Officials claim they are “unable” to offer financial support due to “budget pressures”, but critics have expressed “great concern” and warned the move risks pushing more teachers out of the classroom.
In a letter to councils and universities dated June 2, 2023, a senior government official confirmed that they “will not allocate funds in fiscal year 2023-24 to the initiative allowing teachers to engage in masters-level education.” The Herald estimates the cut will save the Scottish Government about £700,000.
The letter notes “a difficult financial situation for the Scottish Government and the public sector in general” before specifically highlighting the teachers’ recently agreed salary agreement, which came after a historic strike. Then it says: “In this context, we had to reconsider the financing of the master’s degree.”
Still, the letter said the government continues to “appreciate the importance of professional teacher training” before pointing out that only those applying for “master’s level” school leadership programs are eligible for support.
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When asked if the government would commit to restoring funding for the next fiscal year, a spokesman told the Herald only that they “would be open to considering restoring funds to this program if future budgetary provisions so allow.” to permit”.
The final report of the Independent Panel on Career Pathways for Teachers in 2019 specifically recommended “promoting teaching as a master’s profession”, a change that would emulate countries like Finland, where all teachers are required to have a master’s degree.
The report argues that a master’s degree helps teachers “deepen their knowledge, understanding and experience” and supports “the delivery of quality learning, teaching and leadership”. It also suggests that Masters courses should be geared towards new career opportunities for teachers and that “these qualifications should continue to be funded through Scottish Government grants for Masters qualifications”.
At the time, then-Secretary for Education John Swinney welcomed the report’s recommendations, arguing that support for teacher development “will enable esteemed current teachers to thrive and expand their skills in new directions, leading to greater job satisfaction and an enhanced student learning experience.” leads”.
Speaking to The Herald, a teacher who recently completed a master’s degree argued that such programs offer significant benefits:
“The completion of my master’s degree was of great benefit to both me and my students. It has given me the opportunity to improve not only my own teaching practice but also that of my colleagues, which benefits students throughout the school. “Also, being given the opportunity to go back to being a student and learning skills I haven’t had to use in almost two decades has been fantastic and has given me a new understanding of the challenges that students face.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Council of Deans of Education, a body representing the 11 institutions responsible for teacher education, told The Herald that they were “disappointed and concerned” at the withdrawal of funding for Masters courses.
“This funding has been an important means of enabling teachers to continue their professional training and development through further study and is integral to a pathway to developing curriculum and pedagogical expertise in the classroom, as well as an essential part of the leadership journey in Scotland.”
“Opportunities like these are vital in supporting the teaching profession, especially at a time of significant change.”
“We hope this is a temporary measure to address fiscal pressures and that funding will be restored in subsequent years.”
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Andrea Bradley, general secretary of Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS), warned that the lack of financial support for teacher development is hurting Scottish education.
“Not long ago Scotland was striving for a Masters only teaching profession to ensure the highest possible standards of teaching. Regrettably, budget cuts led to the extremely short-sighted closure of Scotland’s world-leading Chartered Teachers Scheme, with its originally planned replacement – the Lead Teachers Scheme – having so far failed, largely due to financial pressures on local authorities.
“While funding for headship programs is welcome, it does not help resolve the situation where many experienced classroom teachers who do not aspire to leadership and wish to pursue masters level training to enrich their professional practice are finding that without financing, your wings are clipped.
“More and more of these teachers are choosing to retire rather than remain stationary for the rest of their careers. This is leading to a loss of experience and expertise in our schools, which has a negative impact on students, teachers and Scottish education.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The latest agreement on teachers’ salaries is the largest in twenty years and has been reached against a difficult financial backdrop.” In this context, this year we have had to reconsider funding for the Masters program for teachers.
“We continue to emphasize the importance of teachers’ professional development and are investing £800,000 this year in the Into Headship scheme to support future school leaders.”