Teachers have still to be convinced of the merits of establishing a Royal College of Teaching to act as an independent body for their profession, according to new polling for the Sutton Trust released today.

The Sutton Trust publishes the polling results as it announces an international conference on teachers’ professional development to be held in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The conference, which will take place this November in Washington DC, will bring together school leaders from around the world to share the best evidence and practice on how to improve teaching.

A key aim of the proposed Royal College of Teaching is to ensure that professional practice is grounded in the best up-to-date evidence. However, the poll of 1163 teachers by the National Foundation for Educational Research, finds as many teachers say they don’t know whether they support a Royal College as are in favour of one.

41% of teachers support the College proposal, while 17% are opposed and 41% haven’t made up their minds yet. Support is higher among secondary teachers – at 45% – than among primary teachers, where 37% are in favour.

When those who express support for a Royal College of Teaching – which is intended to be independent of government – were asked how much they would be prepared annually for membership, 26% said they wouldn’t be prepared to pay for it and most of the rest were unwilling to pay more than £30 a year to be a member.

School leaders were slightly more supportive – at 43% – than classroom teachers – at 40%. A majority of secondary school leaders – 51% – back the proposals.

The General Teaching Council for England was established by the last government to act as an independent professional body and regulator for the teaching profession. It was abolished in 2012. Membership was £36.50 a year, though employers paid most of the fee.

Membership of other professional bodies typically costs a lot more. The teaching unions charge full members £166-£180 a year. Doctors pay £185 a year to the General Medical Council. Nurses pay the Royal College of Nursing £196 a year.

Dr Lee Elliot Major, Director of Development and Policy at the Sutton Trust, said:

“These results highlight the challenge that the proposed College of Teaching faces in convincing the majority of teachers to support a national body championing their professional development. Improving and supporting effective teachers in the classroom remains the key to improving the outcome of pupils, particularly those from poorer backgrounds.

“This is why we’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on an international summit where school leaders from across the world will share best practice on the professional development of their teachers. The aim will be to produce a practical guide for schools on the most effective ways to improve and support their staff throughout their careers.”

Chris Pope, Chair of the Commission for a College of Teaching, said:

“Anecdotal evidence, consistent with these poll results, suggests that there is still low awareness in the teaching profession of the proposed College of Teaching Blueprint that was published in February.

“Unlike the GTC, which was compulsory and resented by many teachers, the Blueprint outlines a membership organisation that would be voluntary.  In The Prince’s Teaching Institute’s earlier research, we found that when this and the benefits are explained, the number of teachers who opposed the idea dropped from 17% to 7% and the number who would pay £75-175 rose from under 1% to over 60%.  This highlights the importance of this organisation needing to grow from within the profession and not be seen as a compulsory imposition.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 140 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. A blueprint for a College of Teaching was published by a commission of teachers and teaching leaders chaired by the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI) in February 2014. The impetus for the blueprint came from the House of Commons Education Committee. Research by PTI in 2013 found more than 60% of teachers and headteachers would be prepared to pay between £75 – £175 for annual membership.
  3. The Gates Foundation/Sutton Trust summit on teacher development will be held on 3rd and 4th November 2014 in Washington DC. Speakers include US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
  4. NFER surveyed a representative sample of 1,163 teachers in March 2014 in both primary and secondary schools for their Teacher Voice omnibus survey. See the PDF below to view the full results of the questionnaire.

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