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Enter the magnificent 37

The unveiling of Scotland's first group of chartered teachers this week was hailed with predictable approbation - but was also met with concern that not enough are waiting in the wings.

The 37 classroom teachers who emerged with chartered teacher status came through the "fast-track" process overseen by the General Teaching Council for Scotland. By accrediting prior learning, previous experience could be recognised without completing all 12 modules in the chartered teacher programme.

While the Scottish Executive stressed that more than 6,500 teachers have registered with the programme, it emerges that only 2,000 of those are actually on courses. The remaining 4,500 have simply expressed an interest with the GTC, and may or may not embark on the programme.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland and a strong advocate of the initiative, issued a plea this week for more teachers to come forward. "The teachers awarded full chartered teacher status today are pioneers for the profession and in many ways role models for many thousands of teachers up and down the country who are making up their minds as to whether they wish to embark on a chartered teacher course," Mr Smith said.

He added: "Teachers who take part successfully in chartered teacher courses receive an increase in their salary for doing so. They receive an increase for every two modules they successfully complete.

"But, more important than that, is that teachers who have taken part in courses have found the experience very valuable indeed, through the content of the courses themselves and also the professional interaction with other teachers taking part. Teachers are encouraged to talk about professional issues with each other in ways which are quite new."

The EIS is particularly proud of its own chartered teacher programme being delivered entirely online through Paisley University. Around 400 teachers are involved and the first group to complete the full programme will graduate in 2005. Like all chartered teachers, they will be entitled to a salary of Pounds 36,219 compared with the classroom maximum of pound;29,541.

Angus Morrison, an English teacher at Nairn Academy who has taught for 13 years, said there was a lot of work involved but he had no difficulty recommending the programme to colleagues, not least because "it gives teachers a reward in salary while allowing them to remain in the classroom".

Annie McSeveney, a teacher at Braidwood primary in Carluke, South Lanarkshire, says the award represents an important step forward for teachers. "It provides recognition for informed and reflective classroom practice. I would love to see a lot more teachers taking up the opportunity to work for chartered teacher status."

Ms McSeveney believes that teachers may be deterred by the cost (at pound;600 per module, the potential total is pound;7,200) and the 10,000 word report that must be submitted.

Costs should be brought down in the long term, she said, and this should not deter teachers. "In purely financial terms, a teacher with at least 18 months until retirement could go for the accreditation of prior learning route, borrowing the money to do so. They will recoup the costs and also benefit from an increased pension."

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, said that chartered teacher status allows teachers "to be the best they can be".

Matthew MacIver, registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said the programme "is about teachers developing their own learning throughout their careers but doing so while still working on the shop-floor".

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