Making your voice count

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09 October 2014 by ATL
When teachers are handed policies and expected to make them a reality, their sense of professionalism, autonomy and self-belief are attacked. Until there are meaningful mechanisms for teachers to be involved in policy setting, it’s impossible to reach a state of genuine policy success.

The constraints that are placed upon teachers and school leaders (that are out with their control or scope of impact or influence) contributes to a dissatisfaction and a demoralised profession, which can only lead to less effective experiences for children and young people in our schools.

It’s easy to complain about the situation, but we need practical action for the better. 

ATL is committed to shaping education through considered and thoughtful dialogue and debate that is constructive, positive and keep our children and young people at the centre. Voicing your professional views and opinions through your union or professional association doesn’t and shouldn’t only have to be through strike action.

If this approach strikes a chord with you, as it did with me, find out more about ATL’s Shape Education campaign and see how you can reclaim your professional agency and influence positive change, not just in your classroom, but in our education system.

ATL Future, the association’s member led group for student and new education professionals, regularly run conferences and teachmeets to give professionals the opportunities to share, discuss, critique and influence policy and practice through positive conversations and demonstrations of effective learning, teaching, school organisation, leadership and systemic practices.

Teaching is not a career choice for me. It’s the pursuit of a passion and a dream that I don’t remember choosing or dreaming for the first time. It’s my social mission and my contribution to society. This is a calling shared by many across the profession and their ultimate aim is not self-glorification, or power and influence, they want to do the best for every child and young person and their professional agency is central to this.

It’s the autonomy to build a curriculum that meets the needs of the children and young people in their care. It’s the capacity and opportunity to share effective practice with others and contribute to the learning and development of colleagues. It’s the ability to influence or even set the policy agenda and the outcomes from policy development locally and nationally.

Until teachers are regularly able to experience each one of these, it will be impossible to take our education and school systems any further on the journey to excellence. In many cases, the biggest untapped resource in schools is the professional experience and expertise of the teachers. We need to tap in to this experience and expertise and use this not just class by class or school by school, but from city to city and region to region. Only then can we say that we are genuinely making positive attempts to move our education system from good, to great, to excellent.

By Paul Campbell. ATL member Paul Campbell is a former convener of ATL Future, the union's student and NQ steering group.

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Shape Education