Accountants, coups d’état and why teachers should be Institutionalised

Lots of re-tweets over the past couple of days directing people to Tom Bennett’s (The Behaviour Guru) post about Teacher Voice, which for the most part I agree with whole-heartedly. I’ll get to why I’m not in complete agreement in a moment, but first some background reading.

Before becoming a teacher I was a Chartered Accountant. Now, recognising that I have just lost, at minimum, 90% of my readers, I have to say that the main reason I stopped being a chartered accountant was that I was in danger of turning into one. Don’t get me wrong, I was good at it and fairly successful, but in my heart I was teacher and not a bean-counter. As an accountant I was a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, I had to be in order to operate in some areas of my profession.

To take a quote from Tom’s blog:-

It was meant to be a representative and regulatory body that ensured the profession was a profession. What it became also damned it; a punitive organ you only heard about when you had to cough up your fees so that you could receive a tatty circular sent to your previous address. Sometimes you heard about it when somebody got busted for downloading porn.

That could just as easily have been written about the ICAEW (apart from the ‘damned’ and ‘tatty’ bits) or probably any other professional organisation. Why is this important? Well, I think most people would agree that nobody messes with accountants as a body. No government (of any persuasion) has ever been caught telling accountants how to ‘account’. The profession, through its professional organisations, sets the appropriate methodologies for its work. So, no accountant rocks up for work and says “You know what, I’m not going to use double entry book keeping on this job, I think I’ll make something new up”. Avid readers of the in-house accountants magazine, Accountancy, will also know that the best bit of any edition is the report of the disciplinary committee, where accountants are brought to book for things ranging from being late in responding to clients letters to attempting the over-throw of a legitimately elected government (that was my favourite, and yes, he was ejected from the profession).

This is why I can’t completely agree with Tom’s blog-post. In order to be a regulatory body it is necessary sometimes to enforce the standards and regulations of the profession. Sometimes that’s not a pretty sight. It is also important for a variety of reasons that the regulatory part of its activities be carried out in public. Many see that as having a naming and shaming slant to it. For me, its about open and transparent justice for those whose practice may be being challenged. If we want the public to be confident in a profession then that profession has to be as open as possible about all its activities. The flip side of this (and perhaps this is the source of the general negativity towards the GTCE from the profession) is that the professional body needs to be of the profession and not externally imposed as the GTCE originally was.

What is needed is a body that owns not only the regulatory aspects I have touched on, but also the professional standards. Institute of Chartered Teachers of England and Wales anyone?


4 thoughts on “Accountants, coups d’état and why teachers should be Institutionalised

  1. I hear what you are saying about the GTCE, trouble is we have a government that is constantly asking us to change our practice, not our regulatory body. I entirely agree that our teachers need regulation. What Tom says about teacher voice is that NO-ONE asks teachers what is working/best for their pupils before they issue yet another edict. As you say no accountant refuses to do double entry accounting. Teachers rarely have enough time to internalise demands before being told by someone who has NEVER taught that teachers alone are responsible for the failings of their pupils. We can’t win.

    1. I think the real problem is that the regulatory body we had was not originally of the profession and did not own the standards of the profession. This meant that all demands were external.
      We need to get to the stage where no government dares tell the profession what to do. We’re a long way from that. I don’t know how it has happened but teachers have become demonisable (if that’s not a word, then it should be) in the eyes of the public. I think the only people who can change that are teachers.

  2. Extremely interesting response, thanks. I wonder how one goes about setting such a body up. Your perspective has been very useful to me, and I take your point about enforcing standards. I think perhaps I was simply bemoaning that that was ALL the GTC really did, and even then it was a last-resort option.

    1. I think that the most recent organisation to go through this process is the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors ( They set themselves up as an institute and then in about 2006 applied for a Royal Charter, which put them on the same standing as the ICAEW etc.

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