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Pamela Amatller - acting depute headteacher, secondment

The long and winding road – my journey to Masters

My journey began in 2006. At the time I was working as a Support for Learning teacher with West Lothian Council and I was only looking for some CLPL in my field of interest – Additional Support for Learning. I knew I would prefer some face-to-face learning so travelling distance was my primary concern in choosing a provider. Browsing through the Edinburgh University catalogue I saw that they offered Masters level modules as CLPL, and so I signed up for one. I had gained my teaching qualification (PGCE) at Moray House, so was familiar with the campus and had enjoyed being there.

And so began a long and challenging, yet rewarding and utterly worthwhile journey.

I had returned to work full-time in 2005 after having my first child so life was hectic. However my 1-year-old was always in bed by 7pm (and slept well) which left me a few hours most evenings to get my head into the books. Module achieved, I put studying aside for a while until returning to work in 2008 after having my second child. Working part-time now, two more modules followed in fairly quick succession. For me, studying with a young family worked well. Bedtime routine was my best friend, and I made the most of evenings when the house fell quiet. I realised I could exit the programme at this point with a PgCert however my determination (stubbornness?) kicked in. The proverb which I had been told numerous times growing up prodded me into action:

'If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.'

And so I decided to go on to the next stage, the PgDip, then stop. Another module came and went, then a change at work saw me full-time, juggling three roles – probationer support teacher, RCCT Music cover and a secondment with the outreach service. Talk about hectic! Compartmentalising and routine were my coping strategies. Mon/Tue (classroom); Wed (music); Thu/Fri (outreach); as before, evenings, weekends and holidays were for study. During that year (2010/11) I completed the credits required to achieve the PgDip Additional Support for Learning. Done and dusted. I thought.  

My learners benefitted from my increased knowledge, and I was able to influence practice within my role as SfL teacher and later as Outreach teacher. But equally importantly, my studies had cemented in my mind my direction of travel, career-wise. My area of interest had grown into a passion, a driving force. Also my increased confidence helped me secure another secondment in 2012.

And then I got 'the letter'. Government funding available to anyone who had partially completed a Masters, to continue towards the full award. And a proverb prodded me into action for a second time:

'Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.'

My decision was made. Having self-funded most of my previous modules I was keen to benefit from the offer. The ‘Planning Research’ model went well apart from timing - I was applying for a promotion at work. Also my children (now 9 and 6) had later bedtimes, curtailing my precious study time. Which is why during summer 2014 my husband and kids went to France for a fortnight - without me. I was on a mission to complete my Literature Review research, especially as I would be taking up post as PT in the new term. 12-hour days, discipline, ready-meals and no children to clean up after enabled me to achieve this aim. Unfortunately I was dealt a blow as my Thesis Supervisor retired, leaving me on my own until the November when a replacement was found. My research project ticked along and I was ready to recruit survey participants by June. The plan was to work through the summer in order to meet the deadline of August 2015. But a second blow came in the guise of carpal tunnel surgery scheduled during the summer break. Thankfully the university awarded me an extension (on medical grounds) and I was finally ready to submit in January 2016. My extension meant I couldn’t graduate until the winter ceremony in November 2016. The quieter ceremony meant I got to bring my husband, two children, Mum and Dad to see me receive my Masters in Education at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. It was a special day (made better by taking my kids as my two guests to the reception in the Sheraton – I got their share of the fizz).

When I found out that the teaching qualification (PGCE) had recently changed to a PgDip, and that you could effectively go straight to a Masters following completion of the Dissertation project, I’ll be honest I was a bit irked. I questioned why I had had to begin at the beginning - starting point zero Masters credits – to achieve the same end. The same feeling had come upon me several years earlier when I found out that the programme I was following and the Masters credits I had earned with my PgDip in 2011 were not eligible to be transferred over for Chartered Teacher status. My ASL programme wasn’t an ‘accredited’ one. It was a bitter pill to swallow. But thankfully (with the benefit of hindsight) I can appreciate that the process I went through, the journey I travelled, was the right one for me. I would not have had the experience I did had I not followed the programme that I did. As my Granny used to say – 'what’s for you won’t go by you'.

My advice to those thinking about studying for a Masters? Go for it if the course allows you to follow your passion. This will give you the motivation you need to get through those hours of studying. Expect to make sacrifices (sleep, free-time, holidays) but be prepared for an immense sense of achievement.