Education & Family

College of Teaching 'standards' plan

Teacher in classroom
Image caption A commission has set out how a professional teaching body might operate

Setting standards and sharing research would be responsibilities of a College of Teaching, according to plans for creating a professional body for teachers in England.

But membership would be voluntary and it would have no role in disciplinary hearings or in setting pay.

Full members would need to have qualified teaching status.

Head teachers' leader Russell Hobby welcomed the idea of such an "evidence-based, non-political" body.

The blueprint for an independent, professional body for teaching has been produced by a commission set up by the Prince's Teaching Institute.

Professional voice

The commission included head teachers, teachers, academy providers, academics and teachers' unions.

The teaching institute, which has the Prince of Wales as president, has been acting as broker for talks about setting up a professional body since September 2012.

This marks the latest stage in discussions about creating a college.

The functions of the proposed College of Teaching would be to set standards, help with professional development and to use research to improve professional practice.

It would provide a voice for the profession - in the way that there are professional bodies in medicine and law.

Standards would include areas such as subject knowledge, professional skills and leadership.

The college would also become a centre for commissioning, collecting and sharing research about teaching.

But it would not be involved in the areas where teachers are represented by unions, such as pay and conditions.

Members could be expelled from the college for misconduct, but it would not have any role in disciplinary cases involving teachers.

There has been a political row about whether staff must have qualified teacher status if they have a permanent teaching post.

The proposed college says that unqualified staff could join as "associate" members, but this would be a stepping stone to becoming a full member, rather than an alternative type of membership.

The college suggests that no-one would be allowed to be an associate member for more than three years.

There would also be a higher tier of membership, called a "fellow".

Membership costs

The college would be designed to be funded by membership subscriptions, which the college says could range between £30 to £130 per year. This would cover anticipated running costs of £11m to £14m per year.

Chris Pope, chairman of the commission and co-director of the Prince's Teaching Institute, says: "The breadth of technical, intellectual and personal capabilities that we expect from teachers is extraordinary. Yet teaching remains a major profession with no independent body to set standards for the profession."

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, backed the plan for a college.

"If teachers want professional respect and freedom from interference, they need a body like this to strengthen their voice," he said.

Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers, warned that membership costs could concern teachers.

And she argued that it will "need to show that it can contribute positively to the professional discourse, in particular at a time when the government's attacks on teachers and education are causing teachers to leave the profession".

Mary Bousted, head of the ATL teachers' union, welcomed the idea of a college but said it needed to support teachers rather than government policy.

"For the college to achieve its aims, it must get buy-in from the profession and prove itself to reflect teachers' professional aims and concerns."

Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teachers' union, warned of "diverse and often contradictory ambitions for the college".

She questioned "the credibility of a college created in an environment where teaching has become an effectively deregulated profession as a result of the policies of the secretary of state".

A General Teaching Council for England was set up in 1998 and closed in 2012. It had been created as a professional body to raise standards and ensure professional conduct.

There are General Teaching Councils for teachers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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