In May 2020, we made changes to the eligibility criteria for Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) to widen its accessibility to more advanced teachers across the Further Education and Training sector whilst importantly retaining the same awarding criteria. It is vital that we continue to raise professionalism in the sector but in a way that ensures ATS is still the gold standard for professional status.
Since its launch in 2017, over 100 members have now achieved this prestigious status. One of the eligibility criteria from launch was that ATS applicants must hold either Qualified Teacher Learning Skills (QTLS) status or QTS as well as a minimum of four years’ teaching experience. Over the past three years we have heard regular feedback from individuals that they would like to complete ATS, but don’t hold QTLS. Early in 2020 we decided to consider whether we should introduce an alternative route to ATS.
In February, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) commissioned the independent research organisation SQW to undertake research into an alternative route to ATS. SQW surveyed a total of 292 individuals in March and requested their thoughts about an alternative route to ATS. Of those who responded, 63% worked in teaching roles, with the majority of the rest (an additional 25%) working in senior leadership positions. Of those who responded, 174 held QTLS/QTS, four held ATS and 122 held neither. Some interviewees questioned why QTLS/QTS was a prerequisite for joining the ATS programme. A few suggested that other qualifications (such as professional or subject qualifications) should be adequate, or alternatively, just an endorsement from the teacher’s senior management team should be sufficient evidence that a teacher has the skills needed to undertake ATS.
Also, in March, we held a workshop with the Society for Education and Training (SET) member-led Practitioner Advisory Group (PAG) to explore ways in which the diverse needs of the sector could benefit from ATS. The PAG felt that ATS “Currently gave no value to experiential service” and pointed out that the “Chartered College of Teaching did not have a requirement to undertake QTS”.
Following the SQW research and the PAG meeting, we proposed an alternative route to ATS, to our SET Management Board (SMB) in early May. This proposal was to widen eligibility so that SET members who do not hold QTLS/QTS, but who do hold a teaching qualification at Level 5 or higher, can apply for ATS. This was to recognise those advanced teachers in the sector who have extensive experience and qualifications, but who did not complete QTLS early in their career. We would, however, expect these applicants to have a minimum of five years’ teaching experience since they achieved their Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualification, rather than four years for those who already hold QTLS. This is to recognise the length of time it takes to complete QTLS (a minimum of six months). We would also expect to see evidence of extensive professional formation since they achieved their ITE when reviewing their application.
The decision to allow non QTLS/QTS holders to undertake ATS is also in line with the Chartered College of Teaching, which does not have QTS as a prerequisite for eligibility for its CTeach programme. Completion of either ATS or CTeach entitles the individual to use the descriptor Chartered Teacher.
Our preferred career pathway is still that a newly qualified teacher will undertake QTLS during their early career and we are doing substantial work with Higher Education institutes (HEI) to make QTLS the professional development of choice after Initial Teacher Education. Furthermore, the legal parity with QTS only covers QTLS. An ATS holder without QTLS will not be seen as a qualified teacher within the maintained school’s sector, much like a Chartered Teacher without QTS.
We have recently reviewed the application process to ensure that we have the right members undertaking the developmental process leading to ATS. The revised application form requests that applicants seek assurances that their senior management team will provide opportunities for them to influence quality improvement. Applicants will also hold a professional discussion with their line manager prior to submitting the application form, to explore ways that the line manager can support the developmental process leading to ATS. These are also two key reasons that participants do not submit their ATS workbook.
Although we have updated the eligibility criteria, we have not changed the ATS programme in any way. We still expect participants to carry out the same tasks and the workbooks will still be assessed with the same rigour it has always had. We simply wish to give a more diverse group the opportunity to achieve ATS in line with our values at the ETF and SET.