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Masterminding a degree plan for teachers

A Masters Degree which all new teachers will have to take should recognise their classroom skills rather than essay-writing, say universities.

The Government announced in its Children's Plan last week that it wants to turn teaching into a "masters-level profession".

It said it hoped to work with teachers' unions and employers to create a new qualification within three years, which would be based on recently-introduced performance management measures for teachers.

Academics questioned by The TES agreed with the principle of teachers studying to this level, which will bring teachers in England in line with those in Finland.

Chris Philpott, head of secondary education at Greenwich University, said universities needed to develop a qualification which did not depend entirely on academic assignments. "We want our teachers to show they are analytical and reflective. They could demonstrate this through designing a new curriculum rather than writing an essay," he said.

"We need a qualification that recognises masterly performance as a teacher rather than the ability to write a 20,000 word dissertation."

Neil Simco, head of education at the University of Cumbria, said that existing masters degrees were not suitable for everyone. "There is a difference between something that is desk-based and something focused on the practitioner," he said. "At first sight some teachers might find the whole idea of a masters demanding or frightening."

Dave Bullock, assistant head at Lea Valley High School in Enfield, North London, is planning to study for a masters at Middlesex University to help him deal with the demands of management.

However, he said that a masters degree was more suitable for experienced teachers than those learning how to do the job. "It might scare people off teaching," he said.

James Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said trainee teachers were already working at masters level on their PGCE courses, and were credited with points which counted towards a masters degree. "Things are going to be challenging and stretching for teachers, but it's about them raising their game," he said.

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