Do we need to raise the status of teaching?

Posted: May 19, 2013 in blogsync, CfE
Tags: , ,

This month’s Blogsync topic – how we can raise the status of the teaching profession – makes things a little difficult for me for one major reason: I teach in Scotland.

It really is hard to over-emphasise how important this distinction is. Scotland is, in so many ways, a very different country to England (ask Nigel Farage) and education is definitely one of the areas in which there is a major – and increasing – divide. I read lots of blogs and tweets from teachers in England and the issues that frequently arise – academies, free schools, PRP, SATs, Gove, Ofsted – are, thankfully, products of what feels like an entirely different world.

As a consequence of this, my response to this particular Blogsync topic may be quite different from my colleagues in England, as some of the issues that people are concerned are eroding the professionalism and prestige of teaching (most notably the approach of the current Conservative Education Secretary) do not particularly impinge upon my life.

To be entirely honest, I don’t even particularly feel that the status of teaching is a massive problem. There are the usual suggestions that “those who can’t do, teach”, and there are graduates who see a career in teaching as a mark of failure (full disclosure, there was a time when this applied to me) but, on balance, I’d say we are generally valued (at least north of Berwick). Crucially, I don’t wake up in the morning dreading another attack from the individual in charge of education for my country – indeed, Mike Russell seems to me to be good at his job at least in part because he doesn’t appear terribly interested in telling me what to teach or how to teach it.

Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t changes that I believe would make things better. If we assume that we could improve education overall by attracting the best people then re-organising teacher training to include a salary would seem to be to be a logical step. I wouldn’t advocate the sort of ‘train on the job approach’ being advocated in some quarters (a mixture of academic learning and teaching placements seems to me to be broadly the right approach) and can see the merit in making teaching a Masters level profession (as it is in Finland). I’d probably be inclined to change the nature of the GTCS (although recent changes to the Professional Standards do seem to be a step in the right direction).

One change I would make would to be our union representation, in which I have absolutely no faith whatsoever to represent our best interests or enhance our image and reputation among the wider population. The tactics adopted during the recent ‘negotiations’ over increased pension contributions illustrated this well, but that debate is for another time.

Probably the biggest changes I’d like to see in teaching, however, are the sort of things that most of us want: I’d like to see every teacher taking responsibility for their own professional development rather than asking what local authorities are going to do to train them; I’d really like to see a culture of collaborative working that makes use of the potential of 21st Century technology; and I’d absolutely love to see a profession that feels that our desire to innovate in the best interests of the pupils is not just accepted, but openly and actively supported.

I suppose the point I’m making is that to enhance the profession, we need those in charge to trust our professionalism – only from this starting point can improvements come. I can see this happening (albeit a little slowly) in Scotland, but I’m not so sure about the future for my English colleagues. One thing I am sure of is that I’m glad I don’t work for Michael Gove.


Read the rest of the Blogsync contributions on this topic here.

  1. srcav says:

    James, I was already madly jealous that you live and work on Arran, my favourite place in the world (my grandparents lived there throughout my childhood and we spend all summer there every year). And now I am even more jealous to hear this!

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