Nicola Crossley

Discipline: Graduate School of Education

Project Summary

The impact of government reform on the conceptualisations of professionalism in compulsory education in England; considering the National Standards of Excellence for Head Teachers, Teachers’ Standards and the Draft Standards for Teaching Assistants.

The education profession is constantly subject to policy reform, updates and change; all of which have a direct impact on pedagogy and practice – but which also arguably impact on the identity of practitioners, the expectations around conceptualisations of professionalism and the standards which influence practice. 

Over the last three years in particular, the DfE  has published a series of policy updates which stipulate the standards expected for teachers, head teachers and more recently has consulted on the expected standards for teaching assistants; all of which have significant implications on practice.

Over the last three years in particular, government reform has amended the standards for Head teacher, teacher and Teaching Assistant and this appears to have amended what constitutes as professional behaviour, leading to what some have argued as a de-professionalisation of the profession.  However there is limited research available on the impact of these reforms on those who it directly affects.

Arguably the consideration of how these standards impact on the conceptualisation and perception of professionalism by those within education and education is not at the forefront of policy development.  Whilst the current educational landscape demands clear lines of accountability, it is perhaps appropriate that policy makers should now consider how the power of language can impact on the professional identity of those who are directly affected by their publication.

My research is concerned with the language of policy in England – specifically the language of the Teachers’ Standards, 2012 and the revised Head Teachers’ Standards, 2015.  At the time of planning my research I had also intended to explore the language of the standards for Teaching Assistants, following the call for evidence in October 2014, which led to the development of a focus group who later agreed a set of standards. 

However the General Election of May 2015 delayed their release and in late 2015 Education Secretary Nicky Morgan advised that there are now no plans for their release in the future, with Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, stating: “the government believes that schools are best placed to decide how they use and deploy teaching assistants, and to set standards for the teaching assistants they employ…The secretary of state has therefore decided not to publish the draft standards.”  A leaked copy of the draft publication of the Standards for Teaching Assistants has been circulated through the internet and is now readily available.

My research therefore aims to compare the language of policy for teachers, Head Teachers and support staff utilising the Teachers’ Standards 2007 and 2012, the Head Teachers’ Standards 2004 and 2015 and the TA Standards taken from the 2007 draft Occupational Standards compared with the draft TA Standards 2015.

Although the research questions may evolve further over time, my main research questions are around the following:

  • Through the Standards, is professionalism depicted as something you ‘do’ or something you ‘are’?
  • Are there varying levels of professionalism depending on whether you are a Head teacher, teacher or Teaching Assistant?
  • Is there evidence of synchronicity across all three sets of standards which unite each area of the profession?
  • Does the focus on professionalising the profession through standards implemented by government reform simply serve to de-professionalise and deconstruct the conceptualisation of what it is to be a professional in education?


Supervisory Team

Professor Vivienne Baumfield

Dr Karen Walshe

Wider Research Interests

Factors which affect educational underachievement including: labelling; self-efficacy and mindset; celebrity culture amongst middle-ability girls.