23 SES 03 B, Teacher’s work, Training and Professionalism I
This paper explores the role of the teacher with reference to educational workforce reforms in England which have the potential to blur the boundaries between qualified teacher and assistant roles. This focus on the role of the teacher and its relationship to other pedagogical roles in schools will be of interest to those from other EU states which are undergoing similar changes in schools. A number of changes were made to the teaching assistant (TA) role following the signing of a National Agreement (DfES 2003) which expanded the remit of the assistant role into areas previously seen as the preserve of the qualified teacher. Important amongst these changes was that support workers without qualified teacher status were now able to take whole class groups without a teacher being present. These reforms have the potential to blur the boundaries between teacher and teaching assistant (TA) roles and hence question the coherence of the teacher role itself.
This paper draws on empirical evidence from doctoral research (Garland 2008) in order to explore the role of the teacher and the potential for a dissolving boundary between the new assistant role and that of the qualified teacher. One aspect of the analysis will centre on the extent to which certain ‘symbolic features’ of the teacher role, as identified during the research, may hold the roles apart. These symbolic features include the ‘ownership’ of space, of symbolic objects, and of class groups. These are argued to be features of the teacher role which perform a legitimizing function in relation to that role and further form a symbolic separation between the roles of teacher and teaching assistant. A further analytical route will focus on the ways in which the teacher role might be redefined in relation to the assistant role by using the TA role as a foil against which to look at the teacher role anew. A number of aspects of the teacher role can be described as setting it apart from the now expanded TA role, so that we can begin to articulate where it might be said that ‘this is not teaching, though it may look like it’, or ‘this is not the teacher role, though it may look like it’.
If the boundaries between teacher and assistant roles were to become blurred there would be ongoing ramifications for the identity of the teaching profession and for the professionalisation project (Helsby and McCulloch 1996). In the case of TAs, however, who were found often to share the ‘culture of the locality’ with the children (due to living in the school locality), the appropriateness of their involvement in the education of children will be examined in relation to the suggestion that they may be able to engage in learning with those children who experience difficulties in connecting with the culture of schooling. This discussion will consider the extent to which TAs might understand a particular child’s ‘mode of representing reality’ (Pring 2004) and how such considerations are related to the role of a teacher.
DfES (2003a) Time for Standards – Raising Standards and Tackling Workload: a national agreement, London: DfES Garland, I. (2008) Workforce Reform: Exploring the Boundaries Between Teacher and Assistant Roles, PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield Helsby, G. and McCulloch, G. (1996) ‘Teacher Professionalism and Curriculum Control’ in Goodson, I.F. and Hargreaves, A. (eds) Teachers’ Professional Lives, London Falmer Press Pring, R. A. (2004) ‘Teaching and the Good Teacher’ in Inglis, F. (ed) Education and the Good Society, London: Palgrave Macmillan
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