The Sunday’s papers story of Labour’s new professional development routes for teachers suggests that Labour is finally playing catch-up with some of the ideas discussed by the Liberal Democrats earlier this year in a report from the commission chaired by lord Storey, a former primary school head teacher in Liverpool.
However, I hope it was the headline writers that used the term ‘master teacher’ and that Labour weren’t quite as crass as to use such a term in a profession that is now predominantly female in its workforce. If they did, then it shows that 40 years of equal opportunity legislation still hasn’t really made more than a superficial difference in thinking. Considering the demands local Labour Councillors in Oxfordshire make about the use of the term chair rather than chairman, and the resistance of those that don’t see chair in the same form as the diminutive of ref in place of referee, I can see some fun to come.
However, the serious point is about the need for investment in professional development for teachers during the next parliament. The National College should provide benchmarking data for schools to show what good employers outside of education typically spend on further training each year on employees at different stages of their careers. Ofsted could then monitor whether schools are spending anything like the same amount of their income on all staff, and not just teachers.
Labour thinking also reveals the endless tension between ensuing enough good staff will join the leadership track for promotion while not preventing those that want to stay in the classroom from developing some form of career structure. The re-establishment of advisers and professional development centres might be a good first step, but it would require acceptance that some central funding is a good idea. It also isn’t clear from the reports I have read where Labour now stands on the idea of teaching being not just a graduate profession, but one where the majority of new entrants will be expect to achieve the level of a higher degree.
As I noted in an earlier post, it was Mrs Thatcher in her 1972 White Paper that first suggested a sabbatical of a term one in every seven years for teachers. Sadly, I cannot see that happening during the next parliament.
Nevertheless, with half the teaching profession under the age of thirty five, most sensible commentators would accept that there is a need for far more professional development than currently takes places. Some like the Conservatives that don’t believe teachers need initial training also presumably reject the need to spend money on professional development, believing teaching is an innate skill backed by subject knowledge. But, then some people still believe the world is flat, and the moon is made of cheese.
However, as well as securing better professional development, there is also the need to sort out initial training, especially for those entering the primary sector as graduate where both the PGCE and Teach First need urgent updating to meet the requirements of the modern age.