Chartered status trials hailed a success by staff
Wales's pioneering chartered teacher scheme has been given a provisional thumbs-up by teachers and experts as the first pilots come to a close.
The scheme was established three years ago by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) to recognise the skills of experienced classroom teachers.
Participants have been working towards professional status through either a taught or accredited route.
Eight teachers took part in the accreditation pilot, during which they built up a portfolio of teaching achievements. All received grants from the Assembly government to cover the cost of training.
Each participant had to fulfil 28 criteria covering three main areas: professional knowledge and understanding; professional skills in practice; and professional commitment.
Ann Mears, a Year 3 teacher and curriculum manager at Pembroke Dock Community School in Pembrokeshire, volunteered to take part because she thought it would help her career prospects.
"I had been teaching for nine years and I thought at that stage it would be good for my personal development," she said. "It accredited the skills I already had."
The work had to be slotted in around home and school commitments, but Ms Mears believes it was worthwhile.
"I like the way we had a mentor and he was there to guide us," she said. "I met teachers from around the country who had similar experiences to me, but had gone about it in a different way. It gave me a chance to reflect on what I'd done, which otherwise I would not have had an opportunity to do."
Ms Mears said she hopes the scheme will improve the way the public views the teaching profession, but she does not yet know if her hard work will be accredited.
The scheme is being independently evaluated and may be altered before gaining official recognition.
Ken Jones, dean of humanities at Swansea Metropolitan University, who was involved in developing the accreditation route, said the pilot had been revealing and worthwhile.
"It was a pleasure to work with teachers who were able to reflect critically on things that they do automatically in the classroom or as team leaders," he said.
But funding is a concern, he said. "The distribution of access to continuing professional development across Wales is already an issue. If this is to become a national scheme, it is important that all eligible teachers in Wales have an opportunity to gain chartered teacher status, regardless of where they live or teach," he said.
He also emphasised it was important that chartered teachers were not seen as having an "elite" status.
"A good head will recognise ability and provide opportunities for individuals to take on leadership roles where they can pass on their expertise to others," he said.
"Teachers will be encouraged to gain experience of other schools and other classrooms, and to reflect on their own experiences as a result of this. They could be used strategically in an advisory capacity once chartered status is achieved."
Meanwhile, pilots for the taught route are continuing. The GTCW has paid thousands of pounds to universities, including UWIC and Trinity College Carmarthen, to run modules. Teachers interested in taking part should contact the GTCW.