The Claim Your College Coalition has put its proposals to the government for a College of Teaching open to everyone interested in education, with chartered membership reserved for practising classroom teachers.
Since then, social networks have buzzed with complaints that membership should be solely for teachers. The coalition says that it’s worked hard to get this far and doesn’t want to lose the momentum for a much needed group that will raise the profile of the profession.
What is a teacher?” This was the first discussion point on a cold Saturday morning in Birmingham at a College of Teaching consultation meeting. The meeting was hosted by SSAT and the Teacher Development Trust at Waverley School, on behalf of the Claim Your College coalition, a group made up of representatives from across the sector.
The question certainly raised some eyebrows. We were all teachers, so surely we knew the answer? But how did we put the passion, frustration and overwhelming life experience into words?
As a group we shared a very simple desire: a College of Teaching that would raise the profile of teaching to recognise each and every member of the profession who shares a passion for learning.
We can’t risk for this very special moment to be lost in a mire of discussion over membership
Since that morning, I have spent many hours researching and reading opinions about who is a teacher in order to gather my thoughts as to how to get this college rolling. So many people want it to work so there is a large number closely following the developments, but we became a little bogged down in the minutiae of the debate.
I took part in a further debate in London, which mooted the principle of the college and its possible influence. Again, the atmosphere was positive about what it could achieve. While there were many questions about how it should be founded and funded, administered and taken forward, we all felt that it was wanted – nay, needed – if there was to be a teaching profession that stood out as being committed to the excellent education of our children.
There is much debate, positive and negative and much in between. It sometimes feels like the end result, though, is maybe getting lost in the desire to get it absolutely right in the first instance.
It’s a bit like that moment when a teacher needs to critique the first draft of a student’s work. You know that there are bits that need changing – but how can you explain that while retaining the initial impetus that engendered him or her to write it in the first place?
But let’s get to an important question. What does membership of the college actually mean?
In the proposal that the Claim Your College Coalition handed to the government it says that membership will be open to all interested in education, with chartered membership reserved for practising classroom teachers.
Reactions to this are all over social media. But many of those involved (I won’t say just teachers because that is a contentious term in the debate!) accept that teaching is not in a good place at the moment, and resent the influence that successive governments have exerted over the profession over the decades.
They also agree that improvements can and must be made so that teaching can be upheld and recognised as a proud and distinguished profession. I am passionate about the formation of a College of Teaching that supports these values.
To get just to this point, many hours have been spent in debate and discussion and many, many drafts have been poured over and amended.
Hence, we can’t risk for this very special moment to be lost in a mire of discussion over membership. The formation of the college is agreed; it has backing, it has support. The detail should come in the debates that follow, when we should not forget what has driven us to the point. Let’s not lose it at this crucial moment and regret it later.
Claire Dockar is lead practitioner at Woking High School