Tristram Hunt MP, the Labour shadow education secretary has today released details of his proposals for a system of regular re-licensing in a way that he envisions will improve professionalism to bring it in line with other professions such as Medicine and Law. Done with care, funding and well thought out systems this has the potential to be very beneficial but I want to examine why it may not be as useful as it appears to be on paper.
Much of the current Continual Professional Development (CPD) within teaching is delivered as a tack on at the end of a day to already exhausted teachers after a full day of contact time with young people, often by other teachers who are equally as worn out. It is quite often planned with minimal time and resources allocated to it, more often than not to meet a statutory requirement (such as in the case of Safeguarding) or to ensure that the school can tick a box to say staff have been trained on how to deal with a particular learner group, initiative etc. This isn’t because schools don’t want to provide good training but the reality is there isn’t the time, or the budgets to do so. With external courses often running into hundreds of pounds a day for attendance, alongside the cost of a supply teacher for the day, the costs become prohibitive and mean that internal, staff delivered training is often the only option.
In a time when budgets are being squeezed, this formalised CPD requirement is going to do little more than create another box ticking exercise that will create paperwork trails and requirements that will do little more to benefit teachers than the way things currently operate in many schools. If, however, he is proposing to fund every teacher to the tune of £1000+ per academic year to ensure they can attend quality, external training, then that would be a good thing, however I doubt in an age of austerity, this is a viable pledge.
The other part of the plans involve assessment of an individuals teaching by other teachers, something that happens as part of performance management already, so really nothing new. The issue, however, is that there is the potential for adding another layer of paperwork to an already stretched workforce to ensure this is reported to the proposed Teaching college, again for very little benefit over the current scenario.
However, what for me is the most worrying part is the repetition of the Govian rhetoric that teaching is something that is currently unprofessional and broken. Actually when it is pulled apart, what Hunt is proposing already happens to a great extent, just not with the level of bureaucracy he intends. Maybe before MP’s make sweeping statements and generalisations they need to start to re-assess the realities of life in teaching and how things really work before attempting to propose more reform.