The Welsh Government will consider tendering its new teaching qualification to universities outside Wales, it has emerged. Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) in Wales will have the opportunity to follow Masters in Educational Practice (MEP) as part of their induction from September.
The three-year programme is designed to strengthen standards of teaching and address variations in the nation’s Early Professional Development (EPD) offer. But under plans unveiled this week by Education Minister Leighton Andrews, institutions across the border will be able to bid for its delivery in Wales.
Currently there are three regional centres in Wales providing initial teacher training (ITT) opportunities and critics have questioned the practicality of securing procurement from England. Bangor, Aberystwyth, Swansea Metropolitan, Trinity Saint David, Cardiff Metropolitan and Newport universities are responsible for ITT and would be considered natural front-runners to extend their capacity in Wales.
Owen Hathway, NUT Wales policy officer, said Welsh institutions had an important role to play in the training of teachers.
“As those undertaking the masters will be based in Wales it would appear more practical to ensure that the awarding bodies are Welsh universities,” he said. “There could be an obligation on the government to open out the procurement process to as wide a field as possible but we hope that the link between Welsh universities – and the Welsh communities that teachers will be undertaking the course in – does factor into the decision-making process.
“We want to work with the government to ensure that the masters course is developed in a way that it is both practical to attain and empowering for practitioners in ensuring the highest standards possible in our schools.”
Figures released by the General Teaching Council show that just four in 10 newly-qualified teachers manage to find work in Wales. Although the masters is not yet mandatory, a cap on numbers or an increase in the qualifications required of new entrants are among measures being mooted to raise standards and narrow competition for places.
Counter in the possibility of an “outside” agency winning the MEP contract and the way in which trainee teachers are taught could change considerably. Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, welcomed the introduction of a master’s programme. “It is practical, manageable and will reward teachers for what they already do,” he said.
“Teachers are the key to raising performance in our education system and it is good that this new masters recognises that fact. It will give new entrants into the profession an opportunity to reflect systematically on their practice and help them hone their professional expertise.”
Gareth Jones, secretary of school leaders union ASCL Cymru, said Welsh delivery was not essential. “In the final analysis, it is not the location of the provider which is crucial but their ability to deliver a high quality outcome for the young teachers who represent the future of the education service in Wales,” he said.
The master’s programme will be practice-based and draw heavily upon teachers’ experiences and their ongoing professional development. It will focus on the minister’s three national priorities of literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty on attainment. The Welsh Government said detailed evaluation of the programme will be undertaken before any decisions are made on making the qualification compulsory.
“When undertaking public procurement activity, the Welsh Government is required to undertake fair and open competition between all potential suppliers within the market,” said a spokesman. “Opportunity to bid for public contracts cannot be restricted on the basis of geographical location.” The MEP will be available in English and Welsh and universities have until March 9 to submit their applications to tender.