It’s something of a politician’s tack, I recognise, but every time I read this question, only a question springs to mind in response: what do we mean when we talk about raising the status of the profession?
As I have already commented in a recent blog: it seems that some teachers have a tendency to focus on the extremes. And it would be fair to say that at the extremes of the media – the right-wing press particularly – it is easy to find stories which portray schools as failing, and teachers as failures. But they also contain reports that suggest immigration is brining our nation to its knees, that Health & Safety demons are ruining fun nationwide and that the nation is still not yet over the death of Diana. I see very little evidence of these claims in real life.
A Which? survey in 2012 showed teachers were highly trusted, with only doctors and nurses scoring more highly. TeachFirst tell us that teaching is now the fourth most prestigious career for graduates.  Surveys suggest that 80% of people respect teachers and that teachers in English schools are paid above the OECD average. So what is it that we want to change?
If things are not quite as bad as they might sometimes seem, then perhaps there is a specific aspect of status that concerns people? The 2006 examination of the status of teaching carried out for the DCSF used a three-part model of occupational status:
- Occupational Prestige;
- Occupational Status; and
- Occupational Esteem
In the first case it seems that the public considers the profession to have reasonably high prestige, and among graduates, moreso. In the case of esteem, it seems that generally the public trusts teachers, and presumably therefore holds them in relatively high esteem. So does the issue come down to status in the sense that the report holds it: the ranking of the profession by other “knowledgeable groups” such as politicians, civil servants and social scientists?
Well, here it strikes me that “knowledgeable groups” are not homogeneous. It would seem that some politicians are happy to stoke the stories of failing teachers in failing schools. But equally, there are those who are very supportive of the profession. We seem to be no closer to a solution.
I’m minded to suggest that the key issue that teachers face in terms of recognising the status of the profession, is that of the politicians. In particular, the current government that seems so happy to denigrate the work of professionals in state schools, and to talk down the education system in which they serve.
Notably, just today,when asked about his apparent inability to ‘listen’ to the profession, the current secretary of state for education, Mr Gove, was quick to point out that the profession does not speak with a united voice. Now while it will never be possible for all teachers to agree on all matters, it does further raise the matter of whether a Royal College of Teaching – under that name or any other – might finally provide the profession with a professional voice of unity to replace that chanting discord of annual union conferences and to provide a response to the constant barrage of disparagement? And then maybe we might just see teachers self-evaluation of the status of the profession?
This post is part of the #BlogSync series, others of which can be found at http://blogsync.edutronic.net/