Welsh Government Pushes Ahead with Teacher Mentor Reforms

The Welsh Government is planning to utilize external mentors to raise the standards of teaching in Wales. From September, freshly qualified teachers in the country will be given the opportunity to pursue a Masters in educational practice as part of their induction. The three year program is designed to address variations in Wales’ Early Professional Development offer and strengthen national standards of teaching.

To fulfill the role of ‘mentor’ in the new scheme, the Welsh Government is inviting schools and local authorities to nominate experienced practitioners. These mentors will provide support, review, and have an assessment role for up to 18 learner teachers each for 2-3 days a week.

The Welsh Goverment said that the process would benefit teachers, mentors and their schools.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said: “A key part of raising standards and performance in schools in Wales is developing highly skilled teachers who are able to deliver effective teaching and learning in the classroom.

“I’m confident that our new masters in educational practice will help us achieve that, but newly-qualified teachers are going to need support and guidance from the best.

“This is why we are looking for excellent teachers to become mentors to ensure their substantial knowledge and experience can be passed on to the next generation.”

However, unions remain skeptical. While Chris Keates, the Nasuwt general secretary, said that she supports the introduction of a Masters program she said that the government was wrong to press ahead with the mentors concept in the absence of proper consultation and analysis.

“Consultation on the changes required to regulation and guidance to facilitate the use of external mentors is still under way, with responses not required until the end of the month. This could prove to be a good idea going badly wrong if the minister continues to ignore the consultation process.”

Others such as Angela Jardine, chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales, questioned whether the process was being unduly rushed for a September launch date that was unrealistic.

“However, we would urge the minister to consider deferring the introduction of the masters in educational practice qualification until it is fully developed and a proper support infrastructure, including a network of trained mentors, is in place.

This view was echoed by director of ATL Cymru, Dr Phillip Dixon, who also advised the Government to run it as a pilot scheme this year as there wasn’t sufficient time to enlist a full mentor network for September.

Jardine also questioned whether requiring that the qualification be completed in the first three stressful years of a new teaching career was the best way to handle things and expressed fear that the entire process could end up being counterproductive if implemented badly.

“We would advise the Welsh Government to take more time over what could be a hugely valuable qualification. It’s too important to be rushed.”