Dame Alison Peacock spoke to NASBTT on Thursday 1 December
In a week where we learnt that DfE has missed its targets for recruiting teacher trainees for the ninth time in ten years, and that our existing teachers are reporting that they are increasingly burnt out, I think it’s even more important to reflect on the vital role of teachers, and the role of teacher educators at the beginning of their professional journeys. Teacher educators do an amazing job, in setting the framework within which teachers will continue to develop and learn.
It may be a cliche to say that teachers are professionals. But I think it’s important to be clear what that means.
I believe that professionals are courageous, drawing on ethical values and principles. We can learn from and build on the values of ethical leadership published as a framework by Carolyn Roberts and others before the pandemic, and the Nolan Principles of Public Life. Teachers are leaders as soon as they step into a classroom, and they are important role models and examples to others, which is why I was so disappointed by the behaviour of Andrea Jenkyns in her brief time at the Department for Education. These principles and values aren’t ‘one and done’, they’re not a ticklist, but should underpin a teacher’s whole career, developing and deepening over time.
I also believe that professionalism involves restless pursuit in building pedagogical skill, knowledge and compassion. Teachers evidence that through engaging with career-long learning. Knowledge is continually changing, what we know about how children and young people learn is changing all the time, and the skills of teaching change in response to individual pupils and contexts. It’s important that teachers keep up with changes in subject knowledge, that they’re not distracted by ‘edu-myths’ and fads, but can look critically at the evidence and make informed decisions. It’s important that teachers build a repertoire of teaching skills over time. Teacher educators know that, in the short time they have with trainees, you can only teach a small range of the skills, the knowledge, the principles and the behaviours that teachers will use. But the training period sets habits of reflection, of understanding how theory and practice reinforce each other, of critical questioning, that continues throughout a teacher’s career.
As Chief Executive of the Chartered College, I believe that Chartered status is a way of supporting that career-long learning and building teacher status. Everyone respects Chartered Accountants and Chartered Engineers, and I’m working towards a time when Chartered Teachers are equally respected for their deep knowledge and skill. My aim is for the Chartered College to be the professional home of all education staff, the professional body that all trainee teachers join because it works alongside teacher education to support them at the beginning of the journey and provides the professional space for them to grow and learn throughout their careers.