Dive in and join the chartered teachers

19th November 2004 at 00:00
Fears of a formidable workload and a heavy financial burden are misplaced, says Annie McSeveney.

The first chartered teachers have succeeded in navigating their way through the accreditation for prior learning route overseen by the General Teaching Council for Scotland. This involves producing evidence of learning but, more importantly, evidence of the impact of that learning on current practice.

Candidates submit a portfolio of evidence and they also have to submit a 10,000-word reflective report to explain the impact of their learning on day-to-day teaching.

Sounds formidable? Yes, it did seem that way when we started, particularly when no one was very sure how the system would work. But now we know it can be done. Granted, there was a lot of work involved in preparing the submission, but the experience was extremely positive, because it involved systematic reflection on our work.

Those who are currently involved in preparing submissions know that ordinary teachers have already been successful. Advisers appointed by the GTC now have a better knowledge of the requirements of assessors. It can only get easier.

So why is the GTC not swamped with applications for the accreditation route? There are a lot of experienced teachers out there who could show that they meet the standard. Hopefully, many of them will have read through the chartered teacher competences and thought, "That's me - I do that", or "I am that sort of person".

The type of writing required for the submission may deter some. The GTC makes it clear that it should be written in the style of postgraduate academic writing. However, many experienced teachers have at some time in their careers completed a postgraduate level course. Many have been involved in writing policies and programmes of work.

Writing about experiential learning and its impact on your own practice is in many ways easier than writing a theoretical academic essay. If you regularly reflect on your practice, the material for the submission is already available to you. You may need to do some academic reading to provide the theoretical underpinning required, but what you read is your own choice. You read whatever is relevant to your own submission. No one asks you to read specific texts because they are "set".

Experienced teachers regularly read documents and reflect on what they read. They evaluate documents or in-service courses. Often the criteria against which they evaluate them are centred on: "How useful is it to my work in school?" So experienced teachers already have the skills and knowledge needed to prepare a chartered teacher submission.

So why are they not queuing up? The rewards are significant. A salary increase of more than pound;6,000 for doing the job that you know well and that you enjoy is a bonus few teachers would turn down.

The 15-point chartered teacher modules cost approximately pound;600 each.

That puts the potential total cost of the modular route at pound;7,200.

However, once two modules are completed the teacher is placed on point 1 of the chartered teacher salary scale, currently an increase of pound;918 a year. The cost of the two modules will be recouped in a year and a half.

The GTC accreditation for prior learning route costs pound;1,200, plus approximately pound;600 for module 1. Once successfully completed, there is an immediate salary increase of pound;6,678 a year. It is possible to take as long as five years over this route, but all of the existing chartered teachers have completed it in about a year.

There are many good reasons for arguing that the costs of chartered teacher modules and accreditation are far too high. Reduction of these costs would be in the interests of social justice (candidates for the Scottish Qualification for Headship are normally funded in their studies); gender equality (female teachers are over-represented among chartered teacher candidates, under-represented among promoted post holders); and improvement in the education system (investment in continuing professional development for classroom teachers should bring about improvements in teaching and learning).

However, it is less reasonable to argue that teachers will be deterred from undertaking chartered teacher CPD because of the costs. A teacher with at least 18 months until retirement could go for the accreditation of prior learning route, borrowing the money to do so. She or he will recoup the costs and also benefit from an increased pension.

It would be great to bring down the costs, but this has to be a long-term aim. In the meantime, why not take up this opportunity for our experience as classroom teachers to be recognised and valued? The award exists for all experienced classroom teachers who reflect on their teaching and work to improve it. Why not go for it?

Annie McSeveney teaches at Braidwood primary in Carluke, South Lanarkshire.

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