Sonia Blandford

Professor Sonia Blandford

  • Teach First: Director of Leadership Development
  • University of Oxford: Honorary Senior Research Fellow

Tomorrow's Teacher: tomorrow's professional

Teachers play a crucial role in supporting the learning experience of young people and adult learners. They are key players in how education systems evolve and in the implementation of social, educational and economic reforms. Teachers recognise that high quality education provides learners with personal fulfilment, better social skills and more diverse employment opportunities. Their profession, which is inspired by values of inclusiveness and the need to nurture the potential of all learners, has a strong influence on society and plays a vital role in advancing human potential and shaping future generations.

It is my belief that the re-professionalisation of teachers is in process; tomorrow's teachers will have an enhanced professional status in society. The teaching profession will be attractive to all graduates and will remain so for all employed as teachers. Society will acknowledge the status of the teaching profession; recognising the role of teachers as key agents for developing knowledge, culture and values within the individual and society. Teachers, therefore, will be highly educated; continually developing and reflecting on their competences; increasingly mobile and appropriately remunerated.

Teaching as a profession

Teachers are experts in learning. Teachers of tomorrow will be equipped to respond to the evolving challenges of the knowledge society with increasing emphasis on information and communication, but also to participate actively in it and to prepare students to be autonomous lifelong learners. They will be able to reflect on the processes of learning and teaching through an ongoing engagement with subject knowledge, curriculum content, pedagogy, innovation, research, and the social and cultural dimensions of education. Teacher education will be at a Masters level, delivered and supported by strong partnerships between higher education and the educational settings where teachers will gain employment.

Tomorrow's teachers will all be postgraduates, having completed a masters programme which will build from university credits gained during initial teacher education through to induction and early career professional development. High quality education systems require that all teachers are postgraduates from higher education institutions or their equivalents, every teacher will have the opportunity to continue their studies to the highest level in order to develop their teaching competences and to increase their opportunities for progression within the profession. Tomorrow's teacher will respond to the needs of individual learners in an inclusive way; their initial and continuing professional training and education, will have an emphasis on practical skills and an academic and scientific basis, which will provide them with the competence and confidence to be reflective practitioners and discerning in managing information and knowledge.

Teaching will be a profession placed within the context of lifelong learning: teachers' professional development will continue throughout their careers and will be supported and encouraged by coherent systems at national, regional and/or local level. There will be a single framework recognised by the profession for the training and education of teachers to which all training and educational organisations will both recognise and contribute.

Teachers will be able to contribute to the process by which young people and adult learners become autonomous lifelong learners by becoming lifelong learners themselves and working in partnership with their students and the wider community in which they work. Tomorrow's teachers will recognise the importance of acquiring new knowledge, and have the ability to innovate and use evidence to inform their work. All teachers by virtue of their professional status will be fully engaged in the process of lifelong learning and be able to evolve and adapt to new knowledge and new ways of working throughout their whole career.

Teaching will be a mobile profession: mobility will be a central component of a professional's practice both in terms of knowledge and practice. Teachers will be encouraged by their employers to work in other countries for professional development purposes. Following the introduction of the Masters programme within a single framework, mobile teachers will have their status recognised in the host country and their participation recognised and valued in their home country. There should also the opportunity for mobility between different levels of education and towards different professions within the education sector; e.g. teachers and teaching leaders in primary, secondary and further education.

Teaching will continue to be a profession based on partnerships. Tomorrow's teachers will work with student-support agencies (continuing the Every Child Matters Agenda), universities, industry (building on the Leitch Report) and other teachers in the generation of practical knowledge and skills. As professionals, teachers will be innovative, reviewing evidence of effective practice and engaging with new knowledge and research in order to keep pace with changes within society. The educational settings in which they are employed will be learning organisations that reflect on their own and other's best practice, and which collaborate with a wide range of community groups and stakeholders.

Walking towards the future across an ever-changing landscape

Teaching and education in their broadest sense add not only to the economic but also to the cultural aspects of society. Tomorrow's teachers will all be able to work with information, technology and knowledge; work with their fellow human beings learners, colleagues and other partners in education; and work with and in society - at local, regional, national, European and broader global levels. Their work in all these areas will be embedded in a professional continuum of lifelong learning and their qualifications and achievements acknowledged across the globe. The development of professional knowledge and competences will be viewed over the continuum of professional life.

Work with knowledge, technology and information:

Working with a variety of types of knowledge (e.g. documentary, creative, information driven), their education will equip them to access, analyse, validate, reflect on and transmit knowledge, making effective use of technology where this is appropriate. Their pedagogic skills will allow them to build and manage learning environments and retain the intellectual freedom to make choices over the delivery of education. These skills will also allow for innovation and creativity, which, through the confident use of ICT will be integrated effectively into learning. Teachers will be able to guide, support and partner learners (including other teachers) in networks in which information can be found and built. Through Master's level education and continuous professional development, teachers will have a high level of knowledge and understanding of their subject matter. Their practical skills, underpinned by a firm theoretical understanding, will also allow them to learn from their own experiences and match a wide range of teaching and learning strategies to the needs of learners.

Work with fellow human beings:

Teachers work in a value-based profession rooted in values of social inclusion and nurturing the potential of every learner. As in the past, tomorrow's teachers will have knowledge of human growth and development and demonstrate self-confidence when engaging with others. Teachers will be able to work with learners as individuals and support them to develop into fully participating and active members of society. Teachers themselves will be engaged in collaborative learning which will increase the collective intelligence of learners and their ability to co-operate and collaborate with colleagues to enhance their own learning and teaching.

Work with and in society:

teachers will continue to make a significant contribution to preparing learners for their role as global citizens. Teachers will promote mobility and co-operation in their regions, across the country and globally encouraging intercultural respect and understanding. Tomorrow's teacher will also know and play a part in the wider contribution that education makes to developing cohesive societies, with an understanding of the balance between respecting and being aware of the diversity of learners' cultures and identifying common values. Teachers will also understand the factors that create social cohesion and exclusion in society and be aware of the ethical dimensions of the knowledge society. In practice, teachers will continue to work effectively with the local community, partners and stakeholders in education parents, teacher education institutions, and representative groups.

Tomorrow's teachers - the next generation

Since 2003 the Teach First programme has combined the expertise of corporations, schools, education agencies and Higher Education Institutions to develop the highest qualified graduates to teach in challenging urban schools. Teach First is currently listed number 9 in The Times top 100 graduate employers, thus significantly raising the status of teaching in Russell Group universities. Teach First, acknowledged by OFSTED, head teachers and global companies as generating high quality teachers and leaders, has raised the bar in terms of professional, value-based) expectations of all its teachers from recruitment through to Ambassador (alumni) status. This has been achieved by recruiting graduates to join a professional movement with an inclusive mission, to address educational disadvantage. Teach First is a graduate programme, premised on partnerships with business, the community, school, colleges and higher education which encourages and supports professional mobility and lifelong learning.

As an independent charity, it has been free to develop a unique approach to teacher training and development, which is now making a significant contribution to the re-professionalisation of teaching. When defining tomorrow's teachers, Teach First teachers will be major players in the next generation.