Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews has announced details of free master's degree courses for all newly qualified teachers (NQTs) as part of his plan to drag the country up the international school league tables. The Master's in Educational Practice (MEP) programme will put Wales at the forefront of teacher development, Mr Andrews said.
The idea resurrects one of the key policies of the last Labour administration in Westminster to require all new teachers to complete a master's qualification. It was swiftly dropped after education secretary Michael Gove took office in 2010.
Mr Andrews will not make it compulsory for teachers to complete the extra study, but is urging all NQTs to take up the offer. The course will be fully funded by the Welsh government and accredited by Cardiff University.
The government says the three-year modular course is based around the "everyday experiences" encountered by teachers and will help those new to the profession to develop and apply current educational thinking to improve their own classroom practice.
Although the degree focuses on Mr Andrews' three key priorities of literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty on attainment, it also covers aspects of teaching that NQTs have said they need more support with, such as leadership, behaviour management and child development.
While it has been welcomed in principle by most educationalists, some teaching unions are concerned about workload pressures.
"This will mean extra work for teachers," said Owen Hathway, policy officer for NUT Cymru. "Being a fully fledged teacher is a difficult job anyway, but to do a master's degree at the same time will add pressure to NQTs."