Charlotte Leslie is a member of the Health Select Committee and MP for Bristol North West.
Judith runs in. John Cleese and the rest of the Monty Python Life of Brian’ team are sitting round the
table having a meeting of comrades. What happens next goes something like this: “Reg, Reg, they’re crucifying Brian!” shouts Judith. Cleese takes afront at this woman interrupting proceedings – but nevertheless takes action.
He adds the news as an item to the meeting’s agenda. This is too much for Judith. “Something’s happening – something’s actually happening Reg!” She cries, and in desperate exasperation storms out of the room.
Something actually happening. Its rare in politics. But in the world of education, something actually is. In 2012, an Education Select Committee report on attracting, training and retaining good teachers said that the teaching profession might benefit from setting up its own professional body – a “Royal College of Teaching” – along the lines of the medical Royal Colleges, like the Royal College of Surgeons. Such a college would have no trade union role, but focus solely on excellent, evidence-based, professional standards.
Two years on, this is actually happening. Three education organisations have worked to turn a consensus from across the education world that such a college should happen into the start of it actually happening.
If successful, this could be the single biggest development in education for at least a century. A “Royal College of Teaching” would provide a home for continual professional development, so that, as in
medicine, qualification is the beginning, not the end of the professional journey.
It would provide a practice-based career ladder, so that excellent classroom teachers do not have to move away from where they excel – from the classroom to leadership and management – to progress. And ultimately, it will begin to push political interference from out of the classroom.
There is still a long way to go, and many hurdles to overcome. It can only work if teachers get behind the concept and choose to become members. (Unlike the GTC, it would not be mandatory). It must remain strictly evidence-based, and resist hijacking from any one group, especially politicians. Such ideas as Tristram Hunt’s teacher licensing scheme could politicise and kill a roll that should be solely the preserve of the Royal College. Any seed funding any Government provides must be genuinely “no strings attached”.
There are challenges but, as Nelson Mandela, said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Thanks to the determination and hard work of many people, a game-changing ‘Royal College of Teaching” is far from impossible. Indeed, it may be “actually happening”.