#28days of Writing – Institutions and Strength.

Hmm, bit worried that I’m going to resort to this so early in my #28daysofwriting, but this evening I’ve been looking back at things that I started to write and then, for some reason, didn’t.

Last summer I went to the Northern Rocks Conference, and it was great, and I started to type this:

#Nrocks – why you should meet your heroes and your demons

I spent saturday with some committed, engaged, intelligent and funny colleagues, listening to speakers who were also incisive, informative and thought-provoking. That’s right, I spent saturday at NorthernRocks 2014 in Leeds.

So, I met some heroes (missed some too, as there were at least three people I wanted to see in each block).  However, I found myself agreeing with Dominic Cummings (the author of the legendary typed rant that was leaked from within the DfE) about one important thing – that politics should play much less of a role in classroom pedagogy.  However, something has been bugging me about Cumming’s take on ‘handing power to ‘you guys” (meaning us teachers) over things like performance pay and QTS.

Cummings was very eloquent about the negative power of interest groups and the ineptitude of politicians (westminster is ‘broken’, according to him).  I believe that he is honest about his desire to see politicians out of the way of schools and children.  I am also increasingly convinced that unions should be campaigning about our working conditions and not our pedagogy  However, I think that he dismisses the power of institutions as a force for good, and has underestimated the effect of the free for all that is the logical extension of his philosophy.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the need we have for institutions in which we can place trust, and from which we can both learn and draw strength.  I went to a great school, and I still draw strength from the experiences I had there.  My time on the PGCE course at Oxford also remains a great source of wisdom for me, and I’m very proud of the work I did for 10 years at Little Heath School, an institution which I feel great affection for.  Many people like me gain from the investment they place in leisure clubs, and the heated debates at committee meetings of photographic societies and running clubs reflect the importance that such clubs have in our lives.

I think we need more institutions, not fewer.  Teachers should belong to a profession, and if they want to, to seek membership of a Royal College of Teaching.  Induction to this profession through professional education (rather than mere workplace training), will raise the profile and the esteem of Teaching.  Rather than contamination by the blob, HEI involvement in initial and ongoing teacher education helps further to raise this esteem, and provide institutions in which we can be proud.  Through subject institutions we can learn to listen to each other, rather than throw brickbats.  The Historical Association and SHP has taught me a great deal through their publications, websites and conferences.

It’s probably a rather 19th Century view, but as I walk through Leeds and admire the buildings that our local institutions made, and sense the pride and purpose behind them, I can’t help hoping that as a profession we don’t become too atomised, and that the chains of this, and training consortia of the other, develop into (or are replaced by) institutions and organisations in which we can place our hope, loyalties and our trust.



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