That was quite a week! In fact it was quite a month. At the end of last term, I penned a letter of resignation. Tired and frustrated, I’d decided enough was enough. I walked past it every day for a week, feeling sad and defeated, and then I ripped it up. I decided to write another letter instead. Many people are still signing that letter. It ended, exactly a week to the day that it was posted, in a trip to the House of Commons and an unexpected appearance on Channel 4. But what now?
I went back into school this morning – business as usual. No-one’s that impressed up here with folk from the telly, so there was no fuss and I was able to carry on as usual. But I had a spring in my step. We talked a lot about power and democracy today – 11 year olds have some pretty good ideas that I’ll be passing on to government, but for now, this post is about how we use the momentum we have gained to effect change.
1. We need to think about the image of our profession. I believe that there is a direct link from the language and rhetoric of government, passed through the mouthpiece of the media, down into the primal fears of parents, into the ears of their children and out into our classrooms. It’s no good talking tough on behaviour, if the root of the problem is social and cultural. I’ve written more on this complex issue in another post, but making political capital out of attacks on teachers is the fastest way to disrupt learning. We need to start thinking about how we describe those we have entrusted (or not) with the care of our children and the impact that this can have on their attitudes in class.
2. We need to think about how the profession is represented. I am a firm believer that trade unions are a precious and democratic part of our society. I have a fondness for history and to remember Peterloo and the Chartist movement is to recognise the importance of the right to representation and protest. I sometimes get confused though, whether the unions are representing me or children. I’m sure they would say both, but I’m not sure that that is always possible. Is it not time for a separate professional body for teachers? Not the sop of the GTC, but, as Mick Waters suggests in his brilliant new book, a kind of NICE for the teaching profession which would oversee the dissemination of evidence based research and who would implement pedagogical and curriculum guidance based on consensus, not party political ideology.
3. At the meeting in Parliament yesterday, the members of the select committee in attendance (all Labour MPs) were keen to engage and we need to ensure that we, as a profession, keep the channels of communication open with that body. They are, to date, the only organisation that has forced a change in policy – remarkable considering the cross party make up of the committee. We should embrace their capacity to question.
4. We need to consider how, now we are back in school – and in that ‘no time to pee’ mode, that someone is contactable at all times to put our views across. Maybe a committee on rota? I’ve no idea, but it’s not a one woman job, that’s for sure and there are many of you out there with strong and articulate points of view to express.
To begin, I would like to suggest a meeting. It should consist of representatives from the main teacher’s unions, from the select committee, from the Heads’ Round Table, from the Cambridge Primary Review and the Primary Charter, from whatever this ‘unprecedented grass roots’ movement turns out to be – the blob? And finally, of course, government. I was heartened in some ways by meeting Nick Gibb last night. The television interview was short, but our conversation much longer. I believed him when he said it was important to keep the channels of communication open, and I hope his colleagues will agree.
I would welcome comments and suggestions – please add them below. Remember they take time to filter through.
Finally, there are not the words to express my gratitude for the support that many of you offered in this ‘holiday project’. I will always be in your debt. Thank you.