The latest proposal by Tristram Hunt, that all teachers should be required to relicense every 5 to 10 years, is an interesting one. I could happily blog about people’s reactions which have themselves been fascinating, but I’d like to look at the idea itself.
Details appear to vary in different accounts but broadly:
- This is something that he wants to be administered by a profession-led Royal College of Teaching.
- Some articles suggest it would happen every five years, others suggest seven or even ten.
- Teachers would be required to hold the license in order to teach (presumably in maintained schools) and would be ‘struck off’ if they fail to re-achieve it.
- Intriguingly, he suggests there would be ‘no more INSET days’ but that CPD would be part of the structure of everyday work.
I have yet to see any suggestions about how such an assessment process might work, how much it might cost, whether it would link to professional progression, etc.
So, broadly, here are my reactions.
- The idea that the profession produces a mutually agreed standard of practice is a good one. I welcome the suggestion that it would be pursued by a teacher-led, autonomous professional body. However, this will only work if the body gradually gains the trust and respect of the profession – this cannot be imposed and it should be assumed that there is a mountain to climb to build reputation against a background of general scepticism and lack of trust.
- If the license is assessed mainly by peer observation then it will fail. As Professor Rob Coe has pointed out, lesson observation is increasingly being recognised to be unreliable as a way to infer quality. This approach will lead to more subjective hoop-jumping that will sap morale and fail to improve learning.
- If the license is assessed mainly by progress (also known as ‘value added’) then it will also fail. Value-added is an unstable, unreliable predictor from year to year – there is a strong research base for this. This would be another recipe for dog-eat-dog game-playing which is harmful to learning.
- This leaves us with a key issue: both current common methods for assessing teacher quality have been seen to be unreliable. There is a recognition that subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, behavioural knowledge and interpersonal skills are important but there are no commonly accepted ways to assess these. I personally believe that an understanding of research and evaluation methodologies as well as a familiarity with practitioner research are also important, but again, there are no set ways to assess these. We need to develop, pilot, test and gradually roll out better assessments. If this doesn’t happen then re-licensing shouldn’t happen.
- Many of the positive reactions around the idea have rested on the idea that it will provide a boost to professional development. However, the general level of practice around CPD in schools is still poor, much of the provision is poor (i.e. superficial, one-off, etc) and certainly lacking in any rigorous evaluation or evidence base. A ‘big bang’ approach where everyone is suddenly required to do x number of hours of CPD courses would be an unmitigated disaster and a waste of money, I believe. At the same time, until there is a general understanding of the value of effective professional learning then it won’t be prioritised and won’t attract the necessary resources to make it work. In-house CPD must not be ‘the cheap option’.
- I very much welcome the idea that CPD within such a system should no longer be delivered in discrete packages, but that time should be allocated with the teaching year (through lower teaching loads) in order to allow professional collaboration. However, there is a large amount of capacity-building work needed until this could be achieved successfully in all schools. Professional enquiry approaches can be superb, but they are hard to implement and there is a constant danger that they turn in to ‘fluff’ – well-meaning, but ultimately simply making teachers busier without any positive impact on children.
So, this is an approach that has a huge amount of potential, but it is a very, very hard path to tread with fatal pitfalls at every step. I completely understand why sceptics are pointing out that government has an almost perfect track record of falling in to bureaucratic traps every time it tries a new idea, but I personally think the prize is one that is worth fighting for.
Ultimately, I think re-licensing should only be brought in once we start bringing in new, improved structures for professional progression which build on ideas such as Advanced Skills Teachers but implement them in a better way. Initially, such Master or Fellowship levels of a profession-led College of Teaching should be subject to recertification. Eventually, when these are sufficiently respected and trusted and have been demonstrated to lead to positive impact on childrens’ lives, we could then extend this to the whole profession… but not before.
Why don’t we just do it? Get together the interested parties here via twitter blogs etc. I run an Ofqual Accredited Awarding Organisation and have some good links to HE. If you good people out there devise the qualification, (I can provide guidance) I’ll get it accredited – Level 7 Diploma in Practical Teaching or something. Design it to have minimum bureaucratic impact on the teacher and maximum scope for CPD impact. We have all the technology in place to support it and we can do it on a not for profit basis, probably under £100 a person to do the quality assurance required. 450k teachers say every 5 years – only about £9m which is peanuts compared to OFSTED costs.
If it’s a Level 7, they already exist – they’re called masters degrees. Why reinvent the wheel?
It would only be reinventing the wheel if it replicated what was available now and I am definitely not proposing that. If there is a Masters that does the job why isn’t it doing so? Can you do a Masters for under £100? Can you do a Masters without having to spend a lot of time outside the classroom? Could you do a Masters in time available to most teachers? Is there a Masters that uses evidence of classroom practice renewable every 3 to 5 years? I have talked informally to colleagues in HE and they say there isn’t anything like this and that it would take years to get such a course through the system even if it was possible at all. The purpose of the QCF is competence based assessment in the work place which seems to me a better fit for this than what is effectively a “traditional” academic qualification designed for a different purpose. But in the end if someone want so to do it that way fine, I was just suggesting a practical way forward based on David’s post based on what I could do to help. If others have better ideas and the will and resources to do it no problem, there is no shortage of other tasks to do. If no-one does anything, though, don’t be surprised if this or a future government does something you don’t like 🙂
To your questions, the answer is yes apart from the cost – and we already have one as do others which is focused very much on classroom practice and has a practitioner enquiry in place if a traditional dissertation. In addition we are currently doing work to free up all modules so that teachers can tailor make their degree. With new modules on action research and lesson study coming out in October, it would lead to a recognised Level 7 qualification. What interests me is how a course can be run in its entirety for less than £100. Would this carry a recognised qualification at the end of it? And who produces all the content?
If you are verifying competence the content is produced by the student. They are showing you the evidence of their competence against criteria from their every day work. This can be done using the internet, internal verification and external sampling. Internally make use of systems already in schools, we don’t need to re-invent new ones. The size of the qualification is also relevant – for this purpose you don’t need something the size of a full Masters although it might contribute credit towards one. Yes it would carry a recognised qualification accredited by Ofqual, Dells and CCEA if required – SQA too with a little effort and referenced to the European Qualifications Framework.
The system for doing this has been developed thorough three EU co-funded Transfer of Innovation multilateral projects and there are two more projects currently started managed in Slovenia and Spain with partners in NL, EL, BG, CZ, PL, UK. The current ones are in Special Needs and Hotel and Tourism sectors but the principles transfer to any accreditation. with IT, Computing, Engineering, Business already covered. I’m also subcontracted to a Transversal project on MOOCs for teacher ed. that is possibly relevant. The technology is also used for the new Duke of York Award for STEM subjects and the Modern Baccalaureate. There is therefore scope to make it EU wide and link to other innovations.
Ian, I love your idea, we have been looking for something like this for past 2 years as recognition of entitlement to CPD and enhancing professional standards. Would be interested in it with or without Hunt.
I have some meetings with people interested in this. Once I get a bit more idea if its going to be viable I’ll blog about it at http://thelearningmachine.co.uk/blog/ and publicise the blog using @ingotian on twitter.