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Demand for recognition;News;News and opinion

Biddy Passmore reports from the Girls' Schools Association annual conference INDEPENDENT school teachers deserve greater recognition from a Government that wants them to work in partnership with the state sector, the leader of the country's top 200 private girls' schools said this week.

Independent schools should have more places on the General Teaching Council, an easier route to Qualified Teacher Status for experienced teachers of proven worth, and access to government funds for training in new technology, said Rosanne Musgrave, who is headteacher of Blackheath high school and president of the Girls' Schools Association.

Opening the association's annual conference at Rotherhithe, in London's Docklands, she declared: "If we are good enough to be partners, we're good enough to be recognised."

On numerical grounds, she said, the independent sector should have four or five places on the General Teaching Council rather than the one allocated.

She criticised the "bureaucratically difficult" path to Qualified Teacher Status for private-sector teachers who had entered the profession before the post-graduate certificate was a requirement.

Such teachers would now be barred from membership of the council, let alone standing for it.

Miss Musgrave also won warm support from her audience when she cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Government's plans for performance-related pay and a fast-track scheme for the most talented young teachers.

She was not convinced, she said, that they would attract new entrants of the high calibre that children deserved - whereas "a bit of public praise and recognition could make a difference".

Children needed "the opportunity to be taught by women and men who love their subject and are passionate to share it - not just those who are efficient at their paperwork and are spending a couple of years in a school while they're on the fast track to headship and a free laptop computer", she added.

But Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, gave no ground on either recognition for the independent sector or the Government's reforms of the teaching profession - although, true to form, she praised the "creative and imaginative way" in which independent schools were taking part in partnership schemes.

She suggested that Miss Musgrave's rightful stress on the inspiration a good classroom teacher could give was at odds with her criticism of performance-related pay, which was aimed at rewarding core teaching skills rather than administration and management.

In her speech, Miss Musgrave also called on schools and parents to work together to counter the "material girl" culture that was affecting children as young as four.

Infants and juniors were increasingly subject to marketing and had become the focus of the advertising slogan writer, she said - "just think of Beanie Babies, Furbies and Teletubbies." It was getting harder and harder for teachers and parents to teach their children values that went beyond material affluence, she said.

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