I need to start by thanking Laura McInerney (@miss_mcinerney) for reigniting some thoughts in my mind about the importance of policy, and particularly educational policy, to the status of the profession. Laura’s #blogsync post (http://lauramcinerney.com/2013/05/27/blogsync-how-would-i-improve-the-status-of-the-teaching-profession/) addresses the question “What would do most to improve the status of the teaching profession?” by focusing on the need for teachers to develop through ongoing learning. One sentence in particular caught my eye and made me think:
“Teachers didn’t ‘just’ teach, they were also involved in a ‘profession’ that develops, and teaches each other, and influences policy.”
The notion that the profession should influence policy is spot on.
Many of us use our Twitter profiles to give a brief insight into our interests with the aim of encouraging, and I suspect discouraging, followers with similar interests. I have been claiming for some time, via my Twitter profile, that I am interested in educational policy. This is true, I am. But I can’t help thinking that it is easy to display a nominal interest in something without ever having to be proactive and get things done.
I am not writing here to launch my election manifesto, thereby pre-empting the major political parties, with the aim of being able to claim a landslide poll victory in a yet to be announced general election. That would be foolish. Nor am I intending positioning myself in order that I can influence education policy at a national level. (Perhaps in time…) No, I have been prompted to think about how we should all be engaged in the influence of educational policy, in all its forms and levels, to ensure that we are a learning and shaping profession. It is the word influence that is important here – those who wish to determine policies at a national level are democratically elected.
A policy is not a document, written at a time of enthusiasm, then shared and printed to gather dust or support a wonky table, but a coherent collection of ideas and principles intended to shape and develop the work of individuals and groups. When thought of in this way it is evident that good teachers understand the concept of policies. Good teachers gather ideas and principles. Good teachers shape and develop those ideas and principles. Good teachers share their vision with others. It’s what happens in successful classrooms every day. Those skills are transferable and applicable to ideas outside the classroom in order that they have influence inside the classroom.
These skills are evident in so many ways:
- Individual teachers asking for ideas, thoughts and constructive criticism – in the car park or staffroom, in departmental meetings, at TeachMeets – all valuable sources of enthusiasm and advice that are accessible to all.
- Groups of teachers sharing ideas within a subject specialism to develop policies for their schools and classrooms. Discussions using the #asechat, #engukchat and #engchat hashtags are just the tip of the iceberg.
- Teachers sharing and challenging ideas on more general forums such as #SLTchat and #edukchat.
- Formally constituted groups of educationalists engaged in work to influence the future of the profession, such as Redesigning Schooling and Vision 2040 led by SSAT (http://www.redesigningschooling.org.uk/).
- The curriculum and accountability work of the Headteachers’ Roundtable (http://headteachersroundtable.wordpress.com/).
Each of these examples provides opportunities to influence policy, where policy is considered to be a collection of ideas and principles that shape and develop practice. The level of influence of each of these examples is open to debate, but no one would deny the importance of a teacher’s influence on individual children. The skills developed when formulating policy at a classroom level – gathering ideas, shaping and developing, sharing the vision – can be successfully employed at departmental, whole school, regional and national level.
The status of the profession will benefit from teachers using their skills to influence policy makers. The views needn’t be – in fact, shouldn’t be – uniform, the methods of sharing ideas should continue to be broad and the reach of influence will always be varied, but the belief of the profession as a whole that we each have a part to play in that influence is crucial.
Perhaps I will write that manifesto after all…
Other contributions to the #blogsync topic “What would do most to improve the status of the teaching profession?” can be found at http://blogsync.edutronic.net/ .