Teachers want for themselves what they give their pupils – frequent opportunities to learn

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13 January 2015 by Mary Bousted
Michael Barber recently opined that teachers are ‘semi-professional’. He argued that the profession remains heavily unionised (obviously a bad thing when it comes to Barber’s view of professionalism). Yet consider this fact. ATL has provided CPD to over 24,000 members in the last eight years (as pictured above) – making the union one of the largest CPD providers in the country.

Members come to their union for training and development because they are not getting what they need from their employer.  Too many schools still lack the capacity to meet individual teachers’ CPD needs (or even the collective needs of their staff – hence the parlous quality of so many INSET days).

It is a sad fact that teachers, who facilitate the learning of their pupils, are not facilitated by their employer to be learners throughout their careers.  In too many cases teacher education, training and development is never seriously supported beyond initial teacher training (and increasingly the quality of ITT is in doubt).

And yet, teachers are eager to learn.  Look at the success of the TES connect website – where millions of teachers have shared their teaching materials. Teachers want for themselves what they give their pupils:

  • Frequent opportunities to learn.
  • CPD which is shaped to meet their individual needs, as well as the more corporate needs of their school.
  • The opportunity to share effective practice, collaborating with, and learning from their peers.

Teachers want access to the latest thoughts and developments in their subject and they are keen to learn more about different pedagogical approaches. They are self-critical, always wanting to teach more effectively and support their pupils’ learning more closely.

The College of Teaching could be one vehicle towards a better deal for teacher professionals.  If established with a clear mission and remit, and with independence from the political establishment, the College could be the buffer between the profession and politicians whose relentless pace of reform in all aspects of their work – including the curriculum and qualifications – has had such a negative effect.

What is needed most, however, is a re-awakened sense amongst teachers of their professional agency.  Teachers need to be able to make well informed, professional choices about the curriculum and about teaching and learning approaches. Schools must be re-established as democratic workplaces where dialogue, not obedience, is valued and supported.  And governments of all persuasions must recognise that constant legislation - without consideration of the challenges of implementation for teachers and school leaders - does not raise standards of education, and damages the conditions in which teacher professionalism can flourish.

Dr Mary Bousted is a member of the panel for ATL’s pre-election debate on professionalism, “Meeting the learning needs of future generations - is CPD for teachers an entitlement, requirement, necessity or just a distant dream?” which takes place in London on 27 January.

In this, the third in a series of free discussions about key education issues, our panel will be asking questions about the role of CPD in teachers' working lives.

There are limited number of places still available – to find out more, see the ATL website.

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