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Prove you're the tops

A chance for promotion that keeps you in your school

Maybe you thought ET was that cute pointy-fingered creature in the Steven Spielberg film, but a different sort of ET is coming into schools: the new grade of staff with excellent teacher status. The first such posts start in September.

No one knows how popular the scheme will prove but many people are very excited about the opportunity it offers to reward experienced teachers.

Campion school in Northampton has reorganised its staffing structure so that each of its 10 faculties has either an advanced skills teacher (AST), an excellent or a lead teacher to share good practice, coach others and mentor new and trainee teachers.

Jackie Beere, the headteacher, sees the new status as a great opportunity for her many experienced teachers who are already on the upper pay scale 3.

"I want to raise the status of these very experienced teachers and offer them an opportunity to progress," she says. As one of the first ASTs herself, she knows how invigorating focusing on teaching and learning is.

What will excellent teachers have to do? As well as being classroom teachers, they'll be responsible for the induction of newly qualified teachers, they will mentor colleagues, give demonstration lessons, help others with planning, preparation, and assessment, and help staff evaluate the impact of their teaching on pupils. They will do some classroom observations and generally help other staff.

So what's the difference between ETs and ASTs? The main one is that excellent teachers won't have to do the one-day per week outreach in other schools; their mentoring and staff development stay within their own school. It will do away with the inconvenience of covering for staff on outreach work and mean the school has its star teacher all to itself.

ETs are externally assessed in a similar way to advanced skills teachers: very rigorously. Applications have to be supported by your head. You have to describe how you've developed yourself professionally and show that you've provided regular coaching and mentoring. You must also write some "searching analysis" you've done tackling the needs of a particular group of pupils, and which has had a positive impact beyond the pupils you teach.

Then you have to write about how you meet the six standards, which are the same as the AST ones for now: that your teaching improves pupils'

results, that you have good subject knowledge, your planning is thorough, you have good classroom control, you understand assessment and evaluation thoroughly, and you are able to advise and support other teachers. Phew!

All applicants have half a day's assessment, organised by Westminster education consultants. Be warned: the turn-around time between the application form being received and the assessment day is quick: just three weeks. Lots of assessors have just completed the two-day training so they will be champing at the bit.

Applicants have to demonstrate excellence against all six standards on the day, so you need to make sure everything is ready. The assessment takes three and a quarter hours and is like an individualised inspection. It includes one lesson observation, analysis of evidence and interviews with the headteacher and the candidate, but not colleagues, pupils or parents.

It's not as long as the AST assessment, which takes a full day.

Documentary evidence is important but in the short time available you need to select the best examples for each of the standards, in a form that is succinct and easily accessible to the assessor. Many people offer graphs and tables that someone has said show that their pupils have achieved well - but remember to annotate and explain them to the assessor.

You choose the lesson that the assessor watches, so make sure you demonstrate flair and creativity in it. Having just one chance to prove yourself is nerve-racking. Secondary teachers might feel tempted to choose the best-behaved and highest-attaining classes, but those aren't always the ones that allow you to show off the most exciting teaching and learning.

Show how well you handle pupils' questions and answers and work with their ideas and misconceptions; if that means deviating from your plan, so be it.

Don't worry if things go wrong; it's another opportunity for you to demonstrate how super you are. When I was assessing in a special school, a 17-year-old threw a pair of scissors across the room, narrowly missing the heads of other students. The teacher calmly caught them with one hand without interrupting the flow of her teaching - amply demonstrating her excellence!

* People can apply for ETassessment now: the forms and guidance were put on the Teachernet website on April 3: Sara Bubb is an external assessor of excellent teachers. Her 'Helping Teachers Develop', pound;15.99, is published by SagePaul Chapman. See (

Excellent Teachers: what you get paid

You can can apply to be an advanced skills teacher at any stage of your career, but only people who have been on upper pay scale three (UP3) for two years by the time they start the post can apply for excellent teacher status. Your school must have such a post available.

Another difference is pay. ASTs have a separate pay scale that goes from Pounds 31,491 to pound;50,238 (or pound;37,782 to pound;56,526 in inner London). Excellent teacher salaries will be decided after the next School Teachers' Review Body report later this year, but existing guidance says that it should be a spot salary (that is, not a pay range or scale) of about pound;35,874 - pound;42,789 in inner London.

That isn't a great hike for most people on upper pay scale 3 (pound;32,628 - pound;38,916) when you consider that ETs have to relinquish any teaching and learning responsibility payments.

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