TEACHERS will be able to earn post-graduate degrees from their regular training under new General Teaching Council plans. The GTC is working with local authorities and universities to create a Teachers' Learning Academy which will reward professional development that members already undertake.
Teachers would get credits and move through five levels of the academy to full fellowship, equivalent to the 180 credits of a masters degree. The council would like the academy to act as a giant think-tank, promoting innovation and influencing national and local policy.
GTC leaders say one of the biggest demands from teachers is for CPD to count towards qualifications such as masters degrees. Sarah Stephens, the council's director of policy, said: "We've talked to thousands of teachers over the past couple of years and the issue of accreditation always comes up."
Many teachers would like to take a masters degree, but although university courses have become more practical, time-strapped teachers still feel unable to commit themselves to the academic research and writing involved.
The GTC, which has developed the plans with Manchester and Birmingham local education authorities, wants as little bureaucracy as possible and where possible to tie in training with the everyday life of schools. Recognised activities would arise out of school priorities and include training courses, mentoring, researching recent literature on topics such as boys' behaviour, or visiting other schools to see how they tackle similar problems.
But teachers would not get credits simply for turning up. Instead, they would have to provide evidence of the impact their work has had, although they would not be expected to produce lengthy academic papers. Evidence could take the form of lesson observations, pupil results, or the kind of report-back papers teachers normally produce for colleagues. Teachers would be able to carry credits with them, and cash them in to enrol at a university, thus giving them a head start when entering a full academic course.
The council plans to launch the academy in September with up to 300 teachers.
In principle, universities are supportive of the idea, although they stress that the academy will not be awarding masters degrees. Whatever the equivalence, academic qualifications will continue to be awarded by higher education alone.
Mary Russell, secretary of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "There are bound to be some qualms, but in principle it's an idea we're happy with."