The other day I was telling a friend about an EWC event I was attending. Being an Englishman he looked quite puzzled and then, knowing my rather eccentric interests, asked: ‘An ‘ewc’ - is that some kind of Welsh dog?’
That got me thinking. If we were to compare the EWC to a dog, what kind of dog would it be? How would we describe it in canine terms? What kind of characteristics should it exhibit? Now I think that some would want the EWC to be a kind of Alsatian. It should be a guard dog, constantly on the alert to protect the public, and dedicated to rooting out bad teachers and staff in schools and colleges. Others might wish that the EWC was a Rottweiler working on behalf of the profession, savaging any who dare come near it or criticise it any way. Yet others might dismiss the EWC as nothing more than a poodle of the Welsh Government, happy to sit on the Minister’s lap and do tricks as commanded.
Now there is some truth in all of these. One of the core purposes of the EWC is to maintain standards, another is to promote the profession, and from time to time it is asked to perform certain tasks on behalf of the Welsh Government. But as the EWC grows from being a puppy to being a fully fledged adult dog it should not be restrained by these core aims.
Perhaps a better question would be to ask what kind of dog the EWC should be. There are several options we could consider. On some occasions it needs to be a sheepdog, keeping teachers and staff together within the field of professional standards and conduct. There is a communal aspect to any profession after all. For those who do stray it needs to be Golden Retriever bringing them back into the pack. On other occasions it will need to be like a Jack Russell, a terrier prepared to root out the truth about issues that concern the profession such as recruitment and retention. It did an excellent job of this recently by the way, when it showed that we should neither panic nor be complacent in this regard.
Now and again it might need to be a Chihuahua and keep on barking at entities far bigger than itself, such as government and parents, to call attention to issues that need rectifying. And if barking is not enough then like a Doberman there may be rare occasions on which it will need to bare its teeth in defence of all that is good in education.
It has hard work to do on occasions and so it will need to be something of a husky pulling the sledge of the profession through difficult places. It must never be seen as a lone wolf, but like a fox hound it needs to be a team player with other agencies in the world of education and young people. In these times of austerity it certainly needs to be a greyhound, slick and swift and without an inch of fat around it.
Given what its members do it should certainly be something of a Labrador, good around children and not easily upset or disturbed. It cannot afford to be skitty. Its responsibilities are a heavy burden to carry so something of the Great Dane would be good in its make-up. On occasions it will need to provide some solace and, while it won’t bring its brandy in the snow, it should certainly be a like a St Bernard and give encouragement and refreshment to its members. On occasions it might need to be eye-catching like a Dalmatian, making people stare with interest.
Looking back on all this perhaps the safest thing is to say that an ‘ewc’ needs to be a combination of all of these characteristics and more. It is unique in these islands if not in the world. It is a one off organisation. In that sense it is a bit like the nation’s favourite dog: a mongrel. It has no airs and graces and no fancy pedigree. It is rather ordinary and understated. It is a mixture, hopefully of all the things described about. We might wonder exactly how it is going to grow and develop,. But we must hope that in time it becomes treasured by staff, loved by children, respected by government, and envied by other countries.
Key in all this will be the answer we will be able to give to another question: who own the EWC? In time the answer must be the profession itself. They are the ones who feed and water it. But just as it is said that there are no bad dogs simply bad owners, they must become responsible for the EWC and its behaviour.
Dr. Phil Dixon
Phil Dixon is the former Director of ATL and author of ‘Testing Times’.