As alluded to in the previous section, professionalism and what it is that technically constitutes a ‘profession’ as opposed to merely an occupation, and what it means to be ‘professional’ has long been in debate. Millerson (1964) compiled a list of characteristics that members of a ‘profession’ should have – these included skills based on theoretical knowledge, education and training, a code of professional conduct and a powerful professional organisation. On this basis, Avis (2006) contends that teachers have never been professionals, merely paid workers. He compares teaching with the professions of medicine and dentistry, who he says can claim autonomy within their profession, have their own professional bodies and are bound by their own rules. Although it has been said that autonomy has traditionally been a key feature of professionalism (Dennison and Shenton, 1990), Elliott (1996) suggests that degrees of autonomy and status of other professions, such as doctors, cannot usefully be compared.
Education is Government influenced rather than wholly autonomous, although there was a period after the Second World War when Le Grand (1997) suggests that there was de facto autonomy (Whitty, 2005), which suggests that teachers had an assumed professional status that was unchallenged. It could be argued though that up until the economic crisis of the 1970’s it suited the Government to adopt a laissez-faire attitude to teaching and allow teachers a form of licensed professionalism (Dale, 1989). If teaching does not possess the core features that technically qualify it to be called a ‘profession’, this raises the question of what it is that affords teachers an assumed status? Hanlon (1998) argues though that “professionalism is a shifting rather than a concrete phenomenon” (1998, p45) and states that teaching is one
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