Teacher education and continuing professional development have become key areas of controversy in England since the period of school-sector restructuring following the 1988 Education Reform Act. More recently, teacher training and professional development have often been used to promote and reinforce a narrow focus on the government’s ‘standards agenda’. However, the emerging dis- course of ‘new professionalism’ has raised the profile of professional development in schools, and, together with union learning representatives, there are opportunities to secure real improvements in teachers’ access to continuing professional development. This article argues, however, that union learning representatives must go beyond advocating for better access to professional development and should raise more fundamental questions about the nature of professional development and the education system it serves. Drawing on Gramsci’s notion of the ‘organic intellectual’, the article ar- gues that union learning representatives have a key role as organisers of ideas—creating spaces in which the ideological dominance of current policy orthodoxy might be challenged.
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