Chartered teachers with a twist

Welsh pilot version of flagship scheme has opted to include those aspiring to leadership roles

Henry Hepburn

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Wales has started its own version of Scotland's flagship scheme for teachers who want to stay in the classroom - but has turned it into a leadership programme.

This approach to chartered teacher status contrasts with that in Scotland, where it aimed to reward experienced teachers by paying them more to stay in the classroom rather than become managers.

But the General Teaching Council for Wales believes those aiming for headships should not be excluded, and that the difference between classroom teachers and school leaders is too blurred to create a programme for the former alone.

Hayden Llewellyn, deputy chief executive of GTC Wales, told The TESS that the decision was taken after consultation revealed many classroom teachers, particularly in smaller primaries, also took on leadership roles.

"We see the chartered teacher programme being for people in both groups," Mr Llewellyn said. But there would be no compulsion for aspiring heads to sign up to the programme, which is now only at the trial stage in Wales.

GTC Wales has also made a fundamental break with the Scottish model by deciding that Welsh teachers would not have to pay for their training. Recent research by the University of the West of Scotland showed that many teachers were put off the Scottish scheme by high costs, even though they would be likely to earn considerably more over the course of their careers.

But, while training would be funded, chartered teachers in Wales would not go on to earn higher salaries. The Scottish programme has been criticised by some for increasing teachers' salaries by thousands of pounds without any clear benefits for learning and teaching, and Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has ordered HMIE to evaluate that impact.

"The main objective was to offer a national, quality-assured, fully-funded CPD programme, wherever you live and whatever you teach," said Mr Llewellyn.

The Welsh pilot programme has already proved popular. The 140 places available - open to primary, secondary and special needs teachers - have been oversubscribed.

"One of the things that's worked particularly well is the cross-phase working," Mr Llewellyn said. "Primary, secondary and special needs teachers are working well together - that's been very well received."

He also welcomed the development of "learning communities" in which "groups of people all share their practice, using a number of intervention measures in the classroom and improving together".

Despite its differences from the Scottish model, Mr Llewellyn said Scotland had led the way and its scheme was admired internationally.

Tony Finn, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, sees the Welsh decision to incorporate a leadership dimension into its programme as a sensible one. Leadership was not the domain of any one group of staff, and "chartered teachers are already very effective leaders of discussions on curriculum, learning and teaching", Mr Finn said.

He added that, while leadership had often been discussed in Scotland in recent years, "we do not yet have any real coherence in provision".

Mr Finn said it was a good time to reassess teachers' needs as they moved through their careers, and to consider new programmes of continuing professional development.

"One element of this may be a new standard or programme for leadership in Scotland, and chartered teachers would certainly have a role to play in this development," he said.

Any move to follow the Welsh example is likely to meet stern opposition, however, as teaching unions consider the explicit development of classroom practitioners through the chartered teacher programme is a crucial part of the 2001 teachers' agreement.

Independent evaluation of the Welsh pilot is expected to be published in August, with 2010 targeted for introducing the programme throughout Wales.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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