'Hostility' towards chartered teachers: report

24th September 2010 at 01:00
But programme is producing confident practitioners having profound effects in the classroom

Scotland's chartered teachers are in danger of becoming prophets without honour in their own land.

Although the programme is achieving international recognition, some chartered teachers are still encountering hostility and confusion about their role in their own schools, new research shows.

Their colleagues' residual hostility is redolent of the Scottish "I-kent- your-faither" mentality, researchers suggest.

A report on the scheme, published today, reveals that chartered teachers' growing confidence and improved understanding of pupils are having profound effects in the classroom.

But, while some have the freedom to explore new ideas, others still feel frustrated at being "disregarded and misinterpreted" by colleagues.

The report by Glasgow and Stirling universities, with support from the General Teaching Council for Scotland and the Scottish Government, provides the most wide-ranging view of the programme since a paper published in 2007. The programme emerged from the 2001 teachers' agreement as a way of rewarding high-quality practitioners for staying in the classroom.

The report depicts CTs as largely assured and innovative teachers, who have experienced a "substantive alteration in their perception of what teaching is about", and are in tune with the demands of Curriculum for Excellence. It does, however, find weaknesses in some CTs' research methodology (see panel).

Nevertheless, after taking part in the programme, they pay "far more attention" to what pupils do and say. Feedback from pupils becomes "much more important" and the teachers' approaches more personalised.

Chartered teachers are "more actively seeking to know what and how their pupils are thinking". With a better understanding of pupils' previous knowledge, less time is wasted going over old ground.

Their growing confidence is changing their attitudes to classroom control, with chartered teachers increasingly likely to let pupils take the lead.

They now have "more personal, more rounded relationships (with pupils) driven by a greater interest in pupils as persons".

One chartered teacher said: "I was teaching but there was not much learning going on. Now (the pupils) analyse their own methods. They feel safer with me now, they come to classes on time - little things like that."

Chartered teachers' work is also characterised by: high levels of collaboration and engagement with colleagues; taking a strong lead in curricular innovation; and an influence that extends outside the classroom. There is evidence of impressive results in national assessment and good support of under-achieving pupils

As the confidence and numbers of chartered teachers - now totalling 1,107 - have increased, so has the programme's international renown.

Researchers involved in the report told The TESS of close interest from the USA, Australia and Chile, as well as other parts of the UK. It was also one of the main issues that international visitors tended to pick up on, GTCS researcher Ian Matheson said.

Yet although some chartered teachers "were experiencing a positive and encouraging response to their wider engagement in the school from senior managers and colleagues", others felt that chartered teacher status was "largely disregarded and misinterpreted", the report states.

Headteachers and local authorities did not "quite know how to handle" chartered teachers, who did not fit into the "traditional hierarchy" of schools, Stirling University's Jenny Reeves said. The researchers stressed, however, that there was no evidence of authorities being reluctant to fund chartered teachers' higher salaries.

Among teaching colleagues, Dr Reeves added, there is "a lot of residual hostility to the notion of having teachers recognised for excellence", or, as Dr Matheson put it, evidence of the Scottish "I-kent-your-faither" mentality.

The report finds that chartered teachers' influence varies considerably: "Some participants felt they were fully engaged in leading learning in their schools, whereas others felt there was still little scope for activism."

A Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers code of practice for chartered teachers had brought an expectation that those taking part in the scheme would discuss it with their line manager as part of professional development, stressed the GTCS's Rosa Murray. That change should improve heads' awareness of the scheme and who was participating in it.

Despite the mixed reception, the researchers said interest in the scheme was high. The age profile of chartered teachers, which once averaged in the forties, is coming down, and it is common for student teachers to ask how they can build up to that status in the minimum six to eight years it will take to reach the top of the unpromoted pay scale, after which they become eligible to apply.

The report draws on international articles exploring equivalent schemes; a selection of "major projects" by chartered teachers, focus groups and case studies.

It stresses that it is difficult to provide a definitive account of the impact made by chartered teachers, and that no data exists to show how they compare to other teachers at a similar stage in their career.

There is an international "dearth" of large-scale longitudinal studies in this area. The team behind the report is hopeful of starting a major international study running for about five years.

www.gtcs.org.uknews-eventsnews-events.aspx. The researchers paid tribute to Annie McSeveney, who died recently. She was one of two chartered teacher research fellows who contributed to the findings. An obituary appeared in `The TESS' on September 10

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk

ON THE DOWNSIDE

The report was not universally glowing about chartered teachers' performance.

- In major projects, there was little evidence in relation to pupils' growing skills - instead, there was a reliance on before-and-after tests and surveys.

- Critical reflection was "relatively weak" in some major projects.

- Data was omitted from projects if it did not fit the original question.

- Chartered teachers' enthusiasm for current policy and the constructivist theory it draws on led to the danger of "uncritical orthodoxy".

  • Orginal headline: Report uncovers colleagues' `hostility' towards chartered teachers

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