The Teaching Council is the body that is charged with overseeing the profession of teaching in Ireland. So, you would imagine that I would be all in favour of this. After all, I’m a School Chaplain. I spend my working days in schools and I witness the professionalism of my colleagues on a daily basis. I see their hard work, dedication, inspiration. I should be glad of anything that promotes that professionalism and recognises the hard work of so many teachers.
The Teaching Council is tasked with protecting the integrity of teaching. It regulates “the teaching profession and promotes professional standards in teaching”. Why then are so many of us angry with it?
My first taste of disillusionment with the Teaching Council came a few years ago, when the attacks on education (AKA the austerity budgets) were slashing resources and pay across the sector. Many teachers wrote to the council asking them to speak up on their behalf. In response we got the response that the council was all for protecting standards, yes. But had no role in budget discussions. I never kept a copy of the letter, but I’d love to be able to show it to you.
As the past few years have advanced, the Teaching Council has flexed its muscles more and more.
First, teachers who didn’t pay the €65 per annum registration would not be paid by the Department of Education & Skills. This became an open threat with this press release stating that over 1,000 teachers could lose their pay.
Then we hear that the council has the power to investigate teachers. Have our registration fees added up to become a war chest? On what basis would teachers be investigated?
Most recently, the idea was proposed that teachers would have to engage in CPD in order to maintain their registration. Admittedly CPD is very, very important. But when technology changes so fast, and there are so many different ways in which to learn, who decides what is valid CPD, and who certifies it? My interaction on Monday evenings #edchatie over on the tweet machine is something that is incredibly valuable. I have learnt a lot by looking at what so, so many other teachers do.
One problem is that many teachers have no faith in the Teaching Council, or see it as irrelevant. If you do a twitter search for #teaching council you get one screen of results. One screen for a body that has been in existence since March 2006.
So what is to be done?
- Be more flexible in recognising qualifications. Engineers are good, very good, at maths. People who qualified as teachers in other countries are teachers. Don’t make it impossible for them to register here.
- Look at the registration fee. Currently the Teaching Council is running a surplus of millions of Euro. Use it or don’t charge it.
- Provide more courses that people want to engage in (or need to engage in, or would benefit from engaging in)
- Talk to the DES about getting course days and subject association days covered for substitution.
- Trust teachers. Allow teachers to work together to create their own CPD. Online interactions are very fruitful, but difficult to quantify for certification purposes.
- Do more to engage with teachers and see what we want for the development of our profession. There is little engagement at the moment.