Shifting Codes: Education or Regulation? Trainee Teachers and the Code of Conduct and Practice in England

Nov. 10, 2012

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 35, No. 4, November 2012, 449–462

(Reviewed by the Portal Team) 

In 2009, the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) introduced a revised Code of Conduct and Practice (2009) for registered teachers.
The code also applies to all trainee teachers who are provisionally registered with the GTCE and who could be liable to a charge of misconduct during their periods of teaching practice.
This article examines how trainee teachers aligned themselves with the GTCE Code of Conduct and Practice.

The authors used Q-methodology, developed by Stephenson (1953), to identify trainees’ underlying subjectivity in relation to statements from the code.
Using Q-method forces the participants to sort the 39 statements relative to each other reflecting their subjective dimension, as they have to align each statement into a predetermined quasi-normal distribution along an affective continuum from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’.
The participants were 250 trainees from three individual tutor groups.


The findings revealed that trainees represented a highly homogenous group who were able to prioritise undifferentiated transgressions in very similar ways.
However, the trainees have been through a rigorous university and self-selection filtering process en route to their arrival in initial teacher training.
Therefore whilst the intentions of the GTCE are worthy, their aims are often nullified by the greater prominence of the disciplinary action that they undertake.

This research has shown that within the sample of this enquiry those entering teacher training generally represent a homogenous group whose ethical values and underlying subjectivity are consistent with both the profession and GTCE.
Trainees in the early stages of their training already recognise, prioritise and align themselves with those ethical issues that one would expect both the GTCE and profession to prioritise.

In particular, the lack of reference and concessions to the shifting identity of the profession and trainee teachers’ emerging status within the Code of Conduct and Practice could be significantly enhanced through recognition and promotion of teachers’ professional values in relation to their emerging pedagogies and understanding.

Within the context described, anyone training as a teacher in England also has to meet a set of 33 professional ‘standards’ outlined by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (2007) which defines, prioritises and atomises the characteristics of a teacher that have to be achieved and evidenced before being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Such an approach offers a cautionary tale to those developing professional codes of practice as the isolated nature of a ‘Code of Conduct’ lacking embodiment through an emphasis upon pupil learning within a context of shaping professional constructs is prone to failure.
Indeed a critical role of organisations promoting national codes of practice in teaching has to be the upholding and brokering of autonomous pedagogical understanding whilst clarifying the responsibilities of trainees in relation to their emerging professional identity and beyond their ethical values which trainee teachers’ in the sample were suitably aligned.

Clarification of trainee teachers’ broader responsibility to the child in terms of learning and wellbeing and subsequent accountability through the Code of Conduct and Practice would appear to provide an opportunity to re-orientate the focus back to the original rationale identified by The Teaching and Higher Education Act for the GTCE.

Stephenson, W. 1953. The study of behaviour: Q-technique and its methodology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
General Teaching Council for England (GTCE). 2009. Code of conduct and practice for registered teachers.

Updated: Dec. 22, 2014