Chance to peer across the horizon
The evaluation of the first four modules in the chartered teacher programme provides some good cheer for its developers. Almost half of the 133 who took part in the pilot were aged 40-49 and 75 per cent were classroom teachers. So, at this stage at least, there is evidence that chartered teacher status is appealing to those for whom it was intended.
The evaluation, carried out by Euan McKay of the Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University, found there were four main reasons behind taking part:
* a preference to stay in the classroom;
* the need to keep apace of new developments;
* a wish to be recognised for the work they were doing;
* curiosity about the chartered teacher programme.
As one teacher put it: "I've been teaching in the same school for 27 years. It's time I did something." Another said: "I didn't want to be a principal teacher." And another commented: "I've had a go at being an acting principal teacher and I don't want to have to deal with the discipline matters of why someone's forgotten their PE kit for the third time."
There are likely to be as many reasons for embarking on the programme as there are participants. "My husband died early so I want to increase my pension" was one of the franker admissions. Another teacher also had financial concerns, saying: "My husband will have to stop working soon."
However, despite the lure of a pound;35,000 salary for the fully fledged charterist, financial reward did not seem a priority in the teachers' list of reasons for embarking on the programme.
The modules covered teachers' professional development, learning and teaching, education for all, which centres on an understanding of pupil diversity and working together which is about building positive relationships in and out of school. They were well received by the pilot participants, who thought they were interesting, stimulating, thought-provoking and enjoyable.
"For many of the module participants, the assignment was a source of great anxiety, says the evaluation report. There was much variety in their experiences of preparing an academic piece of work. Indeed, for a number of participants it had been a long time since they were last asked to undertake such an exercise."
The anxiety seemed to be greatest among those who had taken module one, which was concerned with professional development planning. This requires teachers to "review their experience and use the review as the basis for planning and setting targets". These personal action plans were "unlike a conventional piece of academic work or anything they had been asked to do previously", the report says.
There are uncanny parallels in the performance of teachers on this module and the performance difference between boys and girls and primary and secondary pupils. More women (77 per cent) than men (57 per cent) completed a successful assignment, and attainment among primary teachers was higher than that of their secondary counterparts, with 86 per cent and 57 per cent respectively submitting a successful assignment.
Mr McKay says, with little hint of irony, that the problems of men and of the secondary sector need to be taken into account in the development of the modules.
The providers of modules are likely to run into trouble trying to satisfy the different personal requirements of teachers, according to the report.
"While some module one and module two participants indicated that they found Wednesday evening classes hard going after a day of teaching, others did not like having to give up their Saturdays, which they view as being for spending time with their families," it says.
One solution may lie in the arrangements for the fourth module, which is about building positive relationships. To do it, teachers gave up the first week of their summer holidays. "It was refreshing to be a learner without having to consider the next day in school," one teacher said.
The use of distance learning for the modules got a mixed reception. While it was the practical option for those in rural areas and it helped teachers fit their course around home and school commitments, others pointed to the isolation and the pressures it imposed on self-discipline.
Mr McKay suggested there should be more than one workshop day for each module to counter these difficulties.
One unexpected response arose when modules were delivered by local authorities. Dumfries and Galloway education staff took some of the modules. Although those taking part were impressed by the quality of the tutoring from "real teachers", participants on module three were unanimous that the courses should be delivered through a university. There was a perception that "views expressed by the participants in front of local authority staff might have implications for their prospects of promotion within the authority". This was unforeseen as the chartered teacher programme is intended to appeal to teachers who are not particularly interested in promotion.
The potential of each module may well go beyond the confines of the programme, if the evaluation is any guide. One participant praised the "excellent opportunity to talk to others from the primary sector and expand horizons, a rarity for classroom teachers but so valuable".
Some problems were of the most basic kind, such as difficulty in accessing books for those not living near an academic library.
None the less, all the teachers on module one agreed that it was a useful preparation for the CT programme and that they would encourage other teachers to enrol.