A real career structure with professional development should be a reality for all teachers, writes Mal Davies
When I started teaching some 30 years ago, there was no sense of what a career in teaching looked like. One could aspire to particular school posts and hope for the remuneration that would accompany such promotions. The profession was never in a position to map out for itself the significant steps in a career, nor to shape teachers' professional development.
Unfortunately, for many years it remained that way. Recently, thanks to the Welsh Assembly's new arrangements for induction and early professional development, a newly-qualified teacher in Wales can now benefit from a supported start to a career in teaching which should set them on a career of on-going development and support. For those who are headteachers like myself, or who aspire to headship, there has been a concerted effort in Wales to raise standards of school leadership through the national headship development programme.
But most teachers are not in their first three years of teaching or in headship. How do they see their career development?
Teachers have never had the benefit of a clear structure or framework which helps them to plan their careers. For example, many wish to stay in the classroom but are not recognised for doing so.
Not all teachers have confidence that all continuing professional development (CPD) available is of the appropriate quality and delivered to the highest standard. There is no coherent way of recognising the professional development that they undertake throughout their careers. I do not mean in terms of pay but professional recognition for the training and development that all teachers undertake as a matter of course.
It was these issues that led the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), working with a wide-ranging group of partners, to set about developing a professional development framework which sets out the different stages in a teacher's career, and links these to both associated professional standards and professional development.
Using such milestones and standards as benchmarks in a teaching career allows the framework to divorce itself from the constraints of pay and conditions-based recognition.
Furthermore, the proposals build on the early-years professional development (which is mandatory for new teachers) and builds in greater recognition for teachers who undertake CPD. And if it is to become an entitlement for all teachers in Wales, so it should also be seen as a responsibility for teachers to themselves embrace continuous learning, as many already do.
Of course Wales is a relatively small country, yet there are great disparities of CPD provision and take-up across even neighbouring authorities. By making it an entitlement and a responsibility, those disparities will be dramatically reduced for the benefit of teachers, schools and pupils alike.
The framework will, of course, place responsibility on teachers, which is why it is vital that they take part in the consultation process on which the GTCW has embarked. Only then will they be able to have a genuine input into the development of the framework and thus take ownership of it when it is fully formulated and implemented.
I believe that the framework will greatly help all teachers, whatever their aspirations or the route which their careers might take. Whether that sees the introduction of chartered teacher status for classroom teachers, or broadens access to National Professional Qualification for Headship training for those who aspire to a headship, the framework will, for the first time, map out a series of career paths for teachers which are independent of pay and conditions, or local education authority and school budget constraints.
It will give teachers the opportunity to plan a career with clear milestones, giving them clear goals for which to aim.
The consultation document provides the teaching profession with a real opportunity to shape the professional development framework for teachers in Wales. Call 029 2055 0350 for a copy, and all responses to the consultation should be sent to the GTCW by April 1.
Mal Davies is chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales and head of Willows high school in Cardiff
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