A whole new direction

6th October 2006 at 01:00
Elizabeth Buie reports on a seminar on accrediting chartered teachers and what it will mean for future classroom practice

The chartered teacher programme is going to be used increasingly as a route into leadership, the head of the General Teaching Council for Scotland has predicted.

This would fly in the face of the clear intention in the teachers'

agreement that chartered teachers should be about accrediting the most accomplished teachers and keeping them in the classroom.

A seminar hosted by the GTC last week, which was attended by Terry Dozier, a prominent international speaker on teacher leadership, stirred up a hornet's nest of questions about the future of the chartered teacher programme, as evidence emerged that some of the most successful teachers have already left the classroom.

Matthew MacIver, chief executive of the GTC, pointed out that the auditor general's report on the teachers' agreement had shown that 74 per cent of new teachers who had entered the profession through the new induction arrangements all viewed the CT programme as a natural career progression into leadership.

That raised basic questions about how the programme should develop after it is reviewed in 2008, he said.

Mr MacIver went so far as to suggest that the university route to becoming a chartered teacher might be dropped. "If we are really true to the philosophy of the chartered teacher programme, is there any logic or rationale in going through the university system?" he asked.

"If being a chartered teacher is really about classroom practice, should the only route be the professional route?"

Mr MacIver said he was encouraged by the numbers of teachers who have completed the accredited prior learning route - more than 300 to date, out of 3,200 who were at various stages on the programme.

Dr Dozier, who was a senior adviser on education to the Clinton administration and in 1985 was named the United States Teacher of the Year, is now the director of the Centre for Teacher Leadership in Virginia. She was amazed that the Scottish Executive promoted the CT programme. The equivalent initiative in the US, the national board certification scheme, was funded privately.

Initially, she had been concerned that the Masters route might mean a teacher could achieve chartered status simply by putting in enough time without necessarily being accomplished in the classroom. However, she had been reassured by the requirement from university programmes that aspiring chartered teachers must provide evidence on the collaborative aspect of their work.

Despite conflicting research in the US, Dr Dozier said she was convinced that chartered teacher-style programmes did make a real difference to pupils' learning. But, in education circles in America, they too were struggling with the question of whether enhanced practitioners should stay in the classroom or use their higher status as a route to leadership.

Each of the three chartered teachers who were present at the seminar had moved on from their old jobs (see panel). One had gone into academic research, another into a more specialised role, and the third into a support role for probationers.

But Margaret Alcorn, continuing professional development co-ordinator for Scotland, questioned whether it really mattered whether they stayed in the classroom. "It's about building capacity," she said. "If we have a system where leaders are excellent teachers as well as being excellent leaders, then that can only strengthen leadership. There could be a need to make that route to leadership more explicit."

Representatives from university-based CT programmes defended the benefits of that route. Gill Robinson, from Edinburgh University, said universities could show teachers how to use evaluation techniques in evidence-related practice, which could help create a community of like-minded teachers who were then able to be more reflective and questioning in their practice.

Morag Redford, from Stirling University, described how a number of chartered teachers on her programme had moved into new roles in senior management teams, as well as in learning and teaching. She also argued that the research skills taught through the university route gave teachers greater confidence in the classroom.


Ann Fisher, network support team, West Dunbartonshire

A primary teacher originally, Ann Fisher took a career break of 13 years to have a family before returning as a supply teacher in 1995, and then moved into network support for children with additional support needs.

"When I went into network support, I didn't know anything about additional needs, so I started doing the diploma in support for learning and just loved it. Then I did an MSc, and the chartered teacher programme felt like a natural progression."

She gained CT status at Easter in 2005 through the accredited prior learning (APL) route .

Since becoming a chartered teacher, Ms Fisher's role within the network has become more specialist, supporting able pupils in response to the new ASL Act. She has become an Educational Institute of Scotland learning representative for West Dunbartonshire and a chartered teacher adviser.

Later this year, she is going to the United States on a study trip to learn more about able pupils and philosophy for children. She still supports pupils two days a week.

David Thomson, support co-ordinator for probationers on the induction scheme in Renfrewshire

David Thomson started the CT programme while a technical education teacher at Johnstone High. He'd voted against the "McCrone Agreement" but, having read an article on high-quality CPD modules, he felt that "rather than being a disgruntled colleague", he should "embrace it and get on board".

His main focus in his first CT module was on equality and fairness in school, for which he interviewed parents and pupils on their perceptions.

His headteacher used his findings to reshape the school development plan.

Mr Thomson had been a CT for only eight days when he was appointed to his current job. "I had quite a big input into the probationers' first day. I had to reinforce their professional values and talk in some depth about modern and current teaching practice and how they would use this in the first few weeks," he said.

"I know some colleagues feel that CTs should be firmly based in the classroom, but if you have some expertise, why not use it to support newly qualified teachers?"

Annie McSeveney, a chartered teacher adviser and GTC assessor

A teacher at Braidwood Primary, South Lanarkshire, until June this year when she reached 60, Annie McSeveney was one of the first wave of chartered teachers to go through the APL route.

She did a Masters degree at the same time, and has embarked on a doctorate, researching children's talk in creative story-telling. She will also be working part-time for the General Teaching Council on enhancing its website content for chartered teachers - while doing occasional supply work.

Ms McSeveney believes chartered teachers will take on more and more leadership roles, although not necessarily in management. One of the greatest assets of being a chartered teacher, she says, is the career flexibility it offers.

If a CT moves out of teaching for a few years and then returns, he or she is still a chartered teacher and entitled to be paid as such. A principal teacher who leaves is not guaranteed that he or she can return to the same position, she points out.

ScotlandPlus, page 6

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