"to enter a profession 'usually requires education, training, qualifications, commitment, dedication and even passion'. Some demur and say: 'Ok, but that definition can include electricians, hairdressers and car mechanics too'.
" My car mechanic probably has all those attributes he certainly has passion for cars and seems very dedicated to my satisfaction as a customer. But I wonder whether as a member of the public and particularly as a parent, I would expect the same things from an electrician, plumber, hairdresser or car mechanic as I would from a doctor, solicitor or my child’s teacher?
"And that’s where I realise I do expect something different . it would bother me if my child's teacher wasn't qualified. For some reason, I want to know that the person standing in front of my child is properly trained and qualified to do that job to the high standard we all expect."
Isn't that at the heart of "professionalism"? We expect a professional to be not only a trained and qualified 'expert' but someone who has a 'career', rather than a 'job'. By following a vocation a calling the professional uses their professional skill and judgement to make a difference to the lives of others and must continue to develop and grow in their knowledge and practice.
What is a "profession"?
"a type of work that needs special training or education:
He's a teacher by profession (= he trained to be a teacher).
â€º the people who do a type of work, considered as a group:
The medical profession is worried about the new drug."
(Â© Cambridge University Press)
"a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification: his chosen profession of teaching a barrister by profession
"[treated as singular or plural] a body of people engaged in a particular profession: the legal profession has become increasingly business-conscious.
"Origin: Middle English (denoting the vow made on entering a religious order): via Old French from Latin professio(n-), from profiteri ‘declare publicly’ (see profess). profession (sense 1) derives from the notion of an occupation that one 'professes' to be skilled in."
"A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized high educational training, the purpose of which is to supply objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain." (New Statesman, 21 April 1917, article by Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb quoted with approval … report by the UK Competition Commission, dated 8 November 1977).
"The main milestones which mark an occupation being identified as a profession are:
- It became a full-time occupation;
- The first training school was established;
- The first university school was established;
- The first local association was established;
- The first national association was established;
- The codes of professional ethics were introduced;
- State licensing laws were established."
"Although professions enjoy high status and public prestige, not all professionals earn high salaries, and even within specific professions there exist significant inequalities of compensation."
"Professions include: Teachers"
"Formation of a profession: "A profession arises when any trade or occupation transforms itself through 'the development of formal qualifications based upon education, apprenticeship, and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights.'
"Regulation: Professions are typically regulated by statute, with the responsibilities of enforcement delegated to respective professional bodies, whose function is to define, promote, oversee, support and regulate the affairs of its members. These bodies are responsible for the licensure of professionals, and may additionally set examinations of competence and enforce adherence to an ethical code of practice. However, they all require that the individual hold at least a first professional degree before licensure."
"Typically, individuals are required by law to be qualified by a local professional body before they are permitted to practice in that profession."
"Autonomy: "Professions tend to be autonomous, which means they have a high degree of control of their own affairs: 'professionals are autonomous insofar as they can make independent judgments about their work'. This usually means “the freedom to exercise their professional judgement.'
"'Professional autonomy is often described as a claim of professionals that has to serve primarily their own interests…this professional autonomy can only be maintained if members of the profession subject their activities and decisions to a critical evaluation by other members of the profession' The concept of autonomy can therefore be seen to embrace not only judgement, but also self-interest and a continuous process of critical evaluation of ethics and procedures from within the profession itself."
"Status and prestige: Professions enjoy a high social status, regard and esteem conferred upon them by society. This high esteem arises primarily from the higher social function of their work, which is regarded as vital to society as a whole and thus of having a special and valuable nature. All professions involve technical, specialised and highly skilled work often referred to as 'professional expertise.'" Training for this work involves obtaining degrees and professional qualifications."
By those definitions which include inspection, CPD and performance management teaching is a profession, although how much "autonomy" teachers actually have in the face of Government prescription and league tables is another matter. The lack of a professional body in England is also a concern, as we see below.
Does teaching have the status of a profession?
In England, the DfE has announced that "professionals like scientists, engineers, musicians, university professors, and experienced teachers and heads from overseas and the independent sector who may be extremely well-qualified and are excellent teachers, but do not have QTS status" will be allowed to teach in academies. Would those other professions permit teachers to practise without further training or registration?
In Scotland, the McCormac review was entitled Advancing Professionalism in Teaching, clearly recognising teaching as a profession, even though Voice's Senior Professional Officer (Scotland) Maureen Laing observed that "it is unclear how many of the recommendations would enhance teacher professionalism or produce improved outcomes for our young people:
"Some of its recommendations those that prescribe how teachers should carry out their non-contact duties, in particular erode, rather than advance, the professionalism of teachers. Removing autonomy from professionals is a contradiction in terms."
The General Teaching Council (GTC) was not the most popular organisation, but abolishing it like the undermining of QTS diminished the profession. GTCE did have an important function.
If teaching is to be regarded as a true profession in its own right surely it needs the oversight of an independent regulatory body. Other professions, such as medicine, have professional bodies. All the nations of the UK currently have general teaching councils, so why not teachers in England? Further education teachers in England currently have a professional body (IfL) so why not their school teacher colleagues?
Teachers in England are still regulated, but this is now by the Teaching Agency, which maintains a record of qualified teachers and has the power to prohibit anyone found guilty of serious misconduct from practising as a teacher. It also maintains a list of those prohibited from teaching. Teacher regulation in England no longer has graded sanctions teachers will either be banned or not banned.
In Wales, the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) has the power of disciplinary processes, some of which (unlike in England now) fall short of prohibition. This means that teachers in England and Wales are being treated differently, with possible implications, for example, for those sanctioned, but not prohibited, in Wales who might wish to work in England.
In Northern Ireland, where "registration is required for all teachers", the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland, is "the statutory, independent body for the teaching profession and is dedicated to enhancing the status of teaching and promoting the highest standards of professional conduct and practice".
In Scotland, the General Teaching Council for Scotland's commitment to teaching as a profession is evident in its new Code of Conduct for people training to become teachers:
"The Student Teacher Code is the first of its kind for students and is intended to give support and guidance to those currently training to enter the teaching profession and register with the GTC Scotland.
"This new guidance is being published at the same time as a revised version of an important set of guidelines on teacher professionalism. The new Code of Professionalism and Conduct "
In its report 'Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best', the Commons Education Committee recognises that teaching is a profession and one that needs a professional body in England:
"We acknowledge and support the case for a new, member-driven College of Teaching, independent from but working with Government, which could play important roles, inter alia, in the accreditation of CPD and teacher standards .. We recommend that the Government work with teachers and others to develop proposals for a new College of Teaching, along the lines of the Royal Colleges and Chartered Institutions in other professions."
The demise of the General Teaching Council for England goes unmentioned in the report's recommendation, but the head of its Scottish counterpart, and his definition of professionalism, are quoted:
"Tony Finn explained that the General Teaching Council in Scotland, which he leads, is 'in effect [...] a professional body', and he outlined some of its key functions:
"'We accredit all courses of teacher education. We set the entry standards for teaching at the point when someone goes into a faculty of education. We also declare what is the expectation of professional standards at different points of a teacher's career, including standard for headship [...] We are responsible for the teacher induction scheme in Scotland [...] and, as of 2 April , we become a fully independent body, which is quite separate from Government but which will be required to work closely with all partners in a consensus body.'
"'Mr Finn suggested that any similar body being set up in England should not be 'about representing teachers, because there are other bodies that represent teachers and their interests', but rather 'about representing teaching [,] promoting teaching and quality of teaching.'"
An article in The Daily Telegraph also argues that "Teachers should be given a Royal College education The lack of a proper professional body is undermining their standards and status in the classroom."
In an article in TESS, "Clear the way for two-way traffic on teacher education", Ian Menter formerly at the School of Education, University of Glasgow, and now Professor of Teacher Education and Director of Professional Programmes at the Department of Education, University of Oxford argues that:
"Teaching and teacher education in Scotland have benefited from the trust, respect and confidence shown in teachers and teacher educators, not only within the professional community but in the wider community of parents, the press and politicians "
In England, however, there often seems to be a lack of respect for teachers.
Politicians and journalists are fond of telling teachers what they should teach and how they should teach often on the basis of how things were when they were at school. Although they might refer to the teaching "profession", they tend to treat teaching differently. Although the government might interfere with other professions in terms of funding and administration, ministers and the media don't usually tell doctors how to diagnose and treat, or soldiers how to fight, or judges how to judge, or engineers how to engineer
So is teaching a profession but, uniquely, not treated as one in England at least? Do let us know your thoughts