There is no doubt that in Britain, in the last ten years, we have seen massive strides forward in the education system. The establishment of a national curriculum and other reforms have provided the basic framework for improvement in educational provision, but at a considerable cost to teachers. Since the Education Reform Act (1988), we have seen a continuous stream of systemic, top-down change which has had a major impact on teachers’ professionalism. Their roles in strategic planning and decision making have been dominated by the requirement to implement externally driven initiatives, and workloads have expanded leading to high levels of stress, low levels of morale and difficulties with recruitment and retention.
There were warnings at the time of the Act that new approaches to the management of change were needed. Jean Rudduck is one amongst many educational researchers and commentators who called for initiatives that would empower teachers:
If we are interested in substantial curriculum change, we may need to find structures and resources to help teachers to re-examine their purposes…and feel more in control of their professional purposes and direction. Some sense of ownership of the agenda for personal action is, in my view, a good basis for professional development and professional learning.
We hope that the establishment of the much anticipated General Teaching Council is a sign that there is the political will to rebuild teacher professionalism. What we are offering in this book is a strategy to help teachers reconstruct their professionalism by providing a framework within which they can play a full and active part in school improvement and school development.
Since the early 1990s, we have been developing a model of support for teacher-led school improvement with an award-bearing dimension in which schools enter into partnership with higher education institutions (HEIs) to