Teachers as Professionals: A First Hand View of the Prince’s Teaching Institute In Action

In the first of two related articles, Elliot Simmonds talks about VoicED’s trip to a Prince’s Teaching Institute Mathematics and Science Residential and its effect on his views on the teaching profession.

On Monday 18th November 2013 I was treated to a fantastic opportunity to visit the final panel discussion of one of the Prince’s Teaching Institute’s residential events. The weekend, which took place at Crewe Hall in Cheshire and was orientated around mathematics and science teachers, was (even though I was only there a couple of hours) an incredible vindication of the commitment, passion and above all enthusiasm that teachers have for their subjects, and for their roles. Prince's Teaching Institute

The final panel was made up of several leaders across business, education policy and also two Teacher Leaders of the PTI and began with several teachers who had attended the residential giving brief overviews of what they would take back to their schools. The feedback was unanimously positive for the event and I would, on the back of it, encourage any school leaders to consider the value of taking up a place for several reasons, but first and foremost among these is the fact that the PTI, and events similar to these, build the professional nature of teaching as a career.

The whole event is essentially a group of professionals sharing their experiences and helping one another develop and improve. I use the word professionals deliberately, as it was a major point in one of the initial speeches made by one of the attendees and one I agree with. Teachers are professionals in the same way as many other job roles – in that they have a specific set of qualifications which need to be gained in the majority of cases, are encouraged to undertake CPD, and they can be struck off and banned from the profession following a misdemeanour. Yet, it seems to me, that often teachers are not afforded the same respect and ‘prestige’, so to speak, as a solicitor or a doctor.  I wonder how the general public would feel about being treated by a GP without any formal medical qualifications…a situation which has occurred in schools up and down the country when the same aspect is considered amongst teachers.

That said, I am not against bringing in experience from outside the group of people who graduate university with a degree in teaching, or those who make the decision very early in their life and decide to do PGCE for instance. I sincerely feel there is value in bringing in teachers who have significant professional or trade experience in other areas of the economy (such as chemists who have previously worked for a large pharmaceutical company, or English teachers who have worked in copy-writing for instance) in to the classroom, but they should have at least some kind of professional grasp of key pedagogical issues in order to best be able to disseminate their knowledge. An individual may know all there is to know about biology, for instance, but that does not necessarily mean they are equipped to teach our next generation of biology students. Teaching is (increasingly it seems) becoming much more than the act of transferring knowledge – including aspects of pastoral care, building self-esteem and even dealing (whether rightly or wrongly) with extreme issues such as self-harming, parental abuse and female genital mutilation among others. We are asking more and more of our teachers and educators, and the people in those positions in schools and colleges must be properly educated and equipped for their role, before they can hope to properly educate and equip others.

This is not a debate for this article, but there may well be real value in a self-regulating Royal College of Teaching type organisation which can be the voice of teachers and influence policy, as well as regulating the quality of professionals in the learning and skills sector. Teachers have a key part to play in this debate, and as such I’d like to open up the comments area below – what do you think about the professional status of teachers, and how can this be improved, maintained, or altered?

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