Mentors will be given the job of supervising teachers studying for new masters degrees despite not holding equivalent qualifications, The TES has learnt.
Unions have criticised the decision to allow those without the relevant experience to become involved in the Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL) - designed to make teaching a masters-level profession for the first time.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls wants all teachers to study for the qualification over the next 10 years to improve school standards, even though its introduction has already been postponed and the numbers likely to sign up are still uncertain.
Participants will be supported by university tutors and coaches, a group made up of experienced teachers based in their own or another local school.
But the coaches will not have to hold a masters themselves and unions have voiced concern about practical problems this could cause. They said they had expected the coaches to be chosen from among the thousands of teachers who are already qualified to masters level.
John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "The most useful role of the coaches would be to explain how to get from A to B while tackling tough workload and how to write up a long piece of work, and this can only come from someone who has been there."
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, is urging the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which runs the course, to pick only masters-educated coaches. "It's very important for their integrity and standing and in order they do the job well," he said. "They won't have the same depth of understanding if they haven't been through the same process."
All coaches will need to be trained and the TDA is yet to reveal how much this will cost. The mentoring work will give the coaches credits towards education masters courses so that they eventually hold the qualification.
Only newly qualified teachers are entitled to take up the MTL and registration starts this month. It will be open only to those in National Challenge schools and to all NQTs in the North West. There is funding available for 4,000 people to do the course this year.
Graham Holley, chief executive of the TDA, said: "Recruiting experienced teachers with the right skills to act as coaches is critical to the success of the MTL. We want to recognise their contribution, and one way of doing this will be to offer access to M-level accreditation for school-based coaches who want to pursue formal recognition of their work."
- The Masters in Teaching and Learning aims to develop the professional learning, knowledge, skills and understanding and improve teaching quality. An on-the-job qualification, it is taught by teachers and university lecturers.
- Registration is now open, and teachers in some areas can start the course in April.
- It takes about three years to complete. Teachers can keep on studying even if they move schools.
- Newly appointed heads of department will be able to start the MTL for the first time in September, but only in National Challenge schools or those facing "challenging circumstances".