Podcast: Find out more about Advanced Teacher Status (ATS)

Patricia Odell, Head of ATS and QTLS, and Dr Catherine Manning, ATS Operations Manager, explain more about Advanced Teacher Status (ATS). This 15-minute podcast also features an ATS awardee and ATS mentor who explain the benefits of applying for ATS and how to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

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Podcast transcript 

Julia: My name is Julia Faulks and I am SET’s Online Editor. Joining me today is Patricia Odell, Head of ATS and QTLS, and Dr Catherine Manning ATS Operations Manager, who are here to explain more about Advanced Teacher Status (ATS). We will also hear from a past ATS awardee and a mentor for ATS participants. Patricia begins by explaining more about the feedback we’ve had so far.

Patricia: We’ve had very positive feedback from the first and second cohort, mainly around development in confidence in their practice, with one participant saying that the process had really re-ignited her passion for teaching. She felt she’d got into a bit of a rut with a tick-box approach to her teaching and this gave her an opportunity to take some risks, do some reading and research and try out new strategies with her learners.

We had another participant who recently featured in the inTuition journal, Joyce Chen, and there’s a lovely quote from her telling us about what being awarded ATS meant to her. She tells us that: “Gaining ATS means that I’m recognised as an advanced practitioner in education locally and nationally. I’ve received a special recognition award through the college. I now engage with colleagues, managers and senior leaders in developing and improving teaching, learning and assessment." For me that quote really sums up what ATS is all about, with many telling us that as a result of going through the process their profile has actually risen in their organisation and they are now the go-to person to be consulted about teaching and learning.

Julia: That’s a really good quote and it’s really nice to have that positive feedback. I also spoke to an ATS participant earlier in the week who explained more about her experience undertaking ATS.

Lynne Taylerson: My name is Lynne Taylerson and I work for Real Time Education. I am a teacher educator and curriculum designer, and an IT trainer with a focus on effective use of learning technology. Achieving ATS has benefited my practice by getting me to really sit down and reflect and evaluate in a way that I probably haven’t done since I completed formal teacher training and my Qualified Teacher Learning Status (QTLS), so it’s been very useful to sit down and really analyse my practice against the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) Professional Standards. In terms of my organisation, it’s given me opportunity to reach out to work with new colleagues, and also with other organisations in a more formal way than if I hadn’t been undertaking it.

Patricia: ATS is for experienced teachers who have been teaching for four or more years. It’s aimed primarily at teachers in the FE sector, but as well as developing mastery in their own practice, ATS enables experienced teachers to be able to develop their skills in coaching and mentoring others; so sharing their practice with colleagues, but also, having an influence on the quality and improvement in their organisation, so ATS is really about development on three levels.

Who can apply for ATS?

Catherine: There are four main criteria – first of all, practitioners need to be a member of SET to be able to apply for ATS. They also need to have been awarded with QTLS or QTS before they can apply and they need to have held their initial teacher educator qualification for a minimum of four years, and that ITE qualification needs to be at Level 5 or above. Finally, practitioners need to be working in a post-14 setting, and that can include training colleagues – they need to be teaching for an average of eight hours a week for the duration of the ATS process. Practitioners could be working in a range of settings, so that might be FE colleges, adult community learning, work-based learning, offender learning, and practitioners might also be working in a school. If you are working in a school then the evidence that you use for your ATS portfolio needs to be from your work teaching learners in 10, 11 and above.

Patricia: We do have quite a few special educational needs teachers and they need to be mindful that while some of the evidence can be drawn from one-to-one teaching, we will also be looking for evidence of teaching groups of learners (five or more learners), but it could be that evidence is drawn from teaching, mentoring or coaching other members of staff, so there are a wide number of opportunities to be able to demonstrate the evidence for those people who might be working in slightly different settings.

In terms of the timeframes for ATS, when can people apply?

Patricia: At the moment we have one cohort per year starting in October and we invite applications from potential applicants at the beginning of April and that application process closes in August. We then look at all of the applications and then in September we offer places to those who meet the criteria, but applicants should check the website for further information. We ensure that all applicants that have been accepted have been notified within a month of the application window closing. The process itself is a 12-month process – it’s quite an undertaking – so anybody interested in this really needs to think about the commitments in terms of the time they will need to spend on it.

When do applicants find out whether they have passed? Do applicants get their results on the same day?

Patricia: Yes, they do. They have 12 months, as I’ve said, so the next cohort who will be starting in October will be submitting their portfolios to us at the end of September and we will be reviewing those portfolios (we have a team of moderators and reviewers), so that will be a month-period where we are looking at them. We will notify people of their results in mid-November and then there will be the viva stage, so people who have been successful or who have been recommended for the award for ATS through their portfolio work, will then be invited to attend a viva interview and those will take place at the ETF offices in London, towards the end of November.

A viva interview is an opportunity for the successful participants who have completed the portfolio part of the process to talk to us for around 45 minutes. We ask a few questions to structure a discussion, but essentially what we like to hear from participants is more about their journey in achieving ATS, and in particular the impact and the difference it’s made to them as teachers, to others and the organisation. There is also an opportunity for them to talk to us a bit more about their improvement project or case study that they’ve worked on as part of the programme. We invite all participants to stay in touch with us as alumni and some of them become mentors themselves, some become ATS reviewers in our reviewer and moderation team, they may go on and do further research, but essentially we would like them to keep in touch with us because we like to know what difference it has made to them in the longer term.

Catherine: Some of the participants have gone on to publish the finding of their case study, or projects that they’ve undertaken, as part of ATS. For example, they’ve had articles published in InTuition and other journals.

When SET members are undertaking QTLS, they need to reference three Professional Standards. How is that different for ATS?

Patricia: Yes, you’re quite right. For QTLS it’s three or more Professional Standards in relation to planning and delivery, assessment and developing their subject specialist knowledge. But for ATS we ask them to evidence advanced level practice for each of the 20 Professional Standards, and they can do that in a four-phase programme. More information about that can be found on the SET website.

What support can ATS applicants expect to receive during the process?

Catherine: During the process ATS participants will be completing an electronic portfolio (e-portfolio) and a part of that is a forum where participants can go on and interact from each other, share ideas and offer each other support, so the forum is a key source of support. All ATS participants will also have a mentor – this might be somebody the participant appoints from within their own organisation, or if there is nobody appropriate there, they might choose to have a SET mentor instead, so we would fix them up with a mentor from our register that we have here.

The idea of the mentor is that it’s another practitioner who can be a critical friend to the ATS participant as they go through the process. We also have, here at the ETF, a Participant Experience Manager. Their role is to offer one-to-one support to participants, usually via email and sometimes via phone, so that is available throughout the process as well. We also have a Facebook page that participants can request to join this and there they can chat to other participants from the same cohort, from also from previous cohorts. We have several people who have completed ATS, but they are still members of that Facebook page and they will go on and offer support and advice to others going through it.

You don’t need to have been awarded ATS in order to be a mentor for ATS, do you?

Catherine: No, not necessarily. Some of the mentors have completed ATS, but we also have other mentors who haven’t been through the process themselves, but they are usually Fellows of SET, which means they have undertaken a Masters in education or a higher level post graduate qualification.

Julia: Julie Warden works at Bradford College looking after tutorials and learner progress. She is on the SET Practitioner Advisory Group and supports SET members on their ATS journey. Here she gives her advice on how to manage the workload.

Julie: I would say, make sure that you clearly look at the evidence base that is required and the timeframe and stick to the timeframe available, scheduling some regular time each week to do the work. And I also think take some advice – there is some really helpful information out there – there is a Facebook group, for example, and there is also really helpful advice from the SET staff so when you’ve got a little worry you can get it quickly ironed out rather that leaving it and it becoming a big thing.

Julia: Lynne Taylorson, who was from the first cohort to be awarded ATS, offers her advice on how to approach your mentor and ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.

Lynne: What advice would I give to any SET members considering applying for ATS? I think there is quite a few things that you can be thinking about and also putting into place in terms of preparation for ATS. First of all, I would say to people, think carefully about who will be your mentor and approach people and prepare them for what they will need to do as part of this role. They will need to set aside some time to work with you and also observe your practice and work on development plans as well as writing quite a few brief documents to confirm your progress, so they do need to be prepared for that.

I think you can also be considering which colleagues you might be engaging in a mentoring relationship with, so if you are going to be doing some mentoring as part of your ATS, it’s a good plan to be approaching people early and explaining what you are doing and why. I think that finally, I would also say consider which groups you might be looking to have observations done on – if you have a choice – but also, which groups you might be using for the video segments of your portfolio, because that can benefit from some careful consideration and preparation, in terms of things like confidentiality and which scenario and groups you are going to choose. I think with a little bit of forethought in terms of observations, mentoring and your video evidence, you can make the whole process run a little more smoothly.

Patricia: When we developed ATS, we worked closely with the College of Teaching to ensure that there is parity between Chartered Teacher Status (CTS) and the Chartered Teacher Programme which has been developed primarily for teachers working in schools. Consequently, those who gain ATS will be awarded with CTS and that will be conferred by the College of Teaching.

In terms of the payment structure, how does that work?

Catherine: ATS costs £750 and there are different options for payment, so you can make one initial payment or you can pay £150 at the start of the process and make monthly direct debits for the remaining amounts. Some participants are funded by their employer, so it might be worth applicants having a chat with their employer about whether they will be willing to fund part of the process or the whole thing. However, most of our ATS participants are self-funded and are paying for it themselves.

If anyone is interested in applying for ATS or registering their interest in ATS, what should they do?

Catherine: The first stage is to register their interest in ATS and SET members can do this on our website. When you do this it enables you to access the brochure and that gives you a lot more information about the process and you can express an interest in ATS at any point in the year. The second stage is to apply for ATS and you can do this on the website. You will need to apply when the application window is open, between April and August each year.

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