The new Teachers’ Standards
The present position
Currently, teachers in training are assessed against the ‘Q’ standards. Numerical bullet points suggest that there are 33 Q standards, but tease out the subsections and you will find that there are actually 40. They are divided into three sections: attributes; knowledge and understanding; and skills. For Qualified Teacher Status, teachers must demonstrate that they meet each standard.
There are 41 Core professional standards, although unpick the subsections and you will discover that there are in fact 50
Those teachers in their induction year transfer to the Core professional standards, sometimes mistakenly called induction standards. These really expand on the Q standards and are similarly divided into three categories. There are 41 Core professional standards, although unpick the subsections and you will discover that there are in fact 50. In order to pass their induction year, NQTs must demonstrate that they meet each standard.
Now, think about that green book with all the chairs on the cover. It’s called Why Sit Still in Your Career? This book goes on to introduce the multiplicity of different standards that teachers may chase during their career, from Post-Threshold to Advanced Skills Teacher and the unsuccessful Excellent Teacher, which has seen only 100 appointments.
The Teachers’ standards 2012
There are two phases to the DfE review of teaching standards. The first phase is complete and has resulted in the Teachers’ Standards 2012. These replace both the Q and the Core professional standards, although the higher level standards will remain in place until they are replaced by a new single Master Teacher standard. If you are occupied with applications for threshold assessment, you should carry on (we are in round 12) but be aware that round 13 is unlikely to take place in its present form.
The new Teachers’ Standards are common for all teachers. That means that they will continue to be relevant as the foundational values when the Master Teacher standards are set. The argument is that the Teachers’ standards represent aspiration and excellence and therefore do not change as a teacher’s career progresses. Instead, the new Master Teacher standards will be based around expectations beyond classroom practice. It seems likely that a teacher will not have to wait six years before applying for assessment at this new threshold. There are therefore budget implications in that incremental drift becomes less difficult to predict.
The Teachers’ Standards 2012 have been sold to the profession as being simplified but, of course, that is not really so. True, there are eight headline standards, but unpick the several parts and you will find that there are around 40.
The Teachers’ Standards 2012 have been sold to the profession as being simplified but, of course, that is not really so
The eight standards reflect current thinking about accountability and the pursuit of excellence. They are grouped under these main headings:
- Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.
- Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils.
- Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge.
- Plan and teach well-structured lessons.
- Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.
- Make accurate and productive use of assessment.
- Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment.
- Fulfil wider professional responsibilities.
None of these will come as a surprise, but do note that primary teachers are now rightly expected to have good subject knowledge in relation to phonics teaching and the teaching of early maths while, at last, there is a standard that expects teachers to be able to speak and write standard English. As a teacher trainer I am already pointing out to my students who insist on saying ‘we was’ and ‘them books’ that, however they choose to speak in their private lives, their public dealings with children must reflect correct grammar and that, from September, it will be a standard they must meet.
The standards place a much higher expectation on teachers to be accountable for the progress their pupils are making, and their knowledge and use of differentiation is now far more specific than under the old standards. Aside from these slightly tighter standards, there is little material different from the old standards.
What is different is that the eight Teachers’ Standards are augmented by new standards of personal and professional conduct. Here, teachers will find the old standards about understanding their professional duties, about safeguarding and relationships, but they rub shoulders with new standards about their ethics and behaviour, in and out of school. Teachers are expected to ‘uphold public trust in the profession by showing tolerance and respect for the rights of others, not undermining fundamental British values and ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability’.
These are tantamount to a code of conduct and there may be implications for teachers whose behaviour outside school, during holidays and at weekends is perceived as failing to meet the standards.
There may be implications for teachers whose behaviour outside school, during holidays and at weekends is perceived as failing to meet the standards
Much has been said about the new appraisal arrangements, and colleagues are reminded that they may bring to the process ‘any other set of standards relating to teachers’ performance published by the Secretary of State as the governing body (or) headteacher … determines as being applicable to the performance of that teacher’. A fear of many professionals is that the new teaching standards, because they are so broadly applicable, can be interpreted differentially by headteachers to unrealistically raise the expected performance of some teachers and so become a stick with which they can be beaten. And there are other questions that arise about interpretation. Could a school with a religious character have a particular take on precisely how teachers maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour outside school? Who makes the decision about what behaviour is acceptable and what not?
The new teaching standards are supposed to bring greater clarity and, to some degree they do. They also bring some ambiguity and we wait to see how they shake down. We also await further information about Master Teacher status. Don’t make too many plans for threshold assessment in 2013.