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Will masters make NQTs fly or crash?

As enrolment for its new qualification takes off, the TDA chief executive gives a progress report on the masters in teaching and learning, while a teacher shares her experience of combining study with a first job

As enrolment for its new qualification takes off, the TDA chief executive gives a progress report on the masters in teaching and learning, while a teacher shares her experience of combining study with a first job

Enrolment for the new masters in teaching and learning (MTL) only began last month, so I have been thinking about the journey we have taken from the birth of the course as a concept to the milestone of NQTs actually enrolling.

Inevitably, we have faced a number of challenges. Some of the biggest have arisen from some of the MTL's greatest strengths: the fact that the qualification - as a national, Government-funded, classroom-based, professional qualification - is new and different.

Also key is the fact that participants will have the support of both a school-based coach who supports them on a day-to-day basis and makes the masters relevant to their classroom and pupils, and a university-based tutor who brings a wider perspective and makes sure that their work genuinely represents learning at masters level.

Universities are used to devising and delivering their own courses as autonomous institutions, and they have sometimes been uncomfortable with the demands of working as partners in a national programme. Some schools, on the other hand, have been unsure about taking on responsibility for teachers' professional learning at this level.

If the TDA had tried to address these issues by ourselves, we could never have come this far so quickly. We had to develop the qualification in close partnership with schools and universities, and we have worked intensively with representatives from both groups to design and plan the course. They, along with colleagues in local authorities and unions, have also worked with us to build understanding of how the the qualification will work in practice.

But the MTL has been delivered within an exceptionally tight timeframe for such a major programme. The qualification itself is well thought-out and based on expertise, experience and research input. However, we are still developing the fine grain of the delivery mechanism for when the qualification goes live in September. I would accept that, as a result, we have not been able to provide as much detailed information as far in advance as we would have liked.

This is perhaps most true of the mechanism for recruiting and training in-school coaches. Like the qualification itself, the roles of both the school-based coach and the university-based tutor, and how they work together, had to be defined together with schools and universities. This has been an especially complex process, involving a variety of colleagues, and we needed to review and refresh our plans throughout these discussions to make sure that the coach training programme met the needs of participants, their schools, and those who deliver the training.

Uncertainty has raised other concerns. I know that some colleagues, perhaps drawing on experience of more "traditional" masters-level study, have worried about the MTL becoming a burden rather than an opportunity for their professionally younger colleagues. From the outset, we have had to guard scrupulously against it bringing extra workload and stress and, again working hand-in-hand with our partners, we specifically developed the programme to offer the structured support that teachers say they need in the early part of their career.

Luckily, there has been such enthusiasm around the MTL that many of our colleagues have been ready to accommodate a shorter timescale than might normally be expected for such an important new qualification.

The process of engaging schools continues, but early reports are encouraging. Headteachers we have talked to have been quick to recognise the educational benefits, and are excited about the role MTL can have in recruitment and retention. At the same time, we are seeing a great deal of interest from NQTs, who are keen to study the course and value its benefits.

I'm confident that the MTL is set to have a huge impact in helping teachers be the best they can be and in providing the best education outcomes for our children and young people today.

To find out about how to register for the MTL, visit

Graham Holley, Chief executive, Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

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