We need to stop being victims – Geoff Barton
19th September 2019
Geoff is General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, representing 19,500 educational leaders across the UK. Prior to this, he was an English teacher and headteacher.
As Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles says, “Once a victim, always a victim! That’s the law, isn’t it?” I think of those words often. I am weary of those of us who work in education too often being presented as, and perhaps too often feeling, that we are the victim profession, with too many things done to us rather than by us – conditions of service, the curriculum, control of professional qualifications.
At some point – if we are to recruit better, retain better, and tell a better story of what we do – we need to stop being the victim in all of this.
My hope is that in the coming few years, we can all regain our professional self-confidence and talk more proudly of why teaching matters so much.
Here is what I mean: education in the UK is far better than we generally allow ourselves to say publicly or even tell ourselves privately. Many children and young people get a very good deal from their schools and colleges; most of them go on to be successful, well-adjusted and productive citizens. This does not just happen by accident. It happens because of what we teach them, how we treat them, and the values we instil. Since I stepped out of running a school, and instead visit many schools and colleges across the UK, I see this far more powerfully, I see great, morally-driven, and generally understated, leadership at work.“Education in the UK is far better than we generally allow ourselves to say publicly or even tell ourselves privately.” says @RealGeoffBarton Click To Tweet
That said, a worrying number of pupils do not benefit as they need to, and many of them live in fragmented communities. In some these areas, education has for too long been seen as irrelevant or part of the problem rather than part of the solution, so of course we have got work to do there. Part of that involves giving the ‘Forgotten Third’ – who after twelve years of education get a grade 3 or lower in GCSE English or maths –something that gives them the dignity of a qualification.
Then there is the need for us to realign ourselves with parents when it comes to what education is actually for. The current accountability system – narrowly mechanistic, data-driven, reductive – describes education in the language of ‘measures’, ‘performance’, ‘chains’ and ‘accountability’. This fails to resonate with the real stuff of what we deal with. It is surely better for us to talk about ‘children’ and ‘learning’ and ‘pedagogy’ and ‘leadership’ – language that describes what our core business is and what we are happy to be held accountable, because after all, it is what we get up every morning to do.
One more thing – and it is perhaps the key to everything above. If teaching is to step up and be recognised as a profession alongside others, then our professional body, the Chartered College of Teaching, needs to be given real responsibility, in other words, the trust – that is granted to other such organisations. It needs to become the voice of the profession, the conscience of the profession and the natural home for the national qualifications of standards for teaching, subject and senior leadership. In doing so, the profession stands up and says: this is who we are, this is what we believe in, and here are the standards that we – not the politicians – will set.“This is who we are, this is what we believe in, and here are the standards that we – not the politicians – will set” says @RealGeoffBarton #DecadeInMaking Click To Tweet
Once a victim, always a victim: it is time to show that such 19th century fatalism no longer applies to the teaching profession.
This is one of ten pieces that feature in our report “A Decade In the Making: What next for young people in England”.
Download the full report here.