The qualifications of Welsh teachers

9 Jan

The Western Mail yesterday ran an article that noted 48% of teachers in Wales had a 2:2 degree or less.  We should not forget that this does mean 52% of teachers have at least a 2:1.  For those that are interested there were actually more individuals teaching with a First Class Honours degree than with a Third Class.  For the record I myself have a 2:2.  You can see some comments in response from me in the piece but I thought I’d flesh them out a little further in a blog post.

When?

Not all people go straight into teaching after they leave university and often the teacher that starts the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course will be a very different person to that who went through university fresh from under mam and dad’s feet at home.  I know from personal experience how you can develop.  As I said I had a 2:2 in university.  There are many reasons people do not get a 2:1 or higher.  The quality and difficulty of the course; the standard of teaching, the ability of the candidate to apply themselves or maturity of the individual.  In my case it was a simple reflection of my lack of application.  There is no excuses here.  I have since however compleated diplomas in Journalism; Crisis Communications and in Marketing.  I have also reached Chartered Status in the later.  I’m a far more driven and qualified person now than when I left university over a decade ago.  I’d also like to think I would bring life experience to any future role.  Yet if I undertook ITT now and passed it I would fall into that category of teacher that ‘only’ has a 2:2.

All this being said even those that do go straight from completing their university degree into teaching don’t end their development there.  More on that below.

Is a degree all that counts?

Absolutely not.  It is often said that teaching is an art not a science.  The truth is that perhaps it is somewhere in between.  However, what is certainly clear is that to be a successful teacher you really need the inter-personal skills that foster creativity; empower students and motivate a class.  These are often things that are not taught in a textbook and are even more difficult to tangibly evaluate.  A teacher that inspires a class is one that can build relationships with students based on their communication skills, experience and personality.  Unless I have overlooked it I don’t recall anyone walking out of Oxford with a PhD in charisma.  It takes a special character to be a teacher, or at least to remain in the profession for a length of time.  I’m married to a very good one so I should know.

Of course that is not to devalue the importance of good qualifications but as a teacher you are never off the clock when it comes to development and training.  If you go into teaching straight from uni or not the vast majority of individuals will undertake the ITT course.  Teach First candidates unfortunately will not.  In going through this course the application of knowledge and character previously acquired will be paired with practical teaching skills.  Beyond this teachers will continue to develop those practical skills in working towards achieving their Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status in their first year of teaching.  More and more new entrants into the sector in Wales will also complete the Masters in Educational Practice (MEP) qualification.

The reality is that teachers, aside from their degrees, ITT, NQT and now MEP qualifications will always be seeking to gather more skills.  Sadly one of the great problems teachers in Wales face is an inability to access Continued Professional Development (CPD).

The future?

This to me is a major concern.  The already outlined issue with access and funding for CPD means that those currently in the profession are seeing their ability to develop skills further, or add a specialism to their teaching abilities, stifled.  We are increasingly being expected to follow some sort of underfunded DIY approach to training where schools are not supported.  That will have a long-term impact on the up-skilling of the workforce and the delivery of objectives for our schools.

Further to this, in the past few years the role of the teacher has become less and less attractive to top graduates.  The workload of teachers has increased to the point it is having a noticeable impact on the mental health of practitioners.  Changes introduced by the Westminster Government mean teachers are paying more into their pensions; working for longer but at the end of it all receive less.  At the same time the introduction of performance related pay will almost inevitably create volatile working conditions that over time threaten to drive down teachers terms and conditions.  We can only be thankful that the Welsh Government have taken the correct steps in ruling out the effective privatisation of education through the Academies system seen in England.

With all the above taking place it is increasingly more difficult to see how teaching can attract the best graduates.

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