Problems with The Teaching Council

Introduction

As of the 1st of November 2013, all teachers in Ireland paid by the state must be registered with the Teaching Council in order to continue to be paid. This can be seen as a good thing – it will mean that only people qualified to teach can register, which in turn means that only people qualified to teach (save for a small number of people without a teaching qualification that were automatically registered in March 2006) will be paid to teach. This is all coming about because of the commencement of Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act (2001), which is long overdue. One might be inclined to question what the delay was.

Like all good teachers, I have started with a positive. I might even try to finish with a positive. Now for the negative – the filling in the sandwich.

Droichead

Droichead is a proposed new method of probation for teachers that will allow a teacher’s colleagues within the school to be her assessors. The Inspectorate will no longer be involved in formal probation under this scheme. The school principal will have the final word on recommending whether the teacher has shown a satisfactory ability in the areas of teaching and learning, which in turn will determine whether the teacher can go from conditional registration with the Teaching Council to full registration. This whole process will free up inspectors’ time to concentrate on other areas like Whole School Evaluations and incidental (drive-by) inspections.

Droichead evolved from a proposed programme called the Career Entry Professional Programme (CEPP) which was widely rejected and condemned by teachers nationwide, as well as by principal teachers. With its tail between its legs, the Teaching Council retreated to its Maynooth HQ and emerged around a year later with the almost-identical Droichead Pilot Scheme. To date, a reported 11 schools have opted into this scheme, out of an envisaged hundreds.

The Irish National Teacher’s Organisation has issued a directive on this matter, which instructs members not to participate in the Droichead scheme. At the time of writing, the directive reads:

The CEC directs INTO members not to participate in the Droichead Pilot Scheme being proposed by the Teaching Council, pending the outcome of a vote by members.”

It has been reported at INTO quarterly meetings that all INTO-endorsed elected or appointed members of the Teaching Council were opposed to Droichead, but were over-ruled by the majority of the council, most of which were not from the primary education sector. What use is a Teaching Council for primary teachers where the majority of members are from different sectors and can easily out-vote primary sector members on matters affecting the primary sector?


The Cost

Initial registration with the Teaching Council costs €90 and costs €65 to renew registration every year thereafter. This cost is relatively low compared with other professional regulatory bodies, but the real issue is what does this registration fee pay for? Through conversations and observations about the work of the Teaching Council, it would appear that the majority of their work is focused on teachers starting out in their career. The following is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Accreditation and review of Initial Teacher Education courses
  • Recognition of qualifications from abroad (at an additional cost to be borne by the applicant)
  • Reviewing transcripts of results for Newly-Qualified Teachers
  • Administering Garda Vetting forms
What is the real benefit of paying for registration for a teacher after these initial steps have been completed? What can a teacher hope to gain from continued registration? The Teaching Council tells us that it will:
  • Promote teaching as a profession
  • Uphold professional standards
  • Publish professional codes of conduct for teachers
  • Research matters relevant to its objectives
  • Promote, develop and conduct research into Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Let’s examine these. In the everyday life of a teacher, the promotion of teaching as a profession by the Teaching Council is an invisible activity. A grand total of two examples of how they have done this through the media are available to see on their website. This does not inspire confidence.
In the area of upholding professional standards, the Teaching Council does not have any power in this area. This sort of power is granted to them at the whim of a government minister. The relevant section dealing with complaints against teachers has not been commenced yet. The argument could be made that the Teaching Council doesn’t need to be involved in this, as there are currently procedures in place to deal with under-performing teachers.
The Teaching Council has to date published two Professional Codes of Conduct for Teachers. The second was a revision of the first. All registered teachers received a glossy copy of the codes in the post, at huge cost, no doubt. Teachers got on with the business of teaching without such codes for decades. I have no doubt that teachers could continue to do so in the absence of these codes.
There is a plethora of research on education-related matters available. This has been conducted by teachers pursuing Masters level and Doctorate degrees, many of which are practising teachers or principals. A lot of this research will have added to the professional and theoretical knowledge of educators.
Five research pieces are available to view on the Teaching Council website. Is this all the research that has been done since 2006? In nearly eight years this is all they have on offer. One would expect more than that.
I have been undertaking continuing professional development since the beginning of my career. This has been at my own cost and in my own time. The Teaching Council has had nothing to do with it.
Back to the original point – has the cost of registration been justified based on what’s on offer for teachers after the initial stages of registration? Even though I only have to pay €65 a year for registration, I don’t think I get anything useful in return for it.
Conclusion

It is clear that the Teaching Council will only benefit me in one way – from 1st November 2013 being a registered teacher means that I am entitled to be paid from the public purse for my teaching work. If the Teaching Council didn’t exist, would it impact me in any way? Absolutely not. It has failed to justify its existence.

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