be desirable and ideal in the long run for a college of teaching to have considerable powers and duties in relation to competence, conduct, standards and all the rest of it. At the moment, it would be politically naïve to expect that it could or should operate in that way.
Q24 Neil Carmichael: Thank you. Chris, first of all, do you think the regulatory functions should rest with the college of teaching?
Chris Pope: Initially, no.
Neil Carmichael: But like Lesley, you think that is potentially something that might happen later, given a political change?
Chris Pope: Potentially, yes. This segues nicely from the line of argument that we have just had. I would point out that there is an absolute vacuum in terms of the aspiration, the professional development and all the things we have been discussing, whereas, even if the structures are not necessarily perfect, at least there are systems in place for dealing with incompetence and misconduct. I would have thought that the focus needs first to be on raising the game of the majority of teachers.
Q25 Neil Carmichael: Do you think the parallel I drew with the Law Society is potentially an appropriate one for the college of teaching?
Chris Pope: In the longer term, yes; there is no reason why it should not go in that direction. As we have said, I cannot imagine that this is a process that can be rushed if we are going to keep the hearts and minds of teachers, which is the essential element at this point.
Q26 Neil Carmichael: One of the criticisms of the General Teaching Council for England was that it perhaps had overlaps with other organisations, like the Training and Development Agency. Do you think that is a fair point, Lesley?
Dr Saunders: There were similarities in the general wording of their remits, but they were entirely different kinds of body and they had different purposes and functions.
Q27 Neil Carmichael: We have been talking about the independence of the college of teaching, and therefore we need to discuss the financing of it. I do not think teachers were overly pleased about the payment for the GTCE. Derek, would you like to say something about how you see a college of teaching being funded?
Professor Bell: Initially, we have got to somehow find some underwriting to funding in order to ensure that it would last for a minimum of, say, five to 10 years in order to build up. Ultimately, it would be ideal to be able to do it entirely with subscriptions. If you take the number of teachers there are, you could fund it on a relatively small subscription, but that is only if you get everybody in. You have to model it. The figures that were in the report were modelled on approximately 25% of people joining it after 10 years. If you do it at that, these are the figures that come out, so you can see what you can do to those figures going forward if more people come in. To get sufficient funding to start to establish this body on a sound footing that is guaranteed so you can put a business plan in place to run for a minimum of 10 years is going to be one of the biggest challenges. If at the end of that time it has not worked, it is probably never going to work. We have got to get that funding, but we have got to look at the subscription rates.
This comes back to talking to the existing bodies that have some sort of role for teachers, because it may be possible-I underline "may" at this moment-to negotiate a situation where some of their subscriptions contribute to the college of teaching, because they will then start to take off some of the functions to ease their burden in order to move that away. At the moment, a teacher who is a member of a subject association, a union and something like this could be looking at £400 or £500, which is an awful lot of money.
Q28 Neil Carmichael: What do you think is the critical mass of a college? How many teachers would you expect to be in it to make it pack a punch? Chris, you have done some work on this, I think.
Chris Pope: Yes. That was behind the modelling assumptions. The 80,000 is about 20% of teachers. The feeling was that if, after 10 years, there was anything less than one in five teachers, it probably was not going to pack any sort of punch. The implicit assumption of the commission was that that was, if you like, the worstcase scenario.
Q29 Neil Carmichael: So there is a critical mass, and there is a tendency for voluntary contributions-but not too huge, to take your point, Derek. How would the governance of this structure look?
Chris Pope: We spent quite some time talking about that on the commission, because it is very clear that if this body is going to be truly independent it must not be captured by any special interest group. There is a proposal in there of a doubleboard structure. You may have seen it. The idea is that you have the normal executive with its board, but then you have an additional layer of what we termed trustees, none of whom would come from the world of education and whose sole function would be to ensure the proper governance of the whole organisation. To a certain extent, one can never construct a totally bulletproof organisation on paper, but that certainly would be a way forward, and we are welcoming suggestions in the consultation as to whether that is effective or not.
Q30 Neil Carmichael: If you look at all the professional bodies that you could possibly do, one of the obvious features of most of them is that they have got traditions and history and all that sort of thing. In this case, that would not be there. Where do you think that would come from? What would be the culture of the body?
Professor Bell: Can I go back to my earlier point? We are not starting from a clean slate. The Association for Science Education, for example, has a history of 100 years; it has just celebrated 50 years as ASE, but it goes back to 1901. The current College of Teachers has a history that goes back to 1846. There is history there. That is part of the problem, actually, because there is a plethora of histories there, but there is history. We can build on that, and there are mechanisms in place that could be easily adopted, with slight adjustment maybe, to fulfil some of the functions. Again, the existing College of Teachers, for example, has a process for accreditation of individual qualifications outside of the university realm, which a lot of people recognise and fully appreciate the value of. There are mechanisms that we can bring in. It is not a case of having to build it up from nothing; we have got pieces to build it in.
Chair: Thank you very much. We will have to move on.
Neil Carmichael: I think Patrick should say something, because I have not asked him a single question yet.
Q31 Chair: Okay. Patrick, you run a membership organisation-a trade union-and you have to fight to persuade members to pay you their dues and you compete with other pressures on their finances and, indeed, other unions. Is there a cat in hell’s chance of a new player coming in and this college managing to get the kind of money that Chris has itemised as being necessary to get this off the ground? What do you think?
Dr Roach: The question is what its USP is and what it offers to teachers. The fact of the matter is that we are a trade union organisation-that is what NASUWT is first and foremost-but we are also a professional association. We provide professional development for our members. I do agree with the notion of the voluntary nature of a college of teaching, but teachers will be asked to make a choice. The issue of the membership fee may have some salience here, but I am not sure that is the overriding issue. The issue for teachers will be: "What will this offer to me in terms of enhancing my professional status, improving my professional practice, and enhancing my career?" Those are issues that will be uppermost in the minds, certainly, of my members.
Q32 Chair: What is your gut feeling, Patrick? There is a lot of work going into this. In the landscape we have got, packed with unions like yours that offer professional development as well as union membership, has this tender plant any chance of being allowed to get enough light to survive?
Dr Roach: Without sounding like I am engaging in a circular argument, the right college, in the right conditions, could flourish. It is a good idea. It needs to be executed correctly.
Q33 Mr Ward: I am confused as to where this is going. I was an accountant, but I was also a trade union member all the way through my profession. There was no incompatibility between us. You are talking about possibly 20% in five years. Aren’t we aiming towards a situation where if you are a teacher, you pay your subs and it is 100%-you are either a teacher or you are not a teacher?
Chris Pope: Yes. That is certainly the aspiration. The question was: "What is the absolute bottom level below which it is a dead duck?" One in five is the answer to the second question. The aspiration is certainly 100%.
Q34 Ian Mearns: I want to talk about setting professional standards, but before I do that, does anybody think we should have any national organisation or body engaged in work force planning for teachers?
Chair: That is slightly off topic.
Ian Mearns: If you think it would be a good idea to have work force planning for teachers, would that fall under the remit of a royal college or a teaching college?
Professor Bell: No.
Ian Mearns: It would not.
Dr Roach: No, but I certainly think it is right that there should be national oversight in relation to work force planning. That starts with asking the question: what kind of work force do we need in schools? We need qualified teachers and we need an array of other professionals working alongside teachers. Schools individually can do so much in terms of their own institutional work force planning arrangements, but we need to take a systemwide look at this issue. At the moment, certainly my organisation feels that there is a gap there in terms of processes at the heart of Government.
Q35 Ian Mearns: Thank you very much. Lesley, you first, please. If the intention is to set up a professional body for teachers, is there wide agreement these days as to what constitutes professionalism in teaching?
Dr Saunders: That is a really important question. I perhaps started to allude to some of what is involved in professionalism in teaching, which is about a body of knowledge, a range of skills, and a set of espoused values. My sense is that teachers themselves understand this well, teacher educators understand it well, but sometimes those in Government are less persuaded about the kinds of knowledge and skills that teachers need. I do not think there is yet a complete consensus about what is meant by professionalism in teaching. My colleagues may have different views.
Dr Roach: There is a consensus that we believe that teaching should operate on the plane of being a profession; there are just different views about what that means in practice. I certainly concur with Lesley’s description there in terms of knowledge, skills and values, but we have to add to that the question of teachers’ professional agency. There is a lot of talk about autonomy within the system, but autonomy for whom and over what? Some questions need to be raised and considered there. For the generality of classroom teachers, that question of autonomy, certainly my members feel, is not really being addressed. The scope, or the space, for that real professional agency simply is not there.
Q36 Ian Mearns: This has been strayed into by other colleagues, but what will be the impact of the Government’s removal of the requirement for teachers in academies to have a professional qualification in terms of the professional standards in the future? How will that help you define what constitutes professional standards?
Chris Pope: I would just refer to the answer that I gave earlier. If this college of teaching is established and brings together the set of professional standards and defines them more closely along the lines of the discussion we have just had, then that exact QTS requirement would be subsumed into that.
Q37 Chair: I do not want to make anybody repeat themselves. Has anybody got any additional points they want to make? Patrick, as ever.
Dr Roach: Yes, there is an additional point. Firstly, we do think that removal was a deeply retrograde step, and not just in relation to academies as such, but the deregulation in relation to support staff in schools now means that any school may deploy staff without QTS to take responsibility for a class or group of pupils. That is not a good place to be as a starting point. This does have implications for a college of teaching. So far, our discussion has been in relation to teachers as we conceive of teachers-i.e. people who are, presumably, postgraduate, professionally qualified and so on. But in the brave new world that we seem to be moving into, a college of teaching could have as much salience for para-professionals working in schools, working in classrooms, supporting children’s learning and development, removing barriers to learning-whatever it is-whether that is teaching assistants, learning support assistants, or whoever. When we are considering this blueprint for a college of teaching, we do have to ask the question: "A college of teaching for whom?" That comes back to the question of professional regulation and registration of teachers. Is there a profession that is clearly identified, clearly with a requirement to be registered and regulated in some shape or form, as we can see in the medical profession?
Q38 Ian Mearns: It just strikes me that if you can have soldiers or police officers coming into the classroom, you can have plumbers, bricklayers or electricians coming into the classroom and being represented by Len McCluskey and Unite.
Chair: How long has it taken us to get there? That was a sponsor’s announcement. Carry on.
Ian Mearns: I just think that sometimes Secretaries of State should be careful what they wish for. That is all.
Professor Bell: Can I just underline that there is nothing wrong with plumbers and people coming into the classroom? Indeed, we need some of their skills coming in for some of the areas we have got shortages in. But I underlined the point earlier that they must come in with a training programme that is recognised to be a professional qualification. That is the key.
Q39 Ian Mearns: Derek, I could not agree with you more. I am just making a petty political point. With recent changes to initial teacher training, how easy will it be for a college of teaching to qualityassure the range of training routes now available, especially, for instance, the schoolbased routes such as School Direct?
Dr Saunders: I think it will be difficult. The GTC did not have that responsibility, so I cannot speak from direct experience, but it sounds like it would be a very tricky thing to manage. I think I must defer to others.
Professor Bell: It comes down partly to the question of regulation as well, and to the extent of what that regulation is and whether it extends to training programmes. There are some professional bodies, for example in engineering, that accredit university courses and have a process where they do it, which is a massive undertaking. Certainly in the beginning, a college of teaching would not be able to do that; there are more important things to do. But it would certainly be able to present a view and evidence in relation to that sort of approach in order to help to ensure that the quality is there that is required and it is not going to be brought in in a way that is going to diminish the quality of the teaching profession.
Dr Roach: This is one of the ways in which a college of teaching could make a vital contribution to the current landscape. The policy of School Direct, as an idea in principle, is not a problem; it is how it is executed. Many schools are continuing to work with HEIs in relation to ensuring the integrity of the theoretical, or academic, underpinning to their initial teacher education programmes. Long may that continue. I think universities would want to continue to play a key role in working in partnership with schools as schools get on with the business of supporting initial teacher education. If the interface between the college of teaching and HEIs is clear, and the interface between HEIs and schools providing School Direct opportunities is also clear, the college of teaching could make a real contribution in ensuring that there is clarity about standards in relation to initial teacher education, which can be cascaded through those relationships, but particularly through the conduit of the universities.
Q40 Chris Skidmore: When it comes to accreditation, how would a new college of teaching be recognised nationally, or even internationally, if there is no compulsory membership? How would you go about setting a standard that would be recognised?
Chris Pope: Can I speak to the blueprint? We are in the middle of our consultation phase and I am expecting some further thoughts on this. The idea would be to have a certifying process, so the initial tier of associate of this college of teaching would, frankly, only mean you are on the path somewhere; it really kicks in in terms of what would be required to become a member, and even more importantly-and this is the aspirational bit-to become a fellow, where we propose there would be recertification every five years. To what extent is this recognised in terms of the standards required? That is part of the work that would be done: to define exactly what the standards would be to hit those tiers.
Chris Skidmore: And that would be based on merit.
Chris Pope: Yes. It would be based on an individual portfolio, and the mechanism that we have put forward here is one that would be able to cope with more than just one path. One of the difficulties that we have in the system at the moment is that seniority is very much aligned to school leadership, i.e. becoming a school head. There needs to be something in the system, we feel, that recognises equal seniority, if you like, but at the classroom practitioner level, so a really excellent English teacher would have parity with a really excellent head teacher.
Q41 Chris Skidmore: Would that involve observation of lessons? I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, for instance. I had to submit all my research for publications; it was peer reviewed before I was able to get the title of fellow. Professor Derek, I do not know how you got your professorship from the College of Teachers, and Dr Saunders, I know you are an honorary research fellow at the College of Teachers. How does it work in the College of Teachers? Would that be akin to a college of teaching?
Derek Bell: My recollection of that one was an advert. I applied; submitted evidence, was interviewed, and was awarded the thing, like any other post. On the question of accreditation, we have to be clear what we mean by accreditation in the first instance, but most accreditation of qualifications that people get is based on what is set out as the minimum requirements, and that gives you the gauge of your starting point, and then it is by some sort of assessment. That might be anything from examination through to observation. The way that we are looking to go down is not necessarily the examination route, but doing it by assessment of certain features of that person meeting characteristics. We set out a number of things that they could demonstrate their knowledge of, expertise in, and competence to carry out. We look at each of those categories and make that judgment of level, and overall that is what position they are given.
It is one of the reasons why I have particularly championed the idea of chartered status, because it allows you that spectrum of evidence that people have got to submit, and it involves peer review, so you have got to have people who are also in the profession saying, "That is good," or, "That is not good." It is a collegiate thing. There is also that external thing I keep going back to: people out there internationally know what chartered status is, because it already exists. In a way, I would argue quite strongly that we go down that route as part of this package.
Q42 Chris Skidmore: What I understand-and maybe I am just being obtuse here-is you suggested chartered teacher status, and that is the proposal that has come from the College of Teachers. Why cannot the College of Teachers just expand out? Even I am confused between a college of teaching and a College of Teachers, and surely the public, and even the teaching profession, would be. Why not expand the College of Teachers? If you have made the suggestion of chartered teacher status, and you have the historical links there since 1846-you were the College of Preceptors-and you have got the associate, you have got the fellowship, you have got the accreditation already within the College of Teachers, why not just expand that?
Derek Bell: In my personal view, nothing would go against that at all; I think that would be a way to go. The point is that we have to bring everyone else along. If, having gone through these discussions, other people agree that that is a way to go, then there is a very clear statement by the existing College of Teachers that they would discuss that, and they would make their charter available and go the Privy Council in order to make the necessary adjustments to move that forward. If the College of Teachers just jumps up and says, "We will do it," we are not going to get anywhere. It is about bringing everybody along, and that is the critical point.
Chair: For the record, Chris was not on the Committee when we did our report.
Derek Bell: No, I appreciate that.
Chair: The Committee concluded that that was not the best approach and that developing something new, albeit in a collegiate way, would be a more likely way to make a college come into existence. Can I thank you all very much indeed for giving evidence to us this morning, and can we move as quickly as possible to the next panel? Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Peter Kent, Head Teacher, Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby, Anne Swift, Head Teacher, Gladstone Road Infant School, Scarborough, Dame Joan McVittie, Head Teacher, Woodside High School, Wood Green, and David Weston, Chief Executive, Teacher Development Trust, gave evidence.
Q43 Chair: Thank you very much for joining us today. I think you heard the first panel, so you have got an idea of the direction of questioning. To start off, how many teachers do you know-ordinary teachers at the coal face-who are excited about the prospect of a college of teaching?
Peter Kent: It is interesting that you posed that question, because I just happened to be leading a staff meeting at school last night, and knowing I was going to be here this morning it seemed too good a chance to miss, so I asked my colleagues-I had about 60 there. I must admit, it was exactly that question, "What are your views on the royal college of teaching?" You know when you ask something and there is this long, slightly awkward silence that follows, and then my head of history said, "I think I have heard something about it on the Today programme," which is always a slightly worrying lead in.
I got colleagues who felt they knew something about it to share thoughts. I would say about 10% of my colleagues had some sense of it. I would have said it was a reasonably well informed cross-section there, although there was a general sense of uncertainty and just, "Why this is happening, and why now?"
Chair: Anyone else? David?
David Weston: The teachers I have spoken to so far tend to say, "I do not really know, because I do not know what it is yet. What exactly is it? Why is that different from the GTC? What is in it for me? Is it right to do it now? Should we be concentrating on other things? Is it going to help me?" They tend to say, "How can I possibly make a judgment until I have seen what it is?" Essentially, they are saying the same thing you are saying, which is, "We need to find out more."
Anne Swift: I would echo that. The teachers I know, when I said why I was coming here today, expressed surprise and said, "Oh, we did not know anything about that. When is that going to happen?" It was the same sort of thing. There was an article in the Times Educational Supplement a little while ago, which raised a little bit of awareness, but not so much that anyone could say people really knew what it was about or what was in it for them.
Q44 Chair: Joan, do you think the teachers are so used to things being done to them, they struggle to make the leap to the idea that they might be able to do something themselves?
Dame Joan McVittie: Just to relate it, I am a mum of two young teachers, neither of whom have a clue about this, but I would absolutely say that, if I asked my leadership team, every single one of them would know. It is very much about where the teacher is in their career, and whether the focus is just on managing day-to-day survival in the classroom, or whether they have the opportunity and the time to look at the more strategic issues surrounding teaching, so it varies.
Chair: Right, so whatever proposals do come forward, it is going to be a tough ask to turn this into a reality, especially one in which ordinary teachers feel that it is their college, rather than something being done to them.
Q45 Charlotte Leslie: I just want to talk about the teachers having things done to them. How much and how do you think a college of teaching should be and can be independent from Government, and how can that be communicated?
Dame Joan McVittie: I am quite happy to answer that. I do think the college of teaching does have to be independent from Government. In terms of some of the other institutions that have been set up, there is too close an alliance, or a perceived alliance, with the Government. Certainly in the current political situation, I think that immediately builds up a resistance in the heads of some teachers. It is important that the relationship could be seen as equal partners, where either side could listen to each other and take advice from each other.
Anne Swift: I was very struck by where, in the blueprint, it talked about not being at the whim of the political cycle, and that would have resonance with teachers, because we do feel that, depending on the ideology of whoever is the Secretary of State, things happen, and that is how it can feel like things happen to you, rather than with you. If the royal college did anything, if it was truly independent and could be that authoritative voice, which was done through dialogue and discussion-using research, using evidence, the international perspectives, all of that-that would get more buy-in from teachers. They would feel that if it was not going to be this very rapid response to very rapid changes of direction, focus, initiatives, then it might stand a chance. If it can promote that view of independence outside political expediency or change-we are not against change at all, but it needs to be more measured and long term-the longterm impact could be much greater.
Peter Kent: Echoing what my colleagues have said-I agree with all of it-the one bit that does need to be teased out in terms of relationship with Government is this willingness to listen to what the royal college is saying. Part of this whole idea of persuading teachers there is something in it for them and a reason to buy into it comes from the voice of this new body being listened to; it is going to have purchase with those who are making decisions, rather than be disregarded. That does require a degree of thinking through and working through in the early stages.
Q46 Charlotte Leslie: As I said earlier, it is very encouraging, very welcoming, that the idea has now explicit crossparty support from all three major parties. Dame Joan, I know you are doing some advising with the Labour party on that. Given that it is not a governmental body, and should not be, can you tell us a bit more about the work you are doing on that front?
Dame Joan McVittie: Purely and simply I have known Stephen Twigg for a long time, because he was a local MP. Stephen knew that I had been involved with you, Charlotte, in the initial forays into discussions, etc., and the initial publication. It was more a question of Stephen ringing me up and saying, "We think this is a good idea. Can you just share with me why you think it is a good idea?" I am equally happy to work with all parties on this, Charlotte.
Q47 Charlotte Leslie: As I know. We have talked about how important it is for party politics to be put aside on this; do you think there is any possibility of building a genuine crossparty consensus and agreement, with people like you, who will work with anyone who is willing to make it happen? Is that a possibility?
Dame Joan McVittie: Certainly, the impression I am picking up from the MPs I have worked with across the parties is that the idea seems to have caught people’s attention. That is the impression I am getting from all parties at the moment; they are keen to see it work.
Q48 Charlotte Leslie: David, I know from your work you have more contact with grass-roots teachers. How do you think we can get the message out to grass-roots teachers about what is going on, and really communicate to them that it is completely dependent on whether they want it or not?
David Weston: It is really, really important that everybody has their voice heard now, because if a proposal goes out as, "Someone else has sat in a room and decided this is good for you, do you agree?" then the initial reaction is probably going to be "no". If it goes out as, "Here are some options that are on the table; let’s have a good debate and argue about it," and people feel, "Well, my voice was heard, and I had a chance to express my opinions here," people are going to get more buy-in to the ideas, because they have been able to shape it.
If we are saying it is a very volunteerled process at the moment in getting out to every single teacher and making them feel really heard, and then feeding that back, that is a big and potentially expensive process. At the moment, I am concerned that all the energy and enthusiasm is not hitting many teachers. We have to make sure every teacher feels their voice is heard, and does not, like the GTC, suddenly find something pops into their intray and say, "What is this?"
Q49 Charlotte Leslie: Does anybody on the panel have any practical recommendations as to how we might do that?
Anne Swift: The consultation period ends on 31 July. Am I right with that? That is not a good time to be consulting teachers, through this period, because it is an extraordinarily busy time for classroom teachers and schools. I know the blueprint is just that-a blueprint-but maybe some alternative models would help the discussion, rather than, "This is one scenario. What do you think of it?" Perhaps putting forward some alternatives might be helpful to get teachers into it, because on the one hand it seems to be a college for all teachers, and yet on the other there is a bit of exclusivity about whether you aspire to be a member of this college or not. I am a bit confused about whom the college is for.
I heard talk in the previous panel about whether para-professionals, other support staff, would be involved in this as well. If that is still up for discussion and those questions can be asked of teachers, that might help lead the debate and shape what might come forward from it.
Charlotte Leslie: You would like a slightly prolonged consultation time, and perhaps some other prompting questions for people to respond to.
Anne Swift: Yes, I think so, because if we do not get it right at the outset, it could be doomed to failure-there are some salutary lessons from the GTC there. We can learn from other models, international evidence as well, but we need what you might call a preparing-the-ground approach, so that teachers understand what is in it for them, because that will be their first question. "I am being expected to pay £120. What am I getting for it? Where is the money going?" That is not an unreasonable stance for teachers to take. There are still a lot of questions around it, and it perhaps does need a little bit longer-more opportunity for thoughtful responses from a wider range of people.
David Weston: Yes, it is really important-as Derek Bell was saying-that we ground it in what we already know. If people see that this does, for example, involve subject associations-and most teachers will have had some contact with subject associations, even if they are not a member-they will say, "Okay, this is slightly familiar at least. I can see the subject associations are involved in it; I can see how my union is involved in it." By doing that, it is suddenly not, "Here is a completely new entity you need to engage with from scratch." It is saying, "Okay, I see there are benefits in doing this." I agree there are a number of different ways that you could do that. The blueprint sets out some questions, but there are other options as well.
Q50 Charlotte Leslie: What other options might be available based on the premise that you have just given?
David Weston: I personally strongly feel that we should be looking at subject associations here; they can drive this quite effectively, because some of them have been developing chartered teacher status already. For me, if there was a transition fund to help subject associations all create this chartered teacher status and a fellowship status, and if we could then move to a situation where effectively we bring those together and come together into a new body, that could be more effective than just saying we are going to start something completely separately. If everyone has a loyalty to a subject association, they are going to say, "Hang on. How does this relate to that, and how does this relate to other things as well?" Clearly, not everyone agrees with me.
Dame Joan McVittie: I would have to disagree, because across the 90-odd teachers I have in school, I would be surprised if there are even five affiliated to a subject association, quite honestly. The key to reaching all teachers is actually through the professional associations, the unions, because if you go across the school, again, you may find two or three who are not in some sort of a union, but that would be it; the bulk of them would be, because it is that sort of protection, etc.
I totally agree with Anne, in terms of the ending time for the consultation period. It is not good, because this is a particularly tough term for teachers in terms of preparation for the next year. Schools do not wind down at this time, and just coming up to the summer break, I do not think there are going to be many teachers who, between the end of the term and the 31st, are going to take the time.
Q51 Charlotte Leslie: What would your preferred end time be?
Dame Joan McVittie: I think you would need to run into the autumn, to be quite honest, so that teachers have come back from the summer, they are fresh and they are more ready to look at bits of information that come across their desk.
Charlotte Leslie: Does everyone on the panel agree with that?
Peter Kent: I would agree with what Joan has said. It is striking that across the professional and subject associations there is a broad consensus about the idea, and there were very few people who were saying, "This is a poor idea." As we have all reported earlier, the gap that is there at the moment is, as it were, communicating that enthusiasm to teachers.
Dame Joan McVittie: I think I am done.
Anne Swift: Could I just come back about the subject associations? Not every teacher teaches a subject, or even a single subject; very many secondary school teachers teach a range of subjects. In the primary and early years, of course that does not apply so heavily. I am an infant teacher, but I did belong to the Geographical Association; however, that does not mean that would be the right place for the development of this. It needs a wider brief than just being delivered, or considered, by subject associations. There are lots of early years and primary teachers that would not then hit at all.
Q52 Charlotte Leslie: Just assuming that it was not connected with the subject associations, and you have the idea of your subject association subscription fee and your union subscription fee, the blueprint has a membership level of between £75 and £250 a year. What are your thoughts on that? Is it dependent on whether teachers see a unique selling point or something that is really in it for them? If they did, do you think they would pay that amount? Is it completely dependent on the project that they are being offered?
Dame Joan McVittie: Totally. I very much agree with the things that Patrick said previously. The key question would be: what would be the benefit for me in paying over that amount of money?
Q53 Chair: What will the benefit need to be in order to get them to pay that money? They already get a certain amount of professional development from their union, so it is not exactly unique. What is a proposition that would stand some chance of succeeding at this level of subscription? Peter?
Peter Kent: Echoing that, that was exactly the question my colleagues were asking me last night: "What is in it for us?" If there was something that was substantial, to do with status, portability and developing their career, that was when people were saying, "Yes, we would see the sense of that." I suppose that is along the lines of what we heard earlier about chartered status, but it needs teasing out further.
Q54 Chair: With that combination-status, portability and the chartered career progression element-do you think that might be enough to get people to subscribe in decent numbers?
Peter Kent: That was certainly what I was hearing from colleagues last night.
Chair: Excellent. David?
David Weston: It is interesting if you look at the US National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. They have created a set of standards that are effectively portable; people think they are very good, they are very reliable, but they are not recognised in any way in the pay structure in the majority of states. Effectively teachers are saying, "Well, this is kind of nice, but it is a bit peripheral to my everyday practice." I forget which state it is, but one of the states did recognise it in their pay structure, and they said, "If you get this new qualification, for example, and you move job, you will get a pay boost, and that is portable." Suddenly everyone is going for these standards. They are saying, "Okay, I am going to get qualified. I would like to demonstrate this, because not only is it status, it is going to help me through the rest of my career." I think that we need something like that here.
Q55 Alex Cunningham: Why would professional teachers want to be associated with a body that recognises untrained teachers? There is a wonderful new professional organisation, but you do not have to be a trained teacher to join it.
Dame Joan McVittie: There is still a huge hesitance among the teaching profession about accepting untrained teachers. I tend to be anecdotal, so to go back to when I came into teaching-I started teaching in 1974-they were desperately short of teachers then, so I came out of university, and I was in the classroom five minutes later.
Alex Cunningham: You have done alright then.
Dame Joan McVittie: Scots usually do. I had a twoyear programme that the school developed for me, but it was very much on an ad-hoc basis. For me, that was the forerunner of ideas like Teach First and the GTP programme. I have been incredibly supportive of those types of programmes, but I do not think it suits all potential teachers. Some young people who want to go into teaching are far better on a course that is much more structured. You could say I went into teaching untrained; I was a graduate, but I was certainly untrained when I went in, so I would have to hold my hands up there.
Alex Cunningham: Other views?
Anne Swift: I think it is important to set a minimum standard for entry into teaching. One of the ways to raise the status of the profession would be to have it as a highly desirable profession that people aspire to-that there are high standards expected. Often the Finnish model is quoted, and the fact that teachers are trained to Masters level in Finland and it is a highly sought-after profession is something we should not dismiss; we should look at that more closely. There are some people who come into teaching who perhaps do not go through the currently recognised routes, but on the whole, that period of time when you reflect on practice and learn about the theory underpinning practice-that space for critical reflection- is one of the things that make teaching a profession, rather than a competencybased craft skill.
There is a little bit of tension in the system at the moment with some of the Government messages, which seem to be that you can have a certain set of competencies, I would call them, rather than standards, which you tick off, and if you have achieved them, you are a fully formed teacher. I think that the ability to reflect critically on your own practice and on research evidence, and to have that theoretical underpinning and space to reflect on that, is vital in what it means to be a teacher and a professional teacher. If the college explored some of those issues, I think that would be a very good thing.
Q56 Alex Cunningham: I am sorry I did not get the chance to put this question to Lesley Saunders, but she gave us a new word this morning-it is a new word for me certainly. She was talking about the profession maybe not being given the status that it deserves, because it has been feminised. What can a college do to overcome that, if, in fact, you agree that that is true?
Anne Swift: What I took from what Lesley was saying was that, because a huge number of women are employed as teachers, generally throughout the history of education they have not been given the status they would have got in a profession that was perhaps more male-dominated, like medicine. That perhaps has artificially kept the status as it is. We have to remember that public education is not that old; public education began in the 1870s, and since that time it has developed fairly rapidly from the days of having pupil monitors taking classes, and very much learning on the job, to an all-graduate profession, and now we seem to be slipping away from that a little bit.
Q57 Alex Cunningham: Can the college do anything to overcome this?
Anne Swift: If I refer back to what I said before: if it is given the voice of the profession in reflecting what it is to be a professional teacher, that could be overcome. If it means that teaching is a profession that lots of young people would aspire to join and is not seen as something that gets denigrated on a daily basis, we could have a chance of overcoming that element.
Alex Cunningham: Is there any hope for politicians?
Chair: Pray for us.
Q58 Alex Cunningham: With recent changes to initial teacher training, how easy will it be for a college of teaching to quality assure the range of teaching routes now available, especially the school-based routes, such as School Direct?
David Weston: When we are looking at initial teacher education, yes, obviously we have a huge number of routes. We are almost looking at the wrong question if we are saying we have got a lot of different routes, and then at the end of that, you reach qualified status and that is it. If that is the discussion we are having, it is slightly the wrong one, because we need to question whether one year is enough to call someone qualified anyway, and whether it is a binary thing: "You are suddenly qualified; now go off and teach".
If we consider it as a long career path-you start as a neophyte and gradually work your way through and become more and more expert, and you have different paths that you can go down-the college has a great potential role in looking at the different stages you can go through in your career, and gradually building up the expertise and certifying that. Will there be a number of ways you can get into that at the beginning? Yes, and I think there should be for different people, exactly as Joan says. Should there be a role in quality assuring it? Yes, but we cannot get hung up on: "It is just after year one; you are quality assured or you are not." We have to continue looking at increasing quality year on year.
Q59 Alex Cunningham: That is very helpful. It leads on to the next question about how a college of teaching could address the current lack of diverse career paths for teachers. As you say, it is all very well just saying, "Year one, fine; you are now a qualified teacher," but your professional opportunities are much wider as time goes on.
David Weston: Yes, exactly. I have a bee in my bonnet about this, and the Committee looked at the Singapore model before, and that is an excellent one. Coming back to my point about subject associations, that would be a single strand: some teachers would be subject specialists; some would be general practitioners; some would be specialists in early years; and some would be specialists in assessment. We would need to have all those different strands and bring those bodies together. At the moment, for a teacher to improve, we are saying, "Can someone find a job for me in a more senior position?" We no longer have Advanced Skills Teacher; we no longer have Excellent Teacher. We absolutely have to create career pathways where people can say, "Right, I aspire to be a chartered or a fellow teacher in my subject generally, or as a leader." We are missing a huge amount there that would enable us to push the profession forward.
Just coming back to what it means to be qualified, why do we need people who are continually moving forward? Anyone can go into the classroom and talk about what they know and try to explain things, but very few people can go into a classroom and understand the different educational needs of the pupils in front of them, understand how to deal with a range of different behaviour issues, and understand the quality of teaching in the best ways for getting across what they are trying to get across. It is all very well to fill a need, and say, "Okay, you have got a particular skill. Come in and help us out." We have to show they are on that pathway and they are going to be supported by someone who will help them address all those special needs in the classroom. Otherwise, if we are not saying that, then we are saying the teacher does not need to know much.
Q60 Chair: How do we get the balance right? The Government rejected our suggestion of the three career paths: the leadership, the specialist, etc. What they have said is that they have changed the terms and conditions so that there is flexibility for heads to be able to pay more. There is certainly a balance there between the old route, in which seniority got you more pay, even if the children in your class were doing disastrously badly or, at least, having mediocre results, and a system that says the thing that matters in teaching is not whether you are chartered or whether you have done this reflective weekend of one thing or another; it is about whether the kids in your class learn, enjoy and are inspired. Somehow we have got to get that balance, so that we do not have a formalised system which is outwith of the achievement of children, because it is all about the children in the end. How is a balance struck in that?
Alex Cunningham: An excellent piece of evidence, Chairman, I would say.
Dame Joan McVittie: I would certainly agree very strongly that the key thing is the outcomes for the individual children. Teachers, or members of the school community, can contribute to that in a whole range of ways. Some of my team leaders, if you like, my middle leaders, might not necessarily be the very best practitioners in the classroom, but they are exceptionally good at managing their teams and getting the best out of them, and I have to recognise and reward that. I currently have a group of three Advanced Skills Teachers who I will transfer straight over on to the lead practitioner scale. They want to remain within the classroom and help others develop the pedagogy, and I can reflect that, again, within the structure I currently have. Equally, I have a senior team who have wider whole school responsibilities and, again, the differential is in there.
The key thing I would say is that if you had, say, an inexperienced head who is new to the role, it is quite hard to make those judgments if you do not have some external guidelines. I am very clear about what I want at the moment and, yes, I will perhaps work around the guidelines at times, to get the ends that I want for the children in my school, because that is my constant focus. Particularly, it is much harder in primary to work around that, because there is less money available. If you have a less experienced head teacher, it is much harder to make those judgment calls.
Peter Kent: There are some very good programmes emerging over the last couple of years through the teaching schools that have been formed, which focus very much on developing the craft of teaching and learning. One might well think, "Shouldn’t this have been going on for years and years?" Unfortunately, that is not the case. For example, coming out of the London Challenge there is something called the Outstanding Teacher Programme, which helps teachers who are deemed to be good to move on to being outstanding, and it is focused on learning from the practice of their peers. It builds very much on the best practice we have been talking about all morning.
In any kind of move towards all this, as we have heard earlier from Derek and others, we want to try to sweep up what is good practice emerging on the ground through the London Challenge, through the Teaching Schools, and make it perhaps a little more formalised.
Anne Swift: You can do some of these things in large schools, where you have got lots of people to learn from, but a lot of our teachers, and a lot of our children, are educated in very small schools and rural schools, where there is not so much opportunity for sharing within an institution. We need to look at how we can share across the system. There has been some good work in Canada; Michael Fullan has done some work about how teachers can, in a collegiate way, help improve the practice of each other.
In my own area, in a small way, we have something called a pedagogical exchange, where we work with a higher education institution. It is purely teachers coming together, on an informal basis, to share good practice, backed up by and underpinned by research and the academics. There are things happening on the ground, and it would be valuable to look at how some of those things can be developed, celebrated, and validated, and how people can have a career path. At the moment, there is not much of a career path for teachers; if you want to get on in your career, you tend to get promoted out of the classroom. The Government did bring in the threshold arrangements, so that people could be rewarded for staying in the classroom and sharing their expertise across their school more widely, but some of that has been unpicked lately.
Q61 Chair: It was not very good, was it? People basically were just getting through the threshold because they applied, not because they were any good and kids were learning in their class, so it is not much regretted, is it?
Anne Swift: That was not my experience. It was fairly rigorous to get through the threshold, and people were expected to have that wider view-that sense of being a professional and sharing their expertise with other colleagues.
Chair: So you definitely regret the passing of that-the unpicking of that, as you put it?
Anne Swift: If it is going to be unpicked, something needs to be put into its place
Chair: Joan is shaking her head, so on that particular point I will let her come back, before I come to you, David.
Dame Joan McVittie: I would have to say I totally agree with you, Graham. There were issues; there was an expectation that you moved through the upper pay spine. Certainly, having taken over a failing school, I found a huge number of staff sitting on U3, and, quite honestly, if I had had the power to remove that from them, I would have done so, because the outcomes for the children were appalling. I think there were some head teachers who did it superbly, but I do not think that was the case across the board.
Chair: You welcome the flexibilities, but the career shape needs to be more formed than it is now. We need to somehow get that combination right of having some career shape and progression, and yet the flexibilities of the head to make sure they do not inherit, as you did, a whole load of people on bonus pay for not doing anything extra. David?
David Weston: I think we have gone from one extreme to another. We had thresholds that had complete portability and you could take absolutely anywhere, but the quality was variable: in some schools, people were really rigorous about it; in some schools, they were not. We have now gone to a system that has no portability whatsoever, because it is one head teacher’s judgment, and who knows how good they are at assessing other teachers. They might be great; they might not be; another head teacher might not care. We might have a system where each head feels what they are doing is much more valid, but then they have lost the portability. We need both.
Coming back to Anne’s important point about system leadership, if we define a really good career path, we can help to crack this problem of schooltoschool support in system leadership. Everyone is asking, "What is going to replace the middle tier?" etc. We should say to our more experienced practitioners, "As you are getting more experience, we expect you to take on a more system role as well." Our more experienced maths teachers will help other schools-our more experienced middle leaders.
We have got elements of that through the National College, etc., but it is not going to be enough just to incentivise schools and say, "You need to help other schools." If we incentivise each individual such that, in order to go through their career, they will need to support other schools as well, that is a much more powerful set of incentives.
Q62 Chair: Do you think that is developing? In a way, Ofsted are looking to do it at the top.
David Weston: Yes.
Chair: I suppose if you start at the top-not necessarily at the top, but it looks like they are starting at the top-that might then filter down.
Dame Joan McVittie: You have the ability to do that at the moment, because I have members of staff who are currently supporting a primary school, and I can incentivise them for it, and do.
Q63 Chair: That is what the teaching schools are all about, isn’t it, Peter?
Peter Kent: That is exactly where I was going to come in, Graham. I already have colleagues in my own school who are specialist leaders of education, and that is exactly what they are doing, and that is the deal they sign up for. It does not necessarily mean they are looking to go into headship or deputy headship, but they are very, very strong practitioners in mathematics, science, or whatever, and can go and help someone in another area. It is going back to the point that we already have some very good structures; what we maybe need to do is systemise it a bit more, so everyone has the chance to access them.
Anne Swift: You can have some of this leadership as well, but you do not have to be the expert, in a more formal sense, as part of the leadership team. In my own school, I have classroom teachers who have subject responsibility, and they participate in helping their colleagues at a peertopeer level. It does not necessarily have to be that expert and the more junior person. I think the blueprint sets out that people would mentor or coach from a position of being the expert and the more senior partner. It is a twoway thing, and the person doing the coaching, the mentoring, the leading, the supporting, can gain as much from it.
I have experience of it personally; I have been supporting another head teacher, and I have learned as much from the process as my colleague has. I was a little bemused by the blueprint, which saw it as very much a one-way direction, and I do not feel that it is. There is merit in these kinds of systems working for both the mentor and the mentee-the person doing the support and the supported.
Q64 Chair: Our evidence last year during the inquiry was that, in fact, after year three, there was no material improvement in teaching practice among most of the profession. It was something pretty shocking like that.
David Weston: It was an American study, so we cannot say it is the same over here.
Q65 Chair: Well, that would be the negative; the positive point would be that people could learn even from relatively junior people who may have areas of expertise.
David Weston: Yes, they have to. If there is one thing we have got strong evidence about, it is that teachers improve their practice when they collaborate with each other, and they gradually cycle through things together. Yet we cannot just have: "You know what to do. This person does not know what to do. You tell them what to do. That is great." It just does not work that way.
Dame Joan McVittie: The evidence from the London Challenge showed that the school that was in the stronger position on paper improved as well as the school that was in the weaker position on paper-both schools showed improvement through that partnership.
Chair: This is morphing into our partnerships inquiry.
Q66 Alex Cunningham: There is a difference of opinion between Anne and Joan about whether the right decisions are being made by head teachers as far as advancing teachers is concerned. Is there some sort of role there for the college? I know the head teachers will not want to surrender their right to make these decisions, but should there be some sort of standard or certification, or something, to make sure that they are making the right decisions?
Anne Swift: We are dealing with people, and an infinite variety of people, so there is always a huge amount of variables. Any decisions that you are making, any judgments, are inevitably subjective.
Q67 Alex Cunningham: Some of them are very wrong, as Joan found when she moved into her new school.
Anne Swift: Yes, they could well be. There may a role in a college for helping standardise some of that. There could be a training element for people who are going to be making judgments about their colleagues, so that we get a little bit more validity and respect for other heads’ decisions; that is probably where Joan is coming from.
Q68 Alex Cunningham: The concentration should be on the training of the decisionmaker, rather than the person being assessed.
Dame Joan McVittie: Staff always have right of appeal to the governing body; there is always a group who will review that, who will sit above the head teacher.
Q69 Alex Cunningham: You would still welcome the right to be able to remove it at a later stage if the person is not performing.
Dame Joan McVittie: Yes, the upper pay spine.
Q70 Alex Cunningham: Very quickly, on accreditation by a college of teaching: is it likely to be recognised nationally and internationally if it is not compulsory for teachers to join it? Should it be compulsory?
Peter Kent: I would argue it should not be compulsory, for all the reasons we have given-it needs buy-in. You touch on a really important point, but it does need time to establish itself in order to be recognised. Certainly, I have got a couple of chartered geographers in my own school and I know how beneficial it has been, but that is only because I have followed what they are doing. I suspect if I did not have that knowledge, and someone came to a job interview, I would be a bit confused by it at present.
Alex Cunningham: David, you shook your head as well.
David Weston: It absolutely should not be something that everyone is forced to do; otherwise, we are going to have the same problems as before. We really need buyin from heads; we have got some outstanding head teachers here, who probably can make these judgments really well, but the point is this has got to be something so trustworthy for all the heads that they can say, "If this other body makes this judgment about someone, I trust that is going to be good enough." If that is not the case, it is going to be an imposition to a great head in a great school, who will say, "This is now just hampering me." It has got to be something really trustworthy that everybody buys into. We have got to do a lot of work to get school leaders bought into this.
Dame Joan McVittie: I certainly agree that people do need to buy in. I was a member of the Scottish GTC, where it was compulsory, and they managed to retain their status within the profession. We still have a great deal to learn from the Scottish GTC.
Chair: They gave very impressive evidence to us while we were conducting our inquiry.
Q71 Mr Ward: In my former life, I worked with organisations that wanted to become regarded as professions, so we looked at the development of qualifications, they paid their subs, there were CPD programmes, and the agenda was actually to keep people out, to give them the status of being in to get to. On the CPD, and I know you have been quite critical of the general CPD provision that exists, is this a role for the college-to take control of CPD development and provision?
Dame Joan McVittie: I think they could kitemark it, because currently we have a plethora of CPD out there: professional associations offer it, bodies like the SSAT, the National College, etc. I felt the National College programmes were excellent, because people understood that kitemark there. As the National College is changing its role, and moving more away from the delivery of the courses, people are concerned about maintaining the quality. I certainly think there is a role there for the royal college in terms of kitemarking.
Q72 Chair: That sounds like duplication; you have said the National College does that to an extent. How is this college going to get through against all these other people, and do something distinctive, so it has a USP?
Dame Joan McVittie: The National College currently offers programmes for leadership, not for classroom practice, so you would go elsewhere for that type of pedagogical development. I think it needs to encompass all aspects.
Peter Kent: It would be good to roll in the work that has already been done by what is now the National College for Teaching and Leadership, because those programmes that have been developed are very high quality; a lot of taxpayer money has gone into them. Again, one would not want to dispense with them, but one would want to build and add, and, as Joan says, add a programme that would be for teachers at the sharp end, not just those in leadership roles.
David Weston: It has always seemed very strange to me that we are one of the only countries in the world that has no quality assurance whatsoever; anybody off the street can set up a website and say, "I am going to train teachers-great." Essentially, we give no information to head teachers about whether they might be good or not, and heads have to somehow form a judgment about whether that is good or not.
Firstly, I do not think the college should be providing its own CPD, not initially anyway-maybe further down the line. There are a lot of really good providers out there, and I do not see why we need to have somebody new coming in. Secondly, we have to move away from the idea of kitemarking CPD, as in kitemarking one-day courses; that should not be what it is about. A one-day course is about a tenth of the learning process; it has got to start in school, finish in school, work with colleagues, and evaluate rigorously what is going on.
We work with lots of providers; we run a free database-the Good CPD Guide-to find out what everybody is doing, but that is only a tiny amount of the really good professional development. The professional development that the college really needs to focus on is helping schools start a really good learning process. Yes, go and find some good expertise outside. Yes, go and find good courses, but make sure they can rigorously evaluate what is going on inside the school.
Q73 Mr Ward: The value of the kitemark is that, if it is not on the plug, then I do not touch the plug. The academies are now developing their own development programmes and support programmes for CPD. If you have got a kitemark over here through the college or whoever it is, but then you have academies that are doing their own thing, what is the value of the kitemark?
Dame Joan McVittie: I would ensure that the academies’ programmes come up with a kitemark so they are matched against the same standards.
Q74 Mr Ward: Is that a recommendation that you would be making to us?
Dame Joan McVittie: It is important that the college would take responsibility not for delivering the CPD but for ensuring it was quality assured, which is what the National College did, so that is critical. You have got to remember that the bulk of CPD that teachers are exposed to and gain is delivered by the school itself. Remember, we still have five days within each year for training, and you certainly do not ship all your members offsite for that day’s training. The schools themselves deliver a huge amount of CPD, in the same way as the academy chains do. It would be important that that was recognised.
Anne Swift: I was going to say that kitemarking would only be possible for the oneoff, one, two, or three-day courses. As David said, and I would agree with him, that is only a very small part of developing professionally. There are a lot of other activities that go on, including peertopeer mentoring and coaching, and the whole school staff discussing ways of doing things, that are far more powerful than sending somebody off on a course for a day, because that only generally influences their practice, and sometimes only for a very short time. One of the roles of the college might be to outline some possible successful ways of training and developing staff, rather than saying, "This course is good; that course is not so good." It is about building a way of training and developing staff, and I would rather talk about educating staff and training in a more holistic way.
Q75 Mr Ward: That can be dealt with through CPD. You would not kitemark it; you would have two points from going on an approved course delivered by an approved trainer, over the period of a year in which you needed to get 250 points towards your competency-it is done. It is done with architects, it is done with solicitors, it is done with accountants, it is done with engineers. It is around; it has been done.
David Weston: I am not completely sure that is a great model, and the reason is that teaching is a little different from some of those, in as much as it is more instinctive, habitual-you just deliver. You do not have time to stop and think, as in so many other professions. You are just in the classroom, just reacting-it has to be habit. Training courses, things that have been certified by other people, we have got evidence to suggest they are reasonably good at telling you how to do something new, but they are not very effective at getting you to change those ingrained habits. That is one of the reasons why the Americans found the quality did this, and peaked after three years.
We need to do much more work on the high-quality professional development, as Anne was saying: teachers planning together, teachers co-observing each other, peer mentoring. If we just say, "You have to do a number of hours, go out, watch a couple of things, listen to a couple of things," I genuinely do not think we are going to make much difference in terms of teaching quality.
Peter Kent: We are getting exactly that kind of model that David mentioned, for example, in the courses through the National College for Teaching and Leadership. Higher education institutions, if you do the qualification of middle or senior leader, will allow a certain number of CAT points towards a Masters, and a slightly higher number for the headship qualification. By extension that could be taken though, and, for example, applied to the fellowship that is outlined in the consultation; you could gain these points towards it. Again, we could build on some of the existing good practice, and just extend it a bit further.
Dame Joan McVittie: Many of the courses Peter talked about before, like the outstanding teacher course, etc., and the courses that the National College run, are not just one day where you go off and have a nice lunch or something. These are run over an extended period of time, where there is opportunity for reflection. I totally agree with Anne: the key thing that makes the difference is the coaching that goes on, peer to peer, within the school.
Q76 Ian Mearns: In terms of establishing an evidence base to support professional practice within the college, first of all, is it going to be a really difficult job for a college to collect and collate the available evidence to support professional practice? How can a college build this evidence base in the first place? I know we are not starting from a blank sheet of paper, as we have said a number of times this morning, but it is going to be a bit of a job to pull the strands together. How are we going to go about that?
Peter Kent: It is one of the vital areas where the college would make a difference. At the moment, there is a real danger that, because, as it were, there is a certain amount of a void out there, people will latch on to whatever is the latest faddish piece of research and say, "Let’s all do that." A few months later the conclusion might be, "That did not work, did it?" and quickly moving on without any sense of, "Should we give this a bit of time? What has been the experience of others?"-all the best practice that we would accept and be used to.
The role of the college would be communicating what has been seen to work and what has got good research evidence behind it. As you say, it would not happen overnight and would take time, but there is a very significant gap in what is starting to be referred to as effective clinical practice for teachers but within the classroom.
Q77 Ian Mearns: Lots of nodding heads. David you have talked about squashing misconceptions and making sure that we disseminate best practice.
David Weston: I am really weary of the term "disseminate best practice", because that gets back to some expert over there telling you what to do. I think there are two things we need to do: yes, there is a load of evidence out there we need to look at; the Education Endowment Foundation is building that. I personally think there should be a really strong link between that and a new college of teaching. Then we need to give much more support to teachers to help them evaluate the impact on pupil learning of their work in classrooms. If we do not do that, we run the risk of people saying, "Did it work because the teacher changed what they did, not because more learning took place?" If we manage to do that, teachers can try things out collaboratively in school, evaluate it, scale it up, and try a bigger evaluation, and that becomes part of the evidence base, and other teachers can use that evidence base, and begin to implement it in their schools. It is not just saying, "If I do this, it will work"; they need to evaluate it in their schools as well. It is evidence and evaluation; if you do not have both, we could have a disaster.
Q78 Ian Mearns: What is going to be the best mechanism for disseminating best practice?
David Weston: For example, we need to look at things like making sure teachers have access to research summaries. Many other professions will regularly get sent, "Here is the latest suggestions of what some of the more effective teaching methods are." Again, we should be very wary of what works best, because what works best here might not work best there. We need databases that can be run centrally and magazines that go round to everybody; we need things that teachers can access. It is very bizarre that teachers do not have access to the research journals. That is something that needs doing.
Dame Joan McVittie: You certainly know there is a real void out there, because if you look at the number of hits that the TES website has in terms of accessing current thinking or things to try, it is phenomenal. Young teachers are constantly on that website.
Q79 Ian Mearns: How would the college ensure that teachers out in the field put this into practice? How would a college oversee that?
Anne Swift: You can encourage teachers to be teacher researchers themselves, and engage in action research. If something is being disseminated-"this is some practice that has been observed elsewhere or has been written up in a research journal"-people might like to try it and then feed back, so it is a twoway process. That might be a model worth pursuing.
I trained a long time ago, but before the national curriculum and so on we were encouraged to do action research; teachers did, and they could be accredited for that research. That would add to the body of knowledge. If it is just people receiving things, they are busy and they have not necessarily got time to look at some of that work, but the college as a mechanism for facilitating participation in it could be a way forward. Teachers are, in the main, in my experience, engaged in thinking about what they do and trying to evaluate their practice, and would welcome this.
Dame Joan McVittie: I would also say that many schools currently have action research. We give out bursaries to staff to encourage them to look at action research within their own teaching, or across a department. What I also recognise is that I have a large school and I have a big budget; I can afford to do that. If you are running a small school, particularly a primary where the head is teaching, as well as the deputy, it becomes much harder.
Q80 Ian Mearns: Do you think that the college could provide a digest for teachers so they could quickly identify what would be appropriate for their area?
Dame Joan McVittie: Yes.
Peter Kent: It would be very helpful.
David Weston: On the flip side, there would have to be a few teeth, because frankly we should have stamped out Brain Gym by now. The fact is that there are still teachers doing things we know are actively harmful. There needs to be some teeth somewhere in the system to make sure that does not happen, because it seems a nonsense to me that we allow teachers up and down country to do things we know are a complete waste of time or actively harmful.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed for giving evidence to us this morning.