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Now Sir is a Master

David Watson on becoming a qualified success

I attended a graduation ceremony last week. Mine. Mortar board. Gown with red striped hood. The cheesey smile on my wizened face will go on the dining room wall next to the children's fresh-faced graduation photos. But my certificate will say "Master of Arts". Once again, Dad is the most qualified person in the family.

People at work send little notes of congratulation. Relations ask about the future. More money? Better job? I explain that in local government there are no automatic rewards for further qualification. And at my age, I remind them, the future - as far as work is concerned - is looking rather short.

When I started teaching, the qualification was a teacher's certificate - three years of lectures and four bursts of teaching practice. Grants were enough to get by on and a couple of O-levels were enough to make a start.

Graduate teachers were a new phenomenon. Some of my peers stayed on to do a fourth year: the BEd was in its infancy and not the common currency of the teaching profession. Soon it would be - and adverts in The TES began to ask particularly for graduates to apply. I, like many others, tried the new-fangled Open University to get a degree - not because I wanted another qualification but because employers began to demand it.

As time has gone by, this scramble for qualifications has increased. Over the years I have provided training for youth workers, adult education tutors, teachers and workers in voluntary sector organisations.

The courses I have offered have resulted in certification for participants. Slowly, I have been creating a cohort of staff who end up better qualified than I am. They have been on my courses. What training for me?

Recetly, the unit where I work part-time had an Ofsted inspection. When I was interviewed, I was asked why I hadn't attended any training courses. My response that I ran courses for organisations and was working towards an MA was greeted with surprise. There was no record of any of this activity on the official return.

Further investigation showed that the subject of my dissertation was deemed too far removed from education to warrant inclusion on the list.

I studied in my own time. I paid my own fees. Why should I be concerned about this omission? The fact of the matter is that I felt obliged to seek this added qualification.

My 30 years of working with children and adults have given me a great deal of experience. My teaching is based on good practice and the experiences of those I have worked with. But how is this recorded? How is this presented within a CV covering 30 years of work in local government and the voluntary sector?

More importantly, how is this to be validated in a work ethic that demands targets, assessment and measurement?

Many people will start to use NVQs and "portfolios" to verify their work. But for me? The idea of backtracking through several local authorities and many voluntary bodies is not to be contemplated. So the masters seemed the obvious alternative.

A recognised qualification. A step beyond the first degree. But somehow I am embarrassed by this added status. Colleagues feel the same. Few of those who hold masters degrees or doctorates use them or even acknowledge that we possess them.

But it has satisfied the need in me. My tutor asked if I would be coming back to do a PhD. I scowled at him. "With my name? You must be joking!" David Watson is a freelance education worker

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