Confusion reigns over charter scheme

12th December 2008 at 00:00

Teachers are positive about the chartered teacher scheme, but only by "a small margin". The majority are reluctant to take part in it.

Despite figures suggesting that a chartered teacher could make over Pounds 100,000 more than if they had stayed a maingrade teacher, research reveals "considerable concerns" about cost, workload and the programme's "fundamental philosophy".

Nonetheless, more than 1,000 teachers (1,182) from 20 local authorities who took part in an online survey felt that the scheme was showing initial signs of success. Those who had direct experience of the work of a chartered teacher were especially positive about it.

Teachers also felt that chartered teacher status would improve pupil attainment, and that those undertaking the qualification would be more likely to gain promotion.

However, older male teachers in particular remained to be convinced of the initial success of the programme, and principal teachers were "pretty negative" about the ability of chartered teachers to improve learning and teaching.

"This might be because principal teachers feel chartered teachers are replacing them as the curricular experts in departments," said Joseph McGeer, a teaching fellow at the University of the West of Scotland, who carried out the research and presented his findings at the Scottish Educational Research Association's annual conference in Perth.

Most teachers, meanwhile, reported that they did not know much about the scheme. Even younger teachers were hazy on the detail: just 28 per cent of those aged under 44 said they had good knowledge of the chartered teacher arrangements. And most of those eligible - more than two-thirds - said they would not embark on the programme.

Bucking the trend were additional support needs (ASN) teachers and younger teachers. Some 58 per cent of ASN teachers and 56 per cent of teachers aged 25 to 34 said they planned to apply for the scheme.

Mr McGeer, a former education official in Argyll and Bute, suggested that the apparent enthusiasm among ASN teachers was due to further study being more common in the sector.

In contrast, teachers who were more critical wanted: classroom observation to be part of the assessment process; regular reappraisals for chartered teachers to retain their salary and status; and quality of teaching in the classroom to be the critical measure of success.

Mr McGeer said teachers clearly wanted to make entry to the scheme and assessment of it "more stringent" - a view that, surprisingly, echoes the stance of headteachers and directors of education.

He felt the teachers' response was unusual, given that it would limit the number of people able to obtain chartered teacher status.

He also felt teachers had responded in this way because confusion reigned about the purpose of the scheme. Its stated aim - when it was proposed in the McCrone report - was to reward excellence yet, he observed, this was something the present scheme failed to assess.

He concluded that "a very clear statement" about the philosophy behind the scheme was needed.

Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, has already endorsed the view that the rules governing the scheme need to be tightened.

She wants chartered teachers to put their enhanced professionalism at the disposal of their school, and not just regard themselves as a group who have gained individual benefit from their new status.

She has asked the General Teaching Council for Scotland to reinforce the guidance on eligibility for the scheme, including "robust, validated evidence of effective classroom practice" and "senior colleague endorsement of their suitability".

She has also asked the inspectorate to undertake a review of the impact of chartered teachers.


Those less enamoured of the chartered teacher programme highlighted cost and workload as barriers to taking part.

But Joseph McGeer, of the University of the West of Scotland, has produced figures that suggest chartered teachers would be far from out of pocket.

A 40-year-old teacher who took six years to complete the programme, worked until 65 and lived until 80 would have an initial outlay of Pounds 7,200, but would earn Pounds 125,000 more over his or her lifetime, he calculated.

Nevertheless, teachers are calling for assistance with the cost of courses.

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