imageIt was Professor Stephen Heppell who once said-

“You become Expert by talking about it, you develop Expertise by doing it. Not all Experts have Expertise.” 


This blog post has been long in the writing but I have seen too many more examples, to let this practise carry on without saying another word. I’d also like to point out that this is not a post criticising the work of any of the bodies I mention or the good people who work within them. 

It all started three years ago in 2012 with the dissolution of the ICT curriculum. Paul Hague of the Hallam Teaching Alliance set up NTAB  (National Teaching Schools New Technology Advisory Board) and I looked at the members of the ‘board’ and could find no representation from Primary or Early Years School teachers. I then got into a Twitter debate with Oliver Quinlan and Pete Yeomans (who at the time were Teacher training University Lecturers). They were both on the panel, said they could ably represent Primary teachers (of which I had no doubt) , it was also pointed out to me that the ‘Teaching Alliances’ also had Primary Schools under the wing and this was enough to represent the views of Primary Schools .

‘The aim of the NTAB was to bring together a range of stakeholders from the new technology community including Teaching Schools with lead status for ICT, big industry players including Toshiba, Microsoft and Intel, key higher education institutions, regional broadband consortia, NAACE, VITAL, CAS (Computers At School) and academy sponsors, to advise the entire teaching school network on the new technology issues of the day and help them to help their alliance schools.’

I argued how was it possible to get the views of Primary/Early Years sector when there wasn’t a single Primary teacher or Headteacher on the panel and that I would rather an actual practitioner represented me. Anyway-suffice to say it didn’t change a thing and they carried on without any Primary representation (It also soon dissolved and ironically not much trace can be found online).

Let’s look at some numbers-a recently released Freedom of Information Act request shows that in 2012 there were 424 Nurseries, 16,818 Primaries and 3,268 Secondary schools. With 39,470 Nursery pupils, 4,217,000 Primary pupils and 3,234,875 Secondary students. In November 2011 there were 202,500 Nursery and Primary Teachers compared to 140,400 Secondary Colleagues. Obviously the data is old but I would surmise that the differences in data between the phases remains similar.

So there are 3 times as many Primary Schools as Secondaries and nearly a third more Primary teachers.

Why am I getting so animated about this?

Because I am sick of so-called experts, who think that they can speak on Primary Colleagues and my behalf. I am tired of having to defend my job to people who haven’t got a clue what I do because the last time they visited a Primary School was when they were 11. I am annoyed at having to accept that my opinion, is somehow belittled, because I work with children who are between 2 and 11 years old and that somehow means that my own intelligence is at the same level of those I teach. I am very angry about people who continually do down Primary teachers and believe it is an easy job.

This is not a post about Primary versus Secondary, this is not a post moaning about my workload, this is not a post about me or of the continual changes made by our Government.

This is a post about parity. This is a post about hearing the Primary Teacher Voice. This is a post about equality.

Let’s look at the Headteachers’ Roundtable- ‘We are a non-party political headteachers’ group operating as a think-tank, exploring policy issues from a range of perspectives.’ So far they have only one Primary representative out of 12 headteachers-(ironically the only woman as well but that’s another post!)  Ruth Whymark Headteacher,from Cranmer Primary School, in Merton. So that’s 11 Secondary/College/Academy Heads and only one Primary.Am sure Ruth does a fine job but is it really enough that having one Primary Headteacher equates to a ‘range of perspectives’? Please don’t give me the argument that the rest of the Roundtable ‘work closely’ with their Primary feeders. I have ‘worked closely’ with local Secondary Headteachers for years, they still have no idea what we do at Primary and are continually surprised with our practise.

Next up Educational Think Tanks-The Education Foundation is the UK’s first independent, cross sector, education think tank. Our work is focused on three priorities: education reform, technology & innovation. Yay! Cross sector-must mean they have a Primary Teacher or Headteacher on their board?No they haven’t-not even as an ‘advisor’.

Is there an Educational Think Tank that has Primary School or any school representation? Policy Exchange-no. Demos-No. Sutton Trust-no. How can these organisations have a viable voice about Education Policy if they don’t have any School representatives? Yet these people are seen as Experts!

Surely if you are a charity that is led by educationists to train teachers, you must have some representation from Early years or Primary School? Well TeachFirst doesn’t.

Finally the hot topic at the moment is establishing a ‘College of Teaching’ led by by several voices and now trumpeted by our new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan. This is another attempt to reboot a Teachers version of the British Medical Council. ‘Claim Your College is a campaign to create an independent, chartered and profession-led College of Teaching for the benefit of professional practice that helps children and young people succeed.’

You can guess what I’m going to say next-the very organisation which is supposed create a ‘profession-led’ College for the benefit of ‘professional practise’ has no primary based colleagues at it’s base (Plenty who are supporters). Rather ironically, details the organisations I have listed above, as supporting consultants. Why should we give any credence to an organisation that is failing to listen to the Primary Teachers Voice from the outset?

I could list many more professional bodies, organisations and educational trusts that fall into the same category. But I am sure you understand where I am going with this.

If you are reading this and you happen to be a member of these organisation-then don’t fall into the trap of criticising my post, be proactive and invite some Early Years or Primary Teachers to be part of your organisation, I will guarantee that you’ll be better for it. Also I can only research your member make up from your websites-if indeed you have Primary representation (and I mean those that actually work in a school) then please get in touch and I will amend.

If you are a Primary Headteacher or teacher and you are reading this, please Tweet out or write a comment.

Let’s not stand idly by and watch our profession being represented by ‘Experts’ without Expertise. Let us be proactive and claim back our voice.

Written by Julian S Wood -"rel="author"
  • Kevin McLaughlin

    You’re right Julian, Primary and EYFS are usually left out in the cold when it comes to this type of educational discussion. Why we are underrepresented in these organisations is anyones guess but it’s a shock to find that we have only one practising representative in any of the groups you mentioned. However, we can do something to change this awful statistic. We raise our voices, we make it known that we care as you have in this post, we contribute to discussion through social media and events around the country and we become involved with the latest establishment “The College of Teaching”. This might have already begun but it’s only in its infancy and requires primary representation from teachers such as yourself.

    • Julian S Wood

      Many thanks for your comment Kevin.

      Completely agree with everything you said and I really do hope that my post does move people to action.

      I’ve heard that Primary teachers are too busy to participate but I know loads of colleagues that would jump at the chance to contribute and have their voice heard.

      The ‘College of Teaching’ need to learn from the mistakes of the last ill fated attempt. That organisation was hoisted on us without choice and we even had to pay for the thing out of our own pocket!

      All power to you Kevin , hope you continue to be a national Primary Voice through your tweets and blog.


    • Julian S Wood

      Many thanks for your comment Kevin.

      Completely agree with everything you said and I really do hope that my post does move people to action.

      I’ve heard that Primary teachers are too busy to participate but I
      know loads of colleagues that would jump at the chance to contribute and
      have their voice heard.

      The ‘College of Teaching’ need to learn from the mistakes of the last
      ill fated attempt. That organisation was hoisted on us without choice
      and we even had to pay for the thing out of our own pocket!

      All power to you Kevin , hope you continue to be a national Primary Voice through your tweets and blog.


  • Clive Taylor

    Quite. Even when the National College was “real” as opposed to its new role as government policy voice, it was dominated by secondary folk. There are far too many “experts” but who lack some pretty basic “expertise”. But by God they can’t Hal talk about it!
    Truth is most primary school leaders neither have the time or inclination to join the jet setting conference crowd. They are too busy using their expertise to run decent schools with children and families at the centre.

  • annahalford

    Well said, I am primary and proud to be so, but feel similarly frustrated by our lack of representation.

    I remain somewhat anxious about the merits of a college of teaching as it appears to have evolved without giving opportunities for representatives. Perhaps I missed that.

    To be credible , organisations to represent education must include a mix of phase , experience and location.

  • David Weston

    Hi Julian,

    I agree, it’s hugely frustrating that primary voices aren’t heard more often. Just as frustrating is the lack of prominence given to special education and colleagues from alternative provision.

    The College of Teaching is definitely starting with a strong primary representation. The initial proposal was put together by a wide ranging group of teachers and organisations which included many primary colleagues. Over summer, the appointment of trustees for the new body has been driven by a group of volunteer teachers and school leaders which includes several primary colleagues (see for more information). It is expected that they will choose a balanced group of trustees which will represent the whole education sector – the trustees will be announced later this week, in fact.

    I know I’m a former secondary teacher but I’m also currently a primary school governor and really passionate about making sure the primary voice is heard. Too many people think about secondary colleagues first then try and ‘tweak’ their assumptions/ideas to fit primary (and special and alternative) schools. Primary is a set of skills and expertise that is distinct in its own right and should be valued at least as much as secondary.

    Thank you for urging colleagues to address this situation and for raising the profile of this issue. I’d be really happy to speak about it further and get your thoughts on what else can be done.

    Best wishes,


  • STEP

    Wow what an insight! Those statistics are scary. Thanks for the post.

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