Hudson: treat McCormac's advice with caution

16th December 2011 at 00:00
Academic challenges call to end chartered teacher scheme

The credibility of the McCormac review has been called into question by an independent report on the future of chartered teachers.

Dundee University professor of education Brian Hudson warns that McCormac's recommendation to end the chartered teacher scheme "should be treated with great caution", and claims that it draws on "misleading" evidence.

It is another boost to chartered teachers, following recent statements from former senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson - a member of the McCormac review team - who has urged them to make a case for the scheme's survival (TESS, 2 December).

Professor Hudson was commissioned - in a personal capacity - by the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland (ACTS) to work out a way forward for the programme.

He finds that the McCormac review of teacher employment, in its three-page section on chartered teachers, does not use all available evidence or show both sides of the argument.

He is critical of McCormac's assertion that "the widely-held view is that the existing cohort of chartered teachers does not singularly represent the best teachers in Scotland". This, writes Professor Hudson, is a "pivotal statement", but its basis is "not clear".

The agency George Street Research, which was commissioned by the McCormac committee to analyse the evidence submitted to it, found that three- quarters of respondents wanted the scheme to continue in some form, he notes.

"So it would seem to be the case that the `widely-held view' simply represents the collective opinion of the seven members of the review group, based on their interpretation of the evidence presented," Professor Hudson writes.

The recommendation to end the chartered teacher scheme "should be treated with great caution as a basis for sound policy-making", he advises.

Professor Hudson is also sceptical about one of McCormac's central arguments, that chartered teachers do not represent good value due to a lack of any formal role after qualification.

The McCormac review, he says, makes no reference to the 2009 code of practice for chartered teachers drawn up by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, and only a "fleeting reference" to the Standard for Chartered Teacher devised by the General Teaching Council for Scotland that year. Nor is mention made of 2009 evidence from HMIE about the "increasing impact" of chartered teachers.

It is for failing to mention the code of practice, in particular, that Professor Hudson finds McCormac "does not present a full consideration of all the available evidence or a balanced evaluation involving a full analysis of both sides of the debate".

He observes that the chartered teacher programme does not suffer from lack of clarity about participants' role, but rather "ineffective dissemination" across Scotland of the documents that provide that clarity - the code of practice and the Standard for Chartered Teacher.

Professor Hudson sees chartered teachers at the vanguard of a new understanding of leadership that is taking hold in Scotland (TESS, 2 December).

"The vision for the future of the chartered teacher and his or her work is as a leader of learning," he writes.

A Scottish Government spokesman said Education Secretary Michael Russell, having considered responses to McCormac, would outline the next steps in the "near future".

He added: "Mr Russell is clear that any future discussions relating to the chartered teacher scheme will involve a range of stakeholders, including ACTS, and will draw on the experience of those who have undertaken the scheme."

Have your say

Chartered teachers tell TESS why the scheme should be saved:

"In a nutshell, to raise standards. I believe that becoming chartered should be a standard expectation of those who qualify as teachers, and that the process should be securely tied to the execution of a piece of action research. Raising the ceiling allows all to rise higher, may help reduce the number of inappropriate applicants and, through the research process, develop an increasingly relevant body of knowledge on how to improve educational experiences and systems."

Sheila Wightman, primary teacher, Aberdeenshire

"The programme is the envy of other countries. It combines academic study and classroom practice in order to enhance the professionalism of teachers and lead to more reflective practice - all to the benefit of pupils."

Lewise Reid, English teacher, East Dunbartonshire

"Discontinuation of the scheme will contribute to a re-entrenchment of hierarchical models of leadership."

Chris Dickson, technological subjects teacher, Dundee

`They are demonstrably better qualified'

Teachers' chartered status should be reaccredited periodically, the Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland (ACTS) has said.

In its formal response to the McCormac review, ACTS has suggested several improvements to the scheme: reviewing modules to address overly-academic content; creating an internet archive of ongoing and past research projects; providing clear guidelines on chartered teachers' role.

ACTS's retort to McCormac's suggestion that chartered teachers get paid more to do what they already did, is that they are "demonstrably better qualified and more up-to-date with the latest developments in classroom practice than they were before".

The McCormac proposal that teachers step up temporarily to promoted posts is, ACTS argues, no substitute for the chartered teacher scheme, because these would be "ad hoc" arrangements and "the middle-management role of principal teachers and the expertise of chartered teachers as `leaders of learning' are not the same".

McCormac is criticised generally for an approach that uses "conjecture to support its findings and recommendations, and hearsay evidence which is neither quoted in full nor properly sourced or evidenced" - notably, when it states that chartered teachers do "not singularly represent the best teachers in Scotland".

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