The chartered teacher scheme in Scotland is expensive, discriminatory and should be scrapped in place of different types of professional development which don't ask teachers to fork out thousands of pounds of their own money, NASUWT delegates heard at their national conference in Bournemouth this week.
The programme, which costs teachers Pounds 7,200, not including books and travel, and can take 1,500 hours to complete, was condemned by Scottish delegates who said it wasn't fit for purpose. To date, only around 500 people have become chartered teachers.
The programme was introduced to reward experienced teachers who wanted to remain in the classroom and didn't want to take on a management position. But teachers who have completed the course told the conference it took months for them to benefit financially. And they were often paying for the modules themselves using their credit cards.
NASUWT members voted to campaign for the reform of the programme; they want to see the abolition of fees, reduction in the work- load associated with it and action to address the "inequality of access".
Victor Topping, a Scottish representative on the union's executive, said the scheme was equivalent to an 18th century soldier buying a commission in the army. Its structure effectively barred single parents and those without enough time and money from signing up. "Some of these teachers who are using their credit cards to pay for the course, and racking up debts, already have massive student loans," he said.
Mr Topping fears the programme could eventually become a scheme to create new school leaders. He wants Scotland to join England and Wales in rewarding experienced teachers by introducing an upper pay scale.
Alan Homes, from the NASUWT executive, said: "The chartered teacher scheme is not delivering what it set out to and it's something we need to look at again."
Muzafter Hussain, from North Lanarkshire, who is waiting for his pay rise after completing two modules, simply said: "Show me the money."
Mike Corbett, from East Dunbartonshire, said the "inequality" of the programme was shown by the small numbers who had signed up, despite the fact that thousands of teachers were eligible. "I know many people who haven't bothered applying because of the cost," he said.
To join the chartered teacher programme, a teacher must be at the top of the unpromoted teachers' salary scale and have an up-to-date CPD portfolio.
Chartered teachers earn Pounds 40,941 once they have achieved full status, having completed six levels of modules; aspiring chartered teachers at point 1 of the scale earn Pounds 34,428, compared to the Pounds 33,399 salary of a teacher at the top of the main grade scale.