“Without Trust, We Cannot Stand”

13/05/2014Leora Cruddas, Director of Policy, ASCL

The ASCL and AQA debate on the future of teacher assessment raised a number of interesting ideas: Fiona Millar’s fascinating thoughts about what an educated 19-year old looks like; Ian Bauckham’s call for chartered assessors in schools; Patsy Kane’s testimony that teacher feedback is one of the most powerful motivators of progress in students’ learning; and Andrew Hall’s call to rebuild trust across all components of the education profession. I’d like to develop Andrew’s important theme.

It is easy – and politically expedient – to say that teachers can’t be trusted. It is an altogether much more politically courageous thing to build trust. We need political leadership of this calibre: leadership that builds strength and capacity and inspires great leadership in others. We are after all, talking about our children’s future and the economic future of the country. What our education system needs and has always needed is great leadership, both political and professional.

Interestingly, the public does trust the teaching profession. A 2013 Ipsos Mori poll showed that 86% of respondents trust teachers, while just 18% trust politicians to tell the truth. At the debate, around 90% of those present said that teachers are at least somewhat effective at formative assessment, while more than half felt that successive governments have been responsible for a breakdown in trust. But, as Charles Handy says, “we cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply at the end of history.” There is a moment for the profession to seize the day and say what we think needs to happen to create a good assessment system.

It is now more than ten years since Onora O’Neill delivered her excellent Reith lectures on A Question of Trust. She said then: “Trust often invites reciprocal trust: and when it does, we have virtuous spirals. Equally trust can open the door to betrayal and betrayal to mistrust: there are vicious spirals.” We want to build virtuous spirals of trust across all components of the education system in order to create the very best education system for our children.

In assessment terms, as Patsy Kane said, this is likely to come from schools collaborating to build professional capital in assessment. There is probably nowhere better to start to build virtuous cycles than in the field of assessment, which is at the centre of teachers’ professional practice.

Finally, as part of the Great Education Debate, and ahead of the election in May 2015, ASCL calls on all political parties to build a culture of trust and confidence in our education system. We must create cross-party agreement on a vision for our education system that enables, motivates and inspires our children to develop as rounded and grounded (to quote the CBI) and take their place in the global society.