The Future of Teaching: Professionalism, Partnerships and Privatisation


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  • An earlier version of the lecture was presented at the University of Leicester. That lecture, and subsequent versions are dedicated to Brian Simon. Professor Brian Simon was one of Britain’s foremost educational scholars in the 20th Century. Principally an educational historian (see his four volume history of education) he wrote brilliantly one a wide range of educational issues. Perhaps most notable was his destruction of the ideas of fixed intelligence – providing much of the pedagogical rationale for comprehensive schooling. My first contact with his work was reading an article in 1984 in ‘Marxism Today’ in which he provided a powerful critique of Tory education policy at the time (which I read as an undergraduate studying education and considering a career in teaching). He wrote many other articles in MT and elsewhere that provided a sharp critique of Thatcherite education policies, and in particular, the 1988 Education Reform Act. The analysis he presented, and to which I was immediately drawn, has provided me with an intellectual compass to guide my work ever since. I owe him a great deal.
  • There are vast numbers of books and journal articles devoted to discussing teacher professionalism . . . ;)
  • Our notions of ‘teacher professionalism’ change over time (and are interpreted differently by different people at the same time) – they are inextricably bound up with wider discourses of ‘the good teacher’ – another contested concept that looks different to different people, in different places and at different times. But who decides? Whose voices dominate the discourse? None of these questions can be disconnected from much wider questions of ‘what is education for?’ (and for whom? And again, who decides?). All of these things are connected – and provide the over-arching context within which teachers do their work. The debate about teacher professionalism (are they or aren’t they?) is interesting – but not critical. A better starting point is to look at teachers’ work . . .
  • Traditional approaches to the study of professions – has some validity, but acknowledged that the debate becomes too technical – does a particular occupation tick all the boxes, and if so is then ‘a profession’? Not always helpful – my view is that a better starting point is to look at teaching as work, through the lens of labour process analysis
  • Labour process analysis generates a very different set of questions, and in my view, much more fruitful . . . [control is the key word here – often not a popular word amongst educationalists, but crucial . . . ]
  • Connell argues that teaching is a labour process without a measureable output – my argument in this presentation is that story of teaching in recent years has been a relentless drive quantify the ‘output’ of teachers – thereby facilitating the conditions in which teachers’ work can be controlled
  • This presentation adopts a historic approach – identifying four phases in what are effectively ‘teacher-state’ relations. The key words that frame these discussions are ‘partnership’ and ‘privatisation’
  • Tri-partite partnership – teachers represented collectively (through their unions) – central state with (powerful) but ‘arms-length’ approach. Martin Lawn refers to ‘licensed autonomy’
  • Professionalism as professional autonomy and ‘professional’ working conditions (including pay). Note ‘professional’ also required ‘national’ (not local) pay and conditions of service.
  • Democracy required dispersal of power – to local authorities and teachers. Note contrast to today – what implications for our democracy?
  • Inalienable right? What teachers would recognise this today?But not a ‘golden age’ – there was a prevailing notion of ‘teacher knows all’ – and failure to develop more democratic practices (including parental and community engagement) may have opened the door to New Right attack.
  • Teachers as self-interested. Note also the recognition that a failure to be able to ‘quantify output’ is identified as the source of producer power. There is a need for ‘measureable achievements’ – the need for control of the labour process.
  • Key moment was late 1980s (and significantly, after the defeat of the teachers’ industrial action 1984-86). Total attack on post-war settlement re professionalism by removing national bargaining and professional autonomy). Brian Simon brilliantly exposes the the real driver behind policy at this time – the long term goal of system privatisation.
  • During this period ((late 1980s onwards) we see the emergence of very obvious attempts to assert control over the labour process of teaching. This might be best explained by arguing that teaching was being exposed to the principles of scientific management originally promoted by FW Taylor – in very different context. Taylor argued that management needed to more actively ‘manage’ labour – and this was achieved by the process identified in this slide. Two consequences flow . . . (1) Relentless pressure on performance (focused on a narrow task), and (2) the ability to drive down labour costs by identifying aspects of the labour process requiring ‘less skill’ and therefore ‘less skilled” (ie cheaper) workers. We cannot understand teaching today without understanding these processes.
  • 1997 – Tories defeated, New Labour elected. Key feature of New Labour policy was elevation of education policy as economic policy (discourse of globalisation, human capital theory, knowledge economy). Education was investment as basis of economic success in global economy. Proxy for effectiveness of education policy in global context is performance in PISA – emergence of ‘power of PISA’ as driver of policy – and focus on literacy and numeracy (with national strategies – more Taylorism? ‘One best way?’)
  • New Labour rejected positive relationship with teacher unions – but relented when pressures in system suggested ‘standards agenda’ under threat. Talks with unions resulted in emergence of ‘Social Partnership’ (excluding the NUT). SP initially focused on workload (national workload agreement 2003), but agenda expanded over time – subsequent policies and discourse promoted a ‘new professionalism’. The key features are identified in this slide. Interesting questions emerge – what type of ‘professionalism’ was envisaged? Implications for teachers’ work? What is the relationship between unions and employers (equal/unequal partnership?). The features of new professionalism identified above need some unpicking – in my view the principal consequence was the acceleration of the processes of Taylorism. Eg ‘focus on core task’ can be attractive (‘as a professional I shouldn’t be distracted by low level jobs such as photocopying anf form-filling’) – but can also begin to redefine teaching. Is ‘pastoral work’ teaching? (and therefore does it need a qualified (and expensive) teacher?). Logic of this argument questions that.
  • Quotes illustrate the nature of the partnership – highlight the complexities of partnership. To what extent do teacher unions engage? On what terms? What are the costs and benefits?This was presented as a ‘mature unionism’ (linked to new professionalism) – decision by consensus (but not always consensus, in which case unions had to ‘exit’ – see NUT, NAHT.
  • My focus in on the impact of the social partnership and new professionalism agenda on teachers’ work. I will illustrate with quotes from one teacher (to see more evidence – read Carter et al, espch 7). Interviewee was Head of English in a large secondary school. Was very obviously a highly committed and well regarded teacher. She presented as passionate about teaching and her students. But her interview was fascinating . . .
  • Same dominant narrative (globalisation, knowledge economy) but neo-liberalism mixed with a much bigger dose of neo-conservatism (see Gove curriculum statements on almost every issue – primary, secondary, exams/assessment).Power of PISA remains key . . .
  • The system is broken (se later slide) – therefore there MUST be radical reform. In England there is no sense of incremental change (contrast with Scotland and others) – because political discourse demands radical solutions.
  • Oliver Letwin on public services generally – but hugely significant statement. The public sector needs FEAR. Only when teachers (et al) experience fear can they be compelled to conform. This is wrapped up in discourse of innovation – but actually it is the opposite. This is about enforcing compliance – teach in the way demanded by the OFSTED inspection framework, perform on our terms – our be punished . . . Professionalism debate – have we replaced trust with fear?
  • Some of the features of Coalition Government policy with implications for professionalism debate.Key issue is the ‘reculturing’ of the teaching profession – breaking down its collective identity (a source of strength for teachers) and replacing it with a more individualised culture.
  • And so to one of the earlier, key questions . . . What is it like for a teacher to work in this new environment?My argument here is that the traditional checks and balances in the system – by which there was some meaningful professional accountability is being replaced by a system based only on the market and OFSTED. The slide illustrates some traditional forms of accountability . . . And my comments on them.Local authority – has been removed from landscape vis a vis Academies.Governing bodies – less representative than they were – plus, there has always been a question as to how effective governing bodies are, especially when something goes wrong in a school. Research suggests they do a decent job when all is running well – but struggle when the school struggles.Unions – unions at the workplace provide an important space to represent ‘shopfloor’ opinion. Emerging evidence that union influence being marginalised in the new school environment that does not value divergent views, but presents these as conflicting with ‘the mission’. Dos this create an environment in which managerial authority goes unchecked?Local Press – local issues need local media coverage to be understood and debated by the local community. Local press is less and less able to do that. Their resources are diminishing as local daily papers become weekly etc – whilst the landscape gets more complex. Result – important issues in local schools are not scrutinised or debated.The slide highlights a case which illustrates many of these points.
  • So . . . the dominant dscourse is relentless criticism. Teachers as the problem, not the solution.. This is not partnership – in any form. This is a battle.
  • Much is made of the ‘Finnish miracle’. There is much of merit in it.I am no persuaded by all of it – not least issues of context and transferability.BUT – key point, that Finland illustrates . . . is that that there are choices. There are alternatives.Read the book and watch the video – whatever you think of them, the most important message is that there is more than one road
  • How might technology impact on the future of teaching? – look at the ‘virtual charter school’ in this link and ask yourself that question?
  • Whatever one’s veiw of what a ‘new professionalism’ looks like . . .on all the key features of professionalism identified at the start of the presentation, the current situation is found wanting.The case that teaching is being taylorised needs to be debated. Is any talk of a new professionalism the equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes? We need better research to answer these questions. A labour process approach helps make sure we ask the right questions.
  • This is intentionally provocative . . .and I am not claiming this describes all teaching or all schools. On the contrary – many teachers are doing fantastic work DESPITE the conditions they work in – but these are pressures and tendencies that are built in to the modern school system in England.
  • The future of teaching may not look optimistic. But there are alternatives. Some of those alternatives have enormous corporate power behind them – which is why those who favour a different approach will have to fight for the future they believe in. There is a need to organise and to mobilise. This may be through unions – which remain the only space for teachers to organise collectively and democratically – get involved. If you don’t like what they do – work through their democratic processes and change them. Plus . . . At the University of Leicester there has always been a radical edge – thanks to Brian Simon, his colleagues and their legacy. The journal Forum was founded by Brian over 50 years ago – and still does great work today under Clyde Chitty’s editorship [subscribe!]. More recently colleagues at Leicester have developed a new initiative – to find a way to open up a space for alternative discourses. It is open, inclusive – click the link in this slide and get involved.
  • The Future of Teaching: Professionalism, Partnerships and Privatisation

    2. 2. A lecture dedicated to the memory and legacy of Professor Brian Simon (University of Leicester) My journey started here
    3. 3. No secure profession has a session on whether it is a profession. Walter Bennis, MIT quoted in Crook (2008:10)
    4. 4. Teacher The ‘good’ professionalism teacher What is Teachers’ work education for?Important to recognise how discourses are shaped by global and local factors.
    5. 5. Teaching as profession? – trait theory • Professional knowledge and expertise • Commitment to professional learning • Education of the profession by the profession • Self-regulating • ‘Trust’ • Commitment to public service Many useful sources – see Johnson (1972), Larson (1977).
    6. 6. Teaching as a labour process . . . Teachers are workers, teaching is work, and the school is a workplace. (Connell, 1985:69) A focus on . . . The task of teaching – what do teachers do? The division of labour – who does what?Autonomy and control – who decides who does what and how is performance ensured? See also Ozga and Lawn (1981), Smyth (2001) , Reid (2003), Ingersoll (2003), Carter and Stevenson (2012).
    7. 7. Teaching is a labour process without an object. Atbest it has an object so intangible – the minds ofthe kids, of their capacity to learn – that it cannotbe specified in any but vague and metaphoricalways. A great deal of work is done in schools, dayin and day out, but this work does not produceany things. Nor does its, like other white collarwork, produce visible and quantifiable effects – somany pensions paid, so many dollars turned over,so many patients cured. The ‘outcomes ofteaching’, to use the jargon of educationalresearch, are notoriously difficult to measure.(Connell, 1985:70)
    8. 8. Teacher professionalism and teacher/staterelations – an historical perspective1. Post-war welfarism and the social democratic settlement2. New Right critique and the attack on ‘producer capture’3. Social partnership and the New (Re-)Modelled Army4. Privatisation and the new educational marketplace Stevenson (2009)
    9. 9. Post-war partnership and the social democratic settlement Central Local State Government Teachers & Teacher Unions‘a national system . . .locally administered.’
    10. 10. Post-war Partnership- the basis of the settlement• Professional Issues – Curriculum Professional – Pedagogy Autonomy ‘the golden age of teacher (non)-control of the curriculum’ – Lawton (1980:22)• Industrial Issues – Pay Collective Bargaining – Conditions of service
    11. 11. I have heard it said that the existence in thiscountry of 146 strong vigorous LEAs safeguardsdemocracy and lessens the risk of dictatorship. Nodoubt this is true but an even greater safeguard isthe existence of a quarter of a million teacherswho are free to decide what should be taught andhow it should be taught.(Ron Gould, NUT General Secretary, 1954) This quote and next slide from . . . Gerald Grace, ‘Teachers and the State in Britain: A Changing Relation’, in Teachers: The Culture and Politics of Work, ed. M. Lawn and G. Grace (Lewes, UK: Falmer Press, 1987)
    12. 12. Professionalism and professional autonomyThe freedom of teachers in their classrooms is astrongly held professional value in England and Wales.It has always been a source of pride to the professionand a very proper one, that in this country the teacherhas the inalienable right to decide what toteach and how to teach it.The Schoolmaster (1960)
    13. 13. New Right critique and the attack on ‘producer capture’Education has proved easier for the producers (teacherand administrators) to capture than other industries,partly because its shortcomings can be disguised byjargon. The school with poor examination results canclaim that knowledgeable educationalists nowadayshold ‘school spirit’ or ‘awareness’ more important.Although the consumers (parents and children) demandexamination passes and other measureableachievements from their schools, education producersare able to argue that they, as ‘professionals’, knowbetter . . . .Adam Smith Institute Omega Report (1980) (see also Black Papers)
    14. 14. New Right critique, ‘producer capture’ and quasi-markets1987 – abolition of collective bargaining1988 – Education Reform Act National Curriculum, standardised testing, Local Management of Schools, opting-out…a subtle set of linked measures are to be relied on tohave the desired effect – that is to push the wholesystem towards a degree at least, of privatisation,establishing a base which could be further exploitedlater.Simon (1987:13)
    15. 15. The principles of Scientific Management – and the triumph of the ‘one best way’1. Identification of the ‘one best way’ through scientific analysis and design of work • Work as ‘laws, rules, and even . . .mathematical formulae.’ (Taylor 1947: 90)2. Identification features of the ideal worker – based on approach as per (1) above3. Locate ideal worker (1) and match to scientifically designed task (2) - recruitment and division of labour4. Link pay to productivity – reward and control
    16. 16. The New Labour narrative. . . . The goal: economic success in a global economy Economic success . . . and test requires educational relentlessly success PISA is the global Therefore . . .focus measure of on core subjects education success
    17. 17. Social Partnership and the New(Re)-Modelled Army • Focus on ‘the core task of teaching and learning’ • New accountability regimes – Professional Standards – Performance Management – Performance Pay • Focus on CPD • Social Partnership Stevenson et al. 2008
    18. 18. Government has attempted to standardise practice,showing a lack of trust in the profession and a denialof complexity. It conceptualises CPD as amanagement tool to ensure good classroom practice,and is seeking to embed it within the managementtoolkit, including performance management, payprogression and contract. Items of training are to beimposed on teachers according only to immediatecorporate needs . . . ATL (2005: 3)
    19. 19. The CPD you are driven to do by your headteacher,particularly if you have a headteacher like mine, isstultifyingly boring and doesn’t give me any new skills at all.Its deadly . . .and its tedious . . .and its ‘let’s jump through afew more hoops’, and if I don’t do it right I’ll get hit with a bigstick. It is horrible.But I like learning. I enjoy learning. I need that stimulus. Union Learning Representative quoted in Stevenson (2012a)
    20. 20. Collective Social Partnership BargainingIndustrial relations paradigm Pluralist UnitaristBargaining typology Distributive IntegrativeBargaining scope Narrow BroadNegotiation/consultation Separate CombinedBargaining schedule Closed/cyclical Open/on-goingOutcomes Negotiated agreement Consensual agreementIntra-organisational bargaining Acknowledged/explicit Tacit/implicitConstitution Formal InformalEmployee coverage Teachers Whole staffBargaining level Centralised CentralisedConflict resolution Dispute (industrial Exit (voluntary or action) forced)Stevenson (2012b – in press)
    21. 21. Views from inside the Social Partnership . . . I don’t think any of us honestly anticipated when we signed the National Agreement that what we would become is a branch of the DfES. But in many ways we are. [1]. The fact is we’re talking about incorporation and only a fool would try to deny it. I mean that, but it’s a calculated acceptance from the union point of view. From my point of view, on the part of [union] it’s a calculated acceptance of incorporation because of the benefits it brings. If the disadvantages ever got to outweigh the advantages then we would walk away. [2] . . . it takes quite a bit of DfES resource to keep it going—but bloody hell, don’t they get a lot out of it . . . They say the TDA is the delivery arm of the DFES, actually we’re the bloody delivery arm. We bust a gut. [3] It’s consenus by attrition . . . [4]In Carter et al. (2010) – also reviewed here
    22. 22. New Labour . . . New professional . . .The story of an outstanding/verygood/good/satisfactory [delete as appropriate]teacher . . . in her own wordsSource: research interview 2007 (reported in Carter et al. (2010)
    23. 23. On workforce reform . . . If I talk about how my job has got easier in the various ways. Yes, I have more non-contacts. This year I have more non-contacts than I did last year. I had 8 non- contacts - I have more this year. But how do you use them? If I take my role as a subject leader, what am I supposed to do in those non-contacts? In those non- contacts I’m supposed to be doing the scrutiny of work, I’m supposed to be doing lesson observation, also there’s my own work to do. So although it looks like I have more, each one is quite full.
    24. 24. On leading and managing . . . Leading and managing are two totally different things and also the nature of my job is, I mean I’m much better on statistics now and data than I ever was, that’s another thing that I had to teach myself to do. It particularly comes into Performance Management, you know, value added. So prior to it, I work it all out for them [staff] and talk about where their value added is and the positive and the negative and you have to be confident when you’re talking to them, but also make them feel at ease with what they’re doing - you just manage it in an hour.
    25. 25. Now that’s because they [staff] know that they’re being measuredby it . . .it’s that data that might be whether they go through [payprogression] or not. They’re not easy conversations or hours tohave with people. . .Their careers, their livelihood, but most importantly the moneythat they earn, could be down to you and I didn’t go into it withthat. I’m not personnel trained as far as that is’s up to you whether they [staff] go on to the next [pay] threshold. . . it’s a pay thing and . . . you have these conversations withpeople which are about their targets and the first objective is‘what target you’re going to set’. People are obviously upsetbecause their statistics are affected by the students who are there.
    26. 26. On the students . . . And you’re looking at the whole child and it’s all about building that relationship which has been the ethos of [this] school. Which is very hard to do when I’m also expected to be as a core Head of English to be able to be looking at data, moving the department forward, the school is measured on the English and Maths scores. So I would actually say no, I’m a satisfactory tutor. I think I’ve gone from being a good tutor to a satisfactory one.
    27. 27. Now there are demands put on you about teaching yoursubject. But my personal feeling is to be a good teacher youhave to have a relationship with these children and, andthey want it. They need it. I mean they don’t have to like youbut you have to have the respect, you have to have the timeto build the relationships with them.. . . but maybe we don’t have the time to build thoserelationships because statistics say, data says, target says,the child becomes a number that you have to’s all about the statistics, their data, their targets as opposed tobuilding the relationship with the child.’. . . You need to be a good teacher, then it is not just thenumber, it’s the whole child. But you have to juggle it.
    28. 28. You have relationships with people in your tutor groupand then you may teach them and there’s nothingbetter than a tutor group and then you teach thatperson in your tutor group. That’s a double whammy,that’s great.My role every week is to make contact, apart from thatjust calling their name, about something, knowingwhat’s going on because that’s how you move studentson, to make every single one of them feel that someonenotices them.
    29. 29. I had an issue - this is an example of an issue. I had someYear 10 and 11 girls, make up, clothes, all of this, so I dealtwith it and I took them to one side to speak to them intutor time on the Thursday. And they reacted very, verybadly to what I said and all sorts of things. And I was quitehurt by it. So what came out? I saw the parents - theirresponse was ‘They don’t feel you care about them anymore. You’re not there for them any more’. And sorelationships that I had built up, I’m not able to build themup in the same way. And I’m not saying that they dislikethe person who takes them for tutor time but they actuallydon’t feel comfortable because the nature of it is you builda long relationship with these students and I, I know that’sgone.
    30. 30. On herself . . . I know if you had to grade me, as we do grade each other now, I think I’m a, a good subject leader and that has to be rated on the fact of the percentages. The school might say I’m very good - the Ofsted report said it’s ‘outstanding’, the leadership, but to do that how can I be a tutor? How can I give all that my tutor group requires?
    31. 31. The Coalition narrative . . . The goal: economic success in a global economy Economic success . . . and test requires educational relentlessly success PISA is the global Therefore . . .focus measure of on core subjects education success Michael Gove in his own words here – my views here.
    32. 32. This White Paper signals a radical reformof our schools. We have no choice but tobe this radical if our ambition is to beworld-class. The most successfulcountries already combine a high statusteaching profession; high levels ofautonomy for schools; a comprehensiveand effective accountability system and astrong sense of aspiration for all children,whatever their background. Tweakingthings at the margins is not an option.Reforms on this scale are absolutelyessential if our children are to get theeducation they deserve.Foreword pp4-5 Download it here
    33. 33. You cant have room for innovation and the pressurefor excellence without having some real disciplineand some fear on the part of the providers that thingsmay go wrong if they dont live up to the aims thatsociety as a whole is demanding of them.Oliver LetwinSpeaking at KPMG headquarters, 2011 It’s a revolution . . . and it is happening now, right beneath our feet Local Authority Senior Officer interview (July 2012)
    34. 34. Privatisation and the new educationalmarketplace . . . implications for teacherprofessionalism• Abandonment of Social Partnership• Erosion of national pay and conditions of service• New Professional Standards• New Appraisal/Capability Procedures• Expanded routes to QTS • Teaching Schools • Teach First• De-regulation of requirements for QTS • Free Schools
    35. 35. Working in Academyland– where is the accountability now? Read the full story here
    36. 36. A ‘discourse of derision’ and the ‘enemies of promise’ . . .We know we are making progress when we hear theopposition from vested interests - from those in trade unionswho put adults interests before children’s, from those in localgovernment who put protecting their power before fulfillingchildrens potential, from those who have acquiesced in aculture of low expectations who resist any form ofaccountability for failure.Michael Gove, 10th May 2012, Brighton College.[teachers] too often make excuses for poor performance - itsjust too hard, the children are too difficult, the families aretoo unsupportive, this job is far too stressful.Michael Wilshaw, 10th May 2012, Brighton College.
    37. 37. There is no such thing as no alternative . . . The culture of trust meant that education authorities and political leaders believe that teachers, together with principals, parents and their communities, know how to provide the best possible education for their children and youth. Trust can only flourish in an environment that is built on honesty, confidence, professionalis m and good governance. Sahlberg (2012: 130) . . . or watch
    38. 38. The future of teaching - there are alternatives . . . MORE: LESS: • Personalisation • Standardisation • Trust-based • Test-based accountability accountability • Collaboration • Competition • Pedagogy • Technology • Professionalism • Bureaucracy Sahlberg (2012)
    39. 39. A new professionalism . . . ?• Professional knowledge and expertise• Commitment to professional learning• Education of the profession by the profession• Self-regulating• ‘Trust’• Commitment to public service . . . or the Taylorisation of teaching?
    40. 40. The new school system . . . ? • Narrow • Utilitarian • Divided • Compliant • Afraid • Unambitious • Joyless • ....
    41. 41. Pessimism of the intellect . . . optimism of the will . . . . . . connecting ideas with activism to #reclaimteaching This slideshow downloadable at @hstevenson10
    42. 42. Variations of this presentation have been madeat . . . • University of Glasgow Teacher Education Teachers’ Work Conference, 8th June 2012 • University of Leicester, Doctoral Study School, 30th June 2012 Continue the debate via I