Licence to Teach or a Licence for a Robot?

The NUT has been asking its members to voice their opposition to proposed teaching licences to send in postcards.


To be renewed every five years, licences are intended to improve teaching and weed out the bad apples. Teachers and unions are up in arms about this as they see it as yet more paperwork and form-filling. Ed Balls-Up believes that this will allow for greater accountability and transparency.

How licencing became the answer to the wrongs within the education system is an interesting story. We would argue that a bureaucratic machine like the Government must respond in ways that make sense on their own terms. A licence is an objectification of management practice. It embodies all the key ingredients of control, quality, measurement, labelling, division and stratification. To qualify means to be sanctioned and in the EducationState the sanctioner is the Government who can decide who is in and who is out.

But what do they base their notions of quality on? Descriptors or criteria that must be met in order for teachers to be recognised. Have we agreed what good teaching is, however? And have we agreed that it is possible to map out to the minutest detail what good teaching entails? The Government ready for quick fixes and populist answers believe so but where is the evidence? Surely each situation, each classroom, each pupil or student requires an open and pragmatic approach not prescriptivism and diktat.

The Government know this, of course but they have their hands tied. Balls-Up and his cronies will seek to please prospective voters, but by doing so as morale plummets, strikes continue and union relations further sour they will consequently worsen that which they originally intended to improve. But what choice do they have?!

The NUT call for individualised and well-funded CPD. They believe that this will improve teaching, it appears. Again, however, we return to the question of what good/bad teaching is?

We could of course list – as anyone who has experience some form of modern teacher training – the hallmarks of a good teacher. For example, good listener, creative, fun, knowledgeable, organised, disciplined etc etc. There would be little disagreement on them but how does this differ from those traits desired by society as a whole? They don’t.

In sum, then, the Government attempting to curry the favour of voters in next year’s elections create a classic bureaucratic ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’. The unions and teachers bitterly reject the proposals as a further drain on resources, while all the while no-one can decide what good teaching actually means and whether it is any different to characteristics admired by society as a whole. The upshot of all of this that teachers are further subjected to criticisms for simply being imperfect


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