Stick your oar in

17th March 2006 at 00:00
The way they judge whether you're competent to teach is under review.

Sara Bubb urges you to have your say in the new QTS standards

Ever thought the qualified teacher status standards were unrealistic? Or that you've been ticking boxes that seem pointless to you? Have you found yourself bewildered by what you've been asked to do to qualify for the classroom?

The Training and Development Agency sets out what you need to be able to do to earn your QTS so that you can pass your induction. Now's your chance to have a say in what's useful in the new draft standards - and what the Government should get rid of. You are new teachers working with the existing criteria, perfectly placed to lend an air of reality and common sense to the revisions. Your opinions matter.

The agency is updating everything, not just the requirements for QTS and induction, but also standards for experienced teachers - when they cross the threshold from the main to the upper scale pay - as well as those for advanced skills status and those you need before you can become classified as an excellent teacher.

At the moment the criteria for the various stages in a teacher's career are organised under many headings. The plan is to get them all under three themes:

* professional characteristics qualities and responsibilities

* professional knowledge and understanding

* teaching, learning and assessing.

And true to government form, the jargon has become fashionable - pupils are now referred to as "learners"; a school is called a "workplace", and "colleagues" means everyone in school over 18, caretakers, dinner ladies, the lot.

Apart from the jargon, you must ask yourself whether the new draft versions come up to scratch? Are they aiming too high? They certainly describe a perfect teacher rather than someone learning the ropes.

Take standard number 1.3 - which insists that you "communicate effectively with all children, young people, parents and carers". Doesn't this need to be qualified with phrases such as "begin to", or "with support" ?

High expectations are great but there's a lot at stake - teachers who fail to match them at the end of their training, and again at the end of the induction year, are barred from teaching in state schools ever again. The criteria need to ensure that only the irredeemably hopeless fail. Unless the baseline is low, people will fail - or local authorities, schools and colleges will resort to pretending new teachers are good enough.

You might suggest that any assessment of your work needs to take note of the contexts in which you teach. For example, there are some situations where even the best and most experienced teachers struggle to "establish a purposeful learning environment where learners feel safe and secure and confident".

And, to qualify the agency's words again, even old hands can sometimes find it difficult to "establish a clear framework for classroom discipline to manage learners' behaviour constructively and promote self-control and independence".

In the spirit of tackling meaningless paperwork, the agency has slimmed the standards down from more then 40 to 18. Unfortunately, they still contain impenetrable stuff - take standard 2.2, which expects new teachers to "have a working knowledge and understanding of statutory and non-statutory curricula and other current initiatives for the subjects they teach". How is that helpful for aspiring teachers?

There are significant omissions, too. Teaching pupils with English as an additional language doesn't get a mention, and there's nothing about knowing how children develop and how they learn. According to the agency, new teachers have to have only good knowledge of their subjects; pedagogy doesn't appear to count.

Using research findings is only expected of the super advanced skills and excellent teachers, which seems strange when PGCE courses are going to be worth the equivalent of a third or half of a masters degree.

On the other hand, standard 1.6 says that new teachers will have to "adopt an open, positive and constructively critical approach towards innovation".

If you think, like I do, that this is unnecessary, hard to interpret and impossible to judge, then tell the agency.

The new 27 Northern Ireland competences and the list of 12 criteria for Chartered London Teacher Status are well considered because they recognise that each standard is a continuum, to be met in different degrees, depending on a teacher's role, experience and context.

The agency hasn't got it right yet, and the revisions are far from sensible. So do your bit and tell them, from the chalkface, what you want to see on that tick-box list.

Training and Development Agency Teaching Council for Northern Ireland London Teacher Status

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