I enjoy half term. It’s a time to relax and treat myself to some of the guilty pleasures I often don’t have time for during term time. It’s nice to enjoy a frothy latte from my favourite coffee shop, Sunbucks…
And I do like a beer or two. There’s nothing like the sound of a cold can of Heimekem opening…
And if I get the chance, I kick back and play on my PolyStation games console…
Of course, these products are all Chinese so aren’t actually available in this country. But these sorts of products are ubiquitous in China. In fact, this liberal attitude to brand imitation means that, “on average, 20 percent of all consumer products in the Chinese market are counterfeit“.
This copycat method seems a very easy route to market in places where regulations aren’t particularly stringent. But they piggyback on a brand that’s worked hard to establish itself and offer an inferior product in its place.
Such practice is very difficult in this country, due to market regulations which rightly protect businesses and brands. But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop businesses seeing the success of others and entering the same market to compete with them. This can actually make for a healthy marketplace.
But should the same be said for teacher-led organisations aimed at improving research literacy in education? How many of these do we need?
On 18th March 2013, Tom Bennett had a Twitter exchange with Ben Goldacre, decrying the relationship between research and practice in schools. Goldacre had a simple response – do something about it yourself, Tom:
Within 6 months, Tom Bennett, along with Hélene Galdin-O’Shea had put together a conference. Held on 7th September 2013, researchED was an event that aimed to bridge research and practice in the profession. Since then, Tom and Hélène have put together increasingly popular national conferences each year, plus regional conferences, and subject- and sector-specific conferences. And, what’s more, they’ve taken taken researchED to an international audience, hosting conferences in New York, Sydney, Gothenburg and Washington, with plans to take it elsewhere already well underway. They have established these relationships with international researchers and educators, whilst continuing to focus on there core activity of bridging research and practice in the UK education sector.
So it was a surprise when I read yesterday that the College of Teaching’s “core activity” will be to do this. To do exactly what researchED is doing.
A few things strike me about this.
Firstly, the College of Teaching has been years in the making. The people involved in the project are always at pains to emphasise the efforts of the many professionals it has taken over the past few years to get to where it is today. There have been multiple consultations, meetings and focus groups. There have been iterations and reiterations of forms of leadership, from Trustees to Chairs to a CEO. There is a pledge of £5 million on the table from the DfE to help fund this, after an attempt to crowdsource funding from the profession failed. There is a website that has been “under construction” for as long as I can remember. It has taken years and huge numbers of people for the College of Teaching to get to where it is today, and we are now told they are merely trying to copy a model that already exists. A model that was set up by Tom and Hélène and a handful of volunteers in just a few months. A truly teacher-led model.
This strikes me as following the model seen in China: see what others have done successfully and just copy that. But is this fair on researchED, given that the College of Teaching have DfE backing and up to £5 million in funding? Is this similar to Tesco being able to shut down the local butcher?
Indeed, if this is what the College of Teaching is offering, why doesn’t the DfE hand the £5 million to researchED instead? It is already established in the area that the College of Teaching is trying to establish itself in.
Secondly, is this what we need the College of Teaching to be? What about, as Michael Merrick suggested here, someone to stand up for teachers and to protect them from workload issues and to improve their working lives? I’m pretty sure that is how many see the College of Teaching. They don’t need another researchED. They already have one of those.
At the moment, it seems like the College of Teaching is an organisation trying to decide what it should be. It’s an organisation in search of a purpose. Which is an odd thing. Surely a government-funded organisation should be set up because it fulfils a need? This is an organisation that has more needs than the profession whose needs it should be fulfilling. It needs to know what it is for. It needs teachers to back it. It needs money to keep it going. It needs membership numbers to sustain it. It needs to copy and cash in on researchED’s success.
It needs to justify itself. This latest announcement that its “core activity will be to bridge research and practice” really doesn’t give it the justification it seeks.
Anyone, it’s still half term. Time to have a break, have a Kicker.