Irena Barker explains
QUESTION: when is a PGCE not a Postgraduate Certificate of Education? Answer: when it is a Professional Graduate Certificate of Education.
Changes to the rules mean that from September, trainee teachers will have to carry out masters level academic work during their PGCE year to qualify for the postgraduate certificate.
For students on less academic PGCE courses, the letter P will merely stand for Professional. The name change has sparked fears that the more practical courses have been demoted and could lead to a two-tier teaching profession.
Trainees applying for courses this year have been thrown into confusion too. Will they now have to study at masters level to stand a chance in the job market?
Training institutions with traditional hands-on courses are hurrying to create masters level programmes to attract students seeking the postgraduate gold standard. Many universities and colleges say they support the change. But some experts believe it will lead to classroom craft being devalued and an over-emphasis on academe.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, which led the change, said there had always been differences in the emphasis of courses and re-labelling will reduce confusion. A survey by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers found that 18 per cent of institutions were planning to offer PGCEs at masters level only and 77 per cent were planning to offer both levels. Five per cent planned to offer just the professional level.
Bishop Grosseteste college, near Lincoln, will be offering both masters and professional courses. Students will pick a course when they apply but will be able to switch if they wish.
Dr Ian Fisher, vice principal for academic affairs, said: "Some students may want to undertake the work at masters level and eventually take the full masters degree as part of their professional development. Equally, there are students who just want the professional qualification and to get in front of a class." Liverpool John Moores university has offered a masters level course since September 2005, pre-empting the change.
It will not offer the professional certificate, but trainees who fail to make the masters grade yet pass their classroom practice will be awarded qualified teacher status.
The change has dismayed some educationalists.
One professor of education, who taught a PGCE course for five years, said masters level was "anathema to what PGCE should be about" He said: "For years, governments have been telling us teacher training needed to be a hands-on school business, and the next thing we discover, it has to be an academic discipline.
"This may devalue the craft of the classroom and privilege academic rigour and preoccupations."
He said he felt sorry for students juggling classroom practice with higher level academic work that may not be appropriate at such an early stage in their careers.
The TES spoke to several headteachers who admitted they were unaware of the changes to courses.
Marsha Elms, head at Kendrick school in Reading, said: "You can have the most brilliant mind in the world but that doesn't mean you are going to be a good teacher."
ROUTES INTO TEACHING
Postgraduate Certificate of Education Graduates on these courses will need to do sophisticated, masters level academic work teamed with classroom practice. They will clock up points that could contribute to a full masters degree later in their career.
Professional Graduate Certificate of Education Honours degree level academic work with classroom practice.
OTHER WAYS IN
Bachelor of Education or BA and BSc with qualified teacher status Undergraduate qualifications
School Centred Initial Teacher Training Unpaid on the job training Graduate teacher programme Paid on the job training
Teach First Two year paid school placements for high-flying graduates with brief training
Registered teacher programme For non-graduates with some higher education experience Qualified teacher status For graduates with teaching experience