Trying to Change Everything by Changing Everything – Part Three

So we have the blank slate, the space and freedom to change the curriculum. Where next? And where does research enter the picture, you may be wondering? The Chartered Teacher scheme died a death in 2011, but before that, in 2010, Graham Donaldson, who is a major figure in Scottish education and former head of HMI, which we still have, published a report, Teaching Scotland’s’ Future, making some ambitious claims to transform Teacher training in Scotland and, subsequently, professional development in general.

Scattered throughout the report are references to Masters study from the beginning of every teacher’s career. He doesn’t go so far as to say that Teaching should be a Masters only profession but he doesn’t stop too far away.

‘Masters level credit should be built into ITE qualifications, induction year activities and CPD beyond, with each NQT having a Masters Account opened for them.’ p.76

Graham Donaldson 2010 Teaching Scotland’s Future

He recognises the need for every teacher to engage in academic Masters level research. He suggests that all new teachers have a ‘Masters’ account opened as they enter the classroom and they will be expected to add to that as their career continues.

‘Evidence suggests that CPD is often evaluated in terms of the quality of provision, rather than the impact on improving outcomes for learners’ p. 63

And here’s the thing. Here’s my big point. We can talk about what we’ve to teach, even how we’ve to teach but if the teachers coming out of training college are no better than we had then how can things change? I’m an English teacher. Some days I’m a genius, you should carry me round the town square shoulder high in celebration. Absolutely brilliant. On other days I can be terrible. Should never be allowed back in the classroom. But, on most days, I’m very good. That’s where excellence comes from. The consistency of very good.

But I teach 150 kids every day. I mark their books. I prepare 24 lessons out of 30 every week. Like most teachers I have very little time for research. My initial training didn’t prepare me for that, didn’t expect it of me. I seek events like this out. I go to teach meets which can be very good, mostly are. I helped develop Pedagoo which is a fabulous organisation.

I turn up to events because I’m a bit weird. No offence but if England is anything like Scotland we are a drop in the ocean. And I think that ocean indicates the difficulties in a changing anything in teaching.

What I hope Donaldson’s recommendations will begin is a slow revolution in Teacher Training where, eventually, every teacher is Masters educated. Where the academic rigour excepted of every teacher THROUGHOUT their careers attracts the smartest people in the room. That teaching is no longer a rest home for the indifferent or a haven for those who couldn’t do anything else or were too frightened to leave the comfort and institutionalised environment of school.

And, slowly perhaps, we begin to change the make up of the teachers who enter classrooms of every school in Scotland. Teachers whose practice is underpinned by academic research alongside rigorous lesson study. Teachers who can smell the bullshit of edubabble and can spot an educational turkey a mile away; who recognise that, in general, all collegiality in schools is contrived; who take responsibility for increasing the standards, for raising the bar, for putting and end to the excuses for low expectations. Poverty is a terrible blight on any society but the cries of ‘at least she got something’ when a kid manages to pass one exam at the lowest level is an even greater stain on that society. Let’s stop shrugging our shoulders accepting that.

Edwin Morgan again:

What do the people want of the CURRICULUM? They want it to be

filled with thinking persons as open and adventurous as its

A nest of fearties is what they do not want.

A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.

A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.

And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is

what they do not want.


Our new curriculum can change this.

2 thoughts on “Trying to Change Everything by Changing Everything – Part Three

  1. Hi Kenny,
    Very thought provoking and resonant with how I feel. I would like to offer from my perspective of experience a few thoughts though.

    When Chartered Teacher was brought in, I had a lot of colleagues with Masters who were told they did not qualify for the recognition and, let’s face it, the pay increments. Some just shrugged their shoulders but some others embarked on CT (occasionally accelerated) and found themselves doing much of what they had studied during their Masters – including the same lecturers and experiences! In other words, they paid twice for the same input. For Donaldson and Russell’s vision to come true, there has to be provenance and integrity to any system on offer to teachers and, to be frank, investment and long-term assurances that this will be a permanent feature of the profession. A small concern I have is how this could be twisted to the Professional Update agenda and then, we are all in it together, to compulsory self-funded activities to keep your job.

    To quote you, “like most teachers I have very little time for research.” Different professionals are at different stages of their career. I recall the grotesque hours put in to ensure minimum competence during my probation. I can still remember the fatigue of making sure Standard Grade worked. I recall the excessive hours we spent ensuring Higher Still was a good experience for our kids – even if the SQA let them down. I recall the excitement many of us had when CFE started trickling down to the foothills of the classroom, only to find that thousands of pages of extreme glossiness ended up like a Hall of Mirrors – reflecting excellence everywhere but us not knowing how to get there. I also recall the guilt and frowns I got when I had a young child taking more of my attention or the sidelining when family circumstances made it impossible to go the extra 20 hours per week.

    So the masters thing perturbs me. Will it reflect the integrity of the Parliamentary mace or will it be another time-filling, exhaustion wheel to keep teachers’ heads down so as they don’t cause trouble?

    A final point, having colleagues on local authority negotiation committees, they are heartened by the ‘improve, not prove’ mantra of the GTCS, their QIOs and their secondary colleagues. Dishearteningly, two local authority negotiating committees I am aware of are having real problems negotiating a way forward because primary heads on the panels are veering more towards the benchmarking ‘prove it’ and deficit model. Until explicit behaviours of this type are publicly banned, I am not sure that integrity will be imbued within the system.

  2. Pingback: ResearchED York- the blogs - Tom Bennett - Blog - Tom Bennett - TES Community

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