John Bangs: 'Teaching reform cannot wait for a new generation'

Michael Gove supports strong heads – but it is investing in teachers that delivers real results, argues John Bangs

It is 18 months since the Education Secretary Michael Gove pledged, in his first communication to his department, to "liberate headteachers and teachers". Yet, in a subsequent speech to the National College, his commitment to teachers' liberation appeared to have given way to a "vision for education" that involved a "determination to give school leaders more power and control".

So enthusiastic was a rumoured favourite for chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, about the prospect of more power and control that he was reported in February as arguing for a Pale Rider model of headship. Likening head teachers to Clint Eastwood-type lone warriors, he argued that we need "heads with ego" who "enjoy power and enjoy exercising that power".

All of this begs the question: where is the Government's parallel vision for the future of the teaching profession? Globally, the evidence is stacking up that strong, self-confident teaching professions are vital to the outstanding status Gove demands. What is more, the evidence points not only to the importance of the profession as a whole being involved in education reform but its representative unions. In a paper for this year's International Summit for the Teaching Profession in New York, the OECD argued that successful reform required "teachers to contribute as the architects of change, not just its implementers" and that "some of the most successful reforms are those supported by strong unions".

The same paper argued that "successful reform cannot wait for a new generation of teachers; it requires adequate investment in the present teacher workforce, providing quality professional development, adequate career structures and diversification." Helen Timperley's recent research review has found that professional development was one of the "highest impact policy levers" with "potentially transformational effects on social and educational outcomes". Yet there is no national strategy for teachers' professional development.

And what of teachers' capacity to influence reform? Only two classroom teachers are taking part in the 15-strong panel for the review of the National Curriculum. Structurally, teachers have been disempowered by the abolition of the General Teaching Council, yet headteachers and school leaders retain the National College. It appears that the Faustian pact that the Government has made with headteachers, to implement its reforms in exchange for full autonomy in decision-making, is leading to the balkanisation of the teaching profession. There is no advantage to head teachers in this situation. A strong, self-confident professional teaching community leads to positive and proactive teacher leadership in schools. In turn, this enhances the capacity of heads to do their jobs.

What should Gove do next? He could announce at the Conservative Party conference that he intends to place the teaching profession at the centre of teacher policy-making and that he sees strong, proactive unions as essential to successful reform. He could recognise that for professional development to be effective, teachers should own their own learning and receive a guaranteed entitlement to funding. He could ask how teachers can be enabled to share good practice. He could also return to his party's review of public services and propose the appointment of a chief education adviser at the heart of government, drawn from the profession. From the evidence, this move would undoubtedly benefit the one group schools are for: children and young people.

John Bangs is a senior research associate at Cambridge University and former head of education at the NUT

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 1 Primary teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent primary school based ...

AER Teachers: Cover Supervisor - Central London - September

£70 - £80 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This outstanding school s...

AER Teachers: SEN Teaching Assistant - London - September

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: This central London prima...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary Teaching Assistant

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: A good primary school in ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen