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Authorities divided on appraisal

Differences appear to be opening up between education authorities on how to deal with ministers' plans to involve the General Teaching Council in teacher appraisal.

The Scottish Office consultation on the introduction of compulsory appraisal, which ends today (Friday), asked for views on whether the council should vet local authority schemes and advise the Secretary of State on their acceptability.

Highland has given a blunt response that there is "no place for the GTC in relation to the approval of schemes or their implementation". A report adds: "Appraisal of performance is entirely a matter for the employer."

Edinburgh says that appraisal must remain part of an authority's quality mechanisms while conceding: "There is, however, merit in the GTC having an opportunity to comment on schemes to contribute to a national approach. "

Moray and West Dunbartonshire, by contrast, describe the proposed powers as "eminently sensible" and "broadly welcome". The Educational Institute of Scotland has also given significant backing. Ian McMurdo, director of education in Labour-run West Dunbartonshire, suggests that the draft regulations "provide a sound basis for the introduction of appraisal and will be broadly acceptable to the teaching profession".

Ivor Sutherland, the GTC's registrar and a former Highland education officer, criticised authorities for "shooting from the hip when there have been no discussions and no detailed proposals on the table".

Mr McMurdo's major reservations centre on the "unrealistic and impracticable" timetable for local authorities to submit their first appraisal scheme by July 16, and on the "very significant resource implications". His view is that teachers should be appraised no more than once every three years.

Kevin Gavin, director in Moray and a former HMI, agrees that these are the two main stumbling blocks. Plans should be delayed for at least a year, Mr Gavin said on Tuesday.

The Association of Directors of Education has left it to individual authorities to respond. John Travers, the association's president and director in North Ayrshire, says the general view is that the Government has not given councils sufficient time to get voluntary schemes working "before resorting to a bureaucratic, statutory system".

The councils' major reservation relates to the Government's White Paper plans to give the GTC powers of dismissal over incompetent teachers, which would bypass the local authority employers.

Highland's outright rejection of any role for the GTC stems in part from sensitivity over the collapse of the authority's own scheme. A voluntary approach, agreed with the teaching unions, had led to a 60 per cent uptake of appraisal by April last year, double the national average. The unions then withdrew co-operation because of cuts in funding for staff development.

"Even slow progress with a voluntary scheme is preferable to token participation in a statutory scheme," the submission declares.

While the general election may alter the fine print, the GTC is certain to have new powers since Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both committed to strengthening its staff development role.

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