22 Oct

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

You may have seen this story in last week’s Western Mail regarding changes the Welsh Government are making to the funding and delivery of the Masters in Educational Practice qualification.  The statement the Government issued on this can be seen here.

The idea of making teaching a Masters level profession is a good one and one that has a lot of support.  The principle of what the Welsh Government have attempted has a lot of merit and they deserve praise for taking a lead on this in a UK context.  This is the sort of thing that is done in Finland and other leading education nations and it is good to see Wales aiming to emulate that success.

However, there has certainly been problems with the way in which this was implemented in Wales.  There has been a lack of mentors available.  Initially this was for the Masters course but when they were identified for those students the knock on impact was a reduction in mentors available for other first year practitioners, something the GTCW highlighted.  Secondly, teachers wishing to undertake the qualification had a ‘take it or leave it’ offer and the timing has proved less than ideal.  Those studying towards the Masters have been first year professionals who are doing so at a time when they are perhaps most overwhelmed with the stark learning curve of managing the extreme workload pressures that go, unfortunately, hand in hand with the role.  No doubt a better piloting of the policy prior to its introduction would have addressed these concerns, at least in part.  The fact that the new MEP, due to come into effect from September 2016, will unlikely to go through a pilot, is a worry.

Some of the changes that are proposed are certainly positive.  The extension of the qualification to allow teachers with more experience to access the course is a real boost. Hopefully this will allow a more cohesive approach to the qualification with teachers being able to access it on a modular basis over the course of a teaching career.  That would fit well with the Minister’s ‘new deal’ approach to ensuring continued professional development.  This could potentially answer the problems regarding the pressure put on teachers early in their careers, the ‘take it or leave it’ approach as well as the availability of mentors issue.

At the same time of course there are new issues to consider.  The Masters, as it is delivered at present, is fully funded.  That is a major incentive for many in taking up the course and has created the basis to which we have started to build a Masters qualified profession.  The fact that funding arrangements in future are uncertain beyond the commitment that a ‘proportion of the participants costs being funded’ will put people on alert.  How will this reduction in funding impact on the take up of the course, especially against the backdrop of teachers pay and pensions being cut and school budgets being squeezed every year?  It is already almost impossible for many teachers to access training and CPD.  Few will have confidence that they will be able to gain funding for future Masters courses if they, or their schools, have to find a significant amount of finance.

No doubt clarity will come sooner rather than later on this issue.  For now we must hope that while making some important and positive changes to the Masters qualification the Welsh Government have not thrown the baby out with the bath water at the same time.


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