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All-clear to teach on another patch

The General Teaching Council for Scotland has finally accepted that teachers trained in one school sector or subject can work in another - but only with a series of checks and balances to ensure that professional standards are maintained.

Its response to the Scottish Executive's consultation on the repeal of the Schools (Scotland) Code 1956 - which would allow primary teachers to work in secondary schools - recommends the creation of a framework that would allow teachers to add a further sector or subject or area of expertise to their initial teaching qualification.

Matthew MacIver, the GTC registrar, told the council's meeting this week that there was movement within the Executive towards meeting the GTC's concerns.

In its response, the GTC said it recognised the need for flexibility within the profession to move between sectors and subjects. But it added: "The underpinning purpose of such flexibility is to meet the developing educational needs of pupils. Teachers who are appropriately qualified will better meet these needs.

"Flexibility must always therefore be based upon professional standards which are rigorous. Teachers moving between sectors or subjects must be appropriately qualified in these subjects and sectors in order to ensure that pupils' needs are appropriately met."

The framework for checking professional competence in a new sector or subject would normally be based on evidence of professional competence, on similar lines to procedures for checking exceptional admissions to the register.

In principle, a primary teacher taking lower secondary pupils in English or maths, for instance, could be granted conditional recognition. This would be upgraded to full recognition following professional evaluation within a year or two.

The concept of a "Framework for Professional Recognition" was contained within a report by a working group on specialist teachers set up by the GTC.

Mr MacIver is to write to Peter Peacock, Education Minister, outlining the council's proposals. More detailed work on the framework will follow.

Donald Matheson, representing secondary heads on the council, told the meeting: "There is a need for us to seek allies in this area. We know the Executive is very keen to drive this (flexibility) mechanism through, but we need to ensure that it is our map that is being followed."

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