Masters in Teaching and Learning: the journey continues

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In the ever-evolving world of education, there are few new initiatives with as much potential to revolutionise teachers’ professional development as the new Masters in Teaching and Learning (MTL). Here, Graham Holley, Chief Executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools, explains.

We know that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and that, as the learning needs of pupils become more challenging and diverse, the demands on teachers’ professional skills are increasing. The MTL is a Government-funded, classroom-based, professional qualification, aimed at helping teachers to extend and enrich their skills, knowledge and understanding.

The MTL builds on the most successful aspects of existing programmes of sustained, in-depth enquiry-based learning for teachers. But as a national qualification, it is a new and different kind of masters, allowing participants to build on their previous learning and development, taking what they are learning and applying it immediately in their own classroom – a model that borrows elements from highly successful masters in other fields, such as the MBA.

There has been a number of exciting developments in the introduction of the MTL.  Perhaps most importantly, enrolment has now opened in the North West, meaning that eligible newly qualified teachers (NQTs) who started working in local schools this year are now able to enrol.  Initially, during this introductory year, the MTL is only available to all eligible NQTs taking up posts in schools in the North West, National Challenge Schools and other priority schools in challenging circumstances and the TDA is urging those eligible to enrol early now. The North West region, which trains and recruits more NQTs than anywhere else in the country, will be leading the way with the MTL rollout and the vision of making teaching a masters-level profession across the whole of England.

The TDA have also recently announced the funding available for the MTL programmes, with over £30 million being available across the North West region.  The TDA funding will cover the cost of the programme for the NQT and the school based costs of delivering MTL programmes.
Additionally the TDA has also announced that experienced teachers who sign up to coach teachers through the new MTL will benefit from their involvement, with fully-funded, tailored coach training and the opportunity, if they wish, to gain masters level accreditation themselves.

The fact that MTL students will have the support of both a fellow teacher acting as a school-based coach and a university based tutor is a key defining feature of the MTL. These colleagues have different responsibilities. The school-based coach‘s main role is to make sure that the participant’s MTL work has a positive impact on their teaching and their pupils’ learning in the classroom.  The HEI tutor holds the lead responsibility for making sure that the participant’s work genuinely represents learning at a masters level.  They will need to work together - with each other and with the teacher undertaking the MTL - to challenge and develop the way teachers work and think.

The school-based coaches will be integral to the success of the MTL. Experienced teachers in a participating school, or one nearby, will be eligible to act as a coach: supporting MTL participants on a day-to-day basis; facilitating relevant learning opportunities with other teachers; and steering the participant to examine and challenge their learning.

The MTL is unique in its structure and approach and will position England at the very forefront of global educational development. The emphasis is on offering consistent and coherent professional development, broadening and enriching teachers’ professional knowledge and their understanding of how children learn.  We are currently working hard to engage schools in advance of the MTL going live later this year and early reports are encouraging.  Headteachers we’ve talked to have been quick to recognise the educational benefits of such an opportunity for teachers in their schools, and are excited about the role MTL can have in recruitment and retention.  At the same time, we are seeing a great deal of interest from NQTs, who are keen to study the course and value its benefits.

Nobody has yet actually started an MTL programme, of course, so heads and teachers understandably have some questions. We have been told, for example, that we need to be careful not to allow the MTL to bring about extra workload and stress, especially for newly qualified teachers. We understand the pressures, which is why we, in partnership with the schools and universities that make up the MTL providers, have specifically developed the programme to offer the structured support that teachers say they need in the early part of their career. It will be practice based and rooted in the work they are already doing. The support in place around the participant – their coach, their HEI tutor and indeed the school team of which they are already a part – will be there to make sure that day-to-day life is manageable.

This approach brings the potential for a wider impact. Continuing training and development is crucial to helping school staff to be the best they can be and providing the best education outcomes for our children and young people today. And as part of a developing ethos of shared and reflective learning, the impact of MTL will be felt way beyond the classroom - rippling outwards and benefiting the school community as a whole. 

These unique ingredients, fused with the best aspects of professional development from the world’s top performing education systems, will help to embed a culture of lifelong learning and peer support in schools, maximising the potential of both the teacher and pupil. The MTL seeks to help eligible teachers take control of developing their own teaching, on the job, at their own pace. In working together towards the vision of teaching as a masters level profession, we can all be a part of securing standing as a world leader in education while delivering the highest standards of teaching to students.

To find out about more about the MTL, visit www. tda.gov.uk/mtl

Graham Holley is Chief Executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

Professional Development Today
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