The biggest misconception about Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) is that people think they are qualifications or courses – the term we try to use is ‘self-guided forward-looking professional development’. When you undertake ATS, you won’t get a tutor or teacher who will walk you through the process, which is you would get when working towards a qualification. You will have a mentor, but this is someone you appoint, and that person is more like a critical friend to bounce ideas off and check your work.
If you look at the post-ITE or PGCE landscape, there isn’t a huge number of qualifications out there unless you want to do a degree, Master's in Education, or PHD. ATS is a structured 12-month programme of study which leads to a recognition status. It also gives you Chartered Teacher Status (CTeach), which is widely recognised in schools.
Continuously polishing and improving
Since we launched ATS in 2017 there have been several improvements made to the process. The early cohorts followed a paper-based programme, so the biggest change has been the introduction of an online e-portfolio system. We also introduced the Knowledge Base, which is made up of supportive literature and is built into the e-portfolio system, effectively acting as a handbook to encourage participants throughout the journey. This has been around for a while, but every year we polish and improve it.
For QTLS and ATS there used to be lots of peripheral work you would have to do, but now everything is in the portfolio and every activity is accessible – all under one login. We have modified and refined the application process to make sure we offer the right advice and guidance for people who are interested in undertaking ATS. For example, we check the individual has access to the right teaching and that they are in a position to influence outside the classroom. This means we are not setting people up to fail and we can ensure it is the right process for the individual.
Additionally, we moderate the application process to ensure we are making the right outcomes. This means that by having someone else review the application process they can oversee the decision that has been made and ask any core questions.
The biggest thing my Learning and Development (L&D) background has taught me is to publish things up front – so before the programme starts, we plan a set agenda for the webinars. If participants miss a live session, they can go back and watch it on demand. We also send out regular emails to our cohorts so they know when the webinars are taking place. Finding gaps in teachers’ diaries is challenging, so the more advanced notice we can give them for upcoming live sessions, the better.
Over the years we have increased the number of webinars we do, so now there are seven webinars which take place over the course of the year. We try to fit these around the main milestones are in the portfolio, comprising five milestone webinars and two Q&A webinars. This gives participants the chance to ask our Participant Experience Manager anything they would like to. This is also an opportunity to get people into breakout groups where they can support one another.
For the latest cohort, we have been working towards building in some additional email support – it all goes back to learning at the point of need and these go out at the time when you need that support. If we know that at that point you should be doing your Personal Development Plan (PDP), we will send an email with some top tips on how to do it.
The piece of research that our ATS participants carry out as part of the programme is individual to them – it is their story and their journey, and that’s the nice thing about ATS. We want to know what they have been doing and how they’ve approached it; as long as there is what we call a “golden thread”, whereby they identify their areas for development, show they are improving them with tangible outcomes at the end and demonstrate they’ve been on that journey and developed, then there is no reason why they can’t pass their ATS.
We are looking to clear the map of a journey of a teacher on route to ATS. If you are a new teacher, trainer or a QTLS holder, we will try and make it clearer about what professional development can be done in advance of doing ATS so you are better prepared for it.
It has to be you wanting to drive yourself forward, regardless of the external factors. You probably know you’re a good teacher and you’re getting good observations and results in the classroom, but ATS allows you to benchmark how well you are doing. If you look at other industries, such as marketing or finance and accounting, there is a route to Charter and the crème de la crème of that role. We believe that ATS is the FE equivalent. This is you showing you are the master of your trade in teaching.
Our main advice is that you need to allocate time to do your ATS. Some participants will get some remission from their heads to do that, so it’s always worth asking the question about whether this is possible. Use your mentor and get as much support as you can. We have our own register of mentors who are people who have completed it previously. We have also implemented a ‘support the mentor’ initiative, because they are so integral to the process. We send them emails and carry out webinars dedicated exclusively to them about how they can support their individual and sign off the portfolio at the end. They are the glue which holds everything together, so it is crucial we help them as well.
The biggest thing we see is the increase in people’s confidence and the fact they are demonstrating they can operate more than just inside of their classroom. If you are not looking to follow an academic route with a degree or MA, what else is there to show you are an advanced teacher? I think that ATS fills that gap quite nicely.
ATS is a 12-month development programme, which typically requires you to work three to four hours a week on your portfolio. You’ll be assessed on your individual development, as well as your ability to work collaboratively, either with fellow ATS participants or with more senior colleagues at your organisation.
As an employer, ATS is the tried and tested way to professionalising your workforce. ATS will demonstrate that you are committed to raising standards by employing highly skilled teachers who demonstrate mastery in teaching.
We are now taking applications for the next ATS cohort, which starts in October 2021. Applications can be submitted until 31 August 2021. Find out more about the eligibility criteria and application process.