My response to the GTC’s proposed ‘code of conduct’ for teachers in England.
As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, teaching is only a ‘profession’ in the loosest sense of the term. Teachers don’t get paid as much or enjoy the same sort of status as, say, doctors and lawyers, yet our job combines very difficult elements: social worker, instructor, mentor, teamworker, and role model, to name but a few.
The General Teaching Council for England have proposed a new ‘code of conduct’ for teachers. See the BBC News article here for an overview. I was against the establishment of this regulatory body as it seems (and has proved) to be an example of needless bureaucracy and red tape.
You can read the proposed code of conduct here. I would suggest that you do so before reading any more of this post… :-p
Here’s the key parts as far as I’m concerned:
Of course, the values and practices set out in the Code are already evident in classrooms and schools across England. The purpose of the Code is to set down in one place some clear statements about teacher professionalism which apply to all teachers, no matter what subject or age of children they teach, their role or level of experience, or the context in which they work. (p.3)
If the system’s already working, why do we need legislation?
As the professional regulatory body for teaching, the GTCE also has a key role in strengthening teacher professionalism.(p.3)
The GTCE is unelected and unwanted by most teachers, who resent the levied fee (even if we do get it back if we’re in full-time employment). It’s also a barrier to good teachers moving between countries. For example, if I wanted to apply for a job in Scotland, I’d have to pay c.£50 to join the General Teaching Council for Scotland first! (and vice-versa)
Reflecting changes in the policy environment and in legislation, the revised Code places greater emphasis on safe-guarding children and young people and promoting and protecting their rights, and on equalities. (p.4)
What about the teachers’ human rights and right to a private life?
The Code focuses on behaviours and the way in which teachers conduct themselves on a day-to-day basis. However, because behaviours arise from values, beliefs and attitudes, the document begins with a statement of the core values that underpin teacher professionalism. (p.5)
So you have to have particular beliefs and values to be a teacher? What about diversity?
‘Core values’ of the teaching profession in GTCE document:
• Excellence and continual development
• Commitment and empathy
• Reflection and self-regulation
• Honesty and integrity
• Respect, equality, diversity and inclusion
• Involvement and empowerment
• Collegiality and cooperation
• Responsiveness to change (p.6)
How can the code legislate for ‘reflection’, ’empathy’ and real ‘responsiveness to change’. It’s a farce.
The proposed ‘eight principles of conduct and practice’:
- Place the wellbeing, development and progress of children and young people at the heart of their professional practice
- Reflect on their own teaching to ensure that it meets the high professional standards required to help children and young people achieve their full potential
- Strive to awaken a passion for learning and achievement among children and young people and equip them with the skills to become lifelong learners
- Promote equality and value diversity
- Take proactive steps to establish partnerships with parents
- Work as part of a whole-school team
- Cooperate with other professional colleagues who have a role in enabling
children and young people to thrive and succeed
- Demonstrate high standards of honesty and integrity and uphold public trust
and confidence in the teaching profession (p.7)
This already happens. No argument here. The document then goes into more depth on these eight points. Most of it had me nodding my head in agreement, apart from the first bullet point of eighth principle, which reads:
Uphold the law and maintain standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession. (p.22)
This is worded very ambiguously. For example, until a couple of months ago I had 6 points on my license due to two separate incidents of minor speeding infractions. Are they relevant? A couple of members of staff get drunk at a Christmas party and dance on the tables. Is that relevant? Who decides – the unelected GTC?
I’m all for greater professionalism within education. What I’m against is administration and bureaucracy for the sake of it. I’m absolutely for easier ways to get rid of poor teachers. But I’m absolutely against imprecisely-worded ‘principles’ that have been drafted by an unelected and unwanted body.
And then, hidden away in the appendix:
Examples of failures in this category have included: bullying or harassing staff; working while on sick leave; being under the influence of alcohol while at school; accessing the internet for personal use while supervising children during timetabled lessons
I’m obviously a terrible teacher as I’ve done two of these on more than one occasion. No, not alcohol or bullying! I’ve been too ill to work at school before – in terms of standing up in front of a class, but have been able to use my laptop to earn money from ongoing work I do for a publishing company. Additionally, when I’ve covered classes who are working away quietly and independently, I’ve taken some marking to do. When that’s finished I’ve written the occasional blog post, checked eBay auctions, etc. whilst supervising a class.
I don’t think these two things make me a terrible teacher at all or morally reprehensible – do you? It’s the ambiguity of the statements that gets me.
What are YOUR thoughts?