Teaching and Professionalism: An Essay in Ambiguity. A paper by Harry Judge from 1978

I am currently working through a weighty archive of documents and interview transcripts about the development of the Oxford Internship Scheme from 1973 to 1987. My friend and colleague Ann Childs and I have been doing this, on and off, for over three years now since we first talked about it at the BERA conference in 2013. It is utterly engrossing and has generated some surprising ideas about how we have come to be where we are now in initial teacher education in England. But more on that later….

One document has stuck in my memory more than many others – and it has resurfaced again this week as most English universities are thinking about the latest ‘Buster Keaton rides again’ dictat from government about the allocation of student teacher numbers from 2017. It is a paper from 1979 written by Harry Judge entitled ‘Teaching and Professionalism. An Essay in Ambiguity’.

Harry had been Director of the University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies for nearly six years when he wrote this paper. He had arrived at the department in 1973, fresh from headship at Banbury School, then a large and pioneering comprehensive in north Oxfordshire. He was keen to change the department and he led the development of the then highly innovative Internship Scheme which started in 1987. The years between Harry’s arrival (and the arrival of another colleague, Peter Benton) and the Internship Scheme starting in ’87 are the focus of Ann’s and my research.

The paper shows both the depth of professional experience Harry brought to the role of Director and his scholarly approach to the study of teacher education. The paper (circulated as so many others were in mimeographed form to his academic colleagues, friends and supporters in schools and the LEA (led at that time by Tim Brighouse)) is informed by a recent trip to the USA to look at successful Schools of Education there and was written as a contribution to an American yearbook.

Reading the paper now, it is notable for the way that Harry identified an enduring tension in the way that university Schools of Education work, a tension that has perhaps reached yet another peak of volatility today. He says:

The tension is increased when forces outside the Universities, or outside the whole teacher training world or even outside the educational establishment itself, call for a return to basics, emphasise the importance of competency in some practical and measurable sense, show clear signs of anti-intellectualism, and seek to impart a sharp note of accountability into the training as into the employment and promotion of teachers. At the same time, professional associations of teachers claim that they – and not the Universities – know how to specify the knowledge and skills required by teachers, and moreover know how in a context of school-based training to impart them. (Judge 1979, 12)

I sat up when I first read that!

In the final part of the paper, Harry puts forward his view about how university Schools of Education should be organized and what their purposes should be. He rejects Education as an undergraduate discipline and is sceptical of what was then called the BEd. He says ‘Schools of Education should seek rather than fear smallness’ since they can never hope to ‘dominate’ the professional concerns of teachers. Schools of Education should choose their place in the system ‘with particular care and discrimination’. It is clear that Harry was writing before the expansion of higher education in the 1990s but the argument (whether you agree with him or not) that Education should be studied in Graduate Schools of Education only is an argument that is very much alive in many Russell Group universities.

The future of Education in universities was therefore in small Graduate Schools that gave a ‘high priority to research and to the training of research workers’. But at the same time, they needed to ‘seek urgently and continuously for ways to demonstrate that they take seriously the practice of education and respect the practitioner’. A ‘strong’, research-based version of graduate teacher training was, for Harry, one way of doing that. Some 8 years later, the Internship Scheme materialised, in large part as the realisation of that aim.

It’s a fascinating and in some senses timeless paper. It is, however, full of gendered language so be prepared for talk of ‘able men’ and hearty back-slaps! Harry is nearly 88 and lives in north Oxford where he still takes a keen interest in education and cares about the future of teaching. You can download the paper to read it for yourself by clicking here.