Our CEO Professor Dame Alison Peacock reflects on one year of lockdown, what this has meant for the teaching profession and how the Chartered College of Teaching has supported educators over this time.
How would you sum up the past 12 months for the teaching profession?
Teachers are just like everyone else and have been frightened. They have had to deal with all of the fear we have been experiencing while helping their students and local communities. We need to remember that our teachers are not superhuman. Moving to online teaching is completely different to face to face teaching. Building those skills has been hard. While some schools were already set up, with laptops linked to the school system, others had never had them before and in some communities, access was very uneven. Added to this, many teachers have lost access to their school community. Even if you were in school, you may not have been part of the same team and you could not go into the staffroom and benefit from those discussions with colleagues.
The profession has also had to deal with great uncertainty, with the media trailing stories about schools opening, schools closing, masks or no masks. Teachers are hearing these from headlines rather than heads. School leaders are trying to reassure their staff but they have scant information themselves, often getting updates in the press at the same time as everyone else.
How has the Chartered College of Teaching been making a difference this past year?
In this past year, we have offered a different, non-partisan voice. We are not frightened of speaking truth to power and have spoken up on the injustice of examinations and the unacceptable delays which have prevented teachers from knowing what is going on and hampered their ability to plan. We have been listening to and amplifying the voices of our members. I have been trying to hear and communicate what teachers are feeling. Having taught all of my life, I know how it feels to be a teacher and a leader. I hope that authenticity has been providing reassurance. In all of the meetings we attend – be it with the DfE or with science advisors we have been helping them to understand what it’s actually like in a real classroom.
The Chartered College has been providing a variety of resources, from articles to webinars and research to support the profession. For those early career teachers who may have missed out on that classroom experience, our Early Career Hub has a plethora of videos highlighting great practice. We have had numerous opportunities for teachers at all stages of their career to talk and learn from one another and hear from national experts on areas such as behaviour, bereavement and the curriculum. We have encouraged members to share their views and their insights which we have helped to amplify, such as with the Ofqual assessment consultation.
What are you proudest about the Chartered College of Teaching doing during this period?
Everything we have been able to do has been down to having an agile and responsive team constantly adapting to ensure what we are providing helps teachers. Our Education in Times of Crisis reports are just one example – these have gone on to become influential. I am proud that the Chartered College has been there for members, able to direct them to support when they have needed it.
What made you start your daily positive quotes / why do you think they are important?
There are so many teachers working so hard and I know it can feel like no one notices. If just a fraction of colleagues see my messages and know they are hugely appreciated, then my hope is that it will help, even just a small amount. I’ve heard from teachers saying that they have read my tweet and it’s helped set up their day by being noticed. It’s all about helping people realise they are not on their own. If you know you’re not the only one, it can help. We want teachers to know that by joining our profession they are joining something that will celebrate their contribution, be proud of what they are doing and will offer support. I see you, I know that things are difficult but I understand.
Do you think there’s been a change in the opinion around teaching over this past year?
During the first lockdown, everyone was in shock, including teachers. Over time, teachers were able to put in place the procedures and methods to become more organised and by the time this most recent lockdown started, everything wasl slicker. Throughout, teaching has been carrying on, and teachers have become very skilled at online teaching. Parents have been able to see first hand the strength of the relationships that children have with their teachers and the importance of these relationships. I have heard from parents saying they are amazed at how their children light up when they see their teachers online, that they are seeing the magic that teachers can weave. Parents of older students also see how teachers are committed to encouraging them to keep learning.
What is your message for the government?
The Chartered College of Teaching’s message is – schools need to be properly resourced to provide hope for the future. They need to be able to support youngsters if they’ve been through a traumatic time and this takes proper resourcing. The government has to show that education is the future. It’s too often seen as a graded service – that you are good enough or not. Instead, the government needs to see education at the heart of the future of our society. Trust teachers more and give teachers more opportunities. And give school leaders the courage and the confidence to know that the decisions that are taking will be supported because they know what works.
If you were to sum up what the future of teaching looks like as we move forwards from the pandemic, what do you think needs to happen?
We need an expert teaching profession engaged in career-long development. However, teachers must not be dragooned into this. They need to be inspired to constantly learn and develop because they feel like the masters of their destiny and that they can make a difference. I worry that people look at teaching and see too much bureaucracy when they arrive. We need to encourage the best people to become teachers, help them to stay and give them sufficient resources so that the workload is not crippling. We need to support them to make a difference and not constantly require them to prove themselves under the spotlight of an accountability system that crushes innovation and confidence. When our teachers have the confidence they can accomplish so much.
What one message would you give to the profession for the rest of this school year?
We need to focus on consistency, kindness and reliability. We need to look after ourselves. Our schools are doing something very powerful for children and parents but to continue to do that we need to look after our own wellbeing. What the Chartered College of Teaching is doing is helping the profession to recognise the impact they are having and letting them know how grateful everyone is.