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Fab Five have all the answers

The General Teaching Council's new CPD unit is receiving about 100 enquiries a day plus a postbag of applications for the chartered teacher programme. Karen Shead finds out about the team's work

Up to 100 enquiries a day have been coming in to the General Teaching Council for Scotland's new department dedicated to continuing professional development since its official opening two months ago.

The five members of the team have also been systematically working their way through the 1,000 application forms a week from teachers interested in the chartered teacher programme.

The CPD unit has the job of ensuring that teachers have access to the information they need to support and guide them through the new initiative as well as checking eligibility and processing applications.

Two experienced development officers have been seconded to the unit too and are on hand to support and give guidance on the accreditation of prior learning programme and to oversee the accreditation of the modules for chartered teachers across Scotland.

Lorna Balmer, the senior administrator at the unit, says: "We are still in the early stages of setting up the unit, but we are working well as a team and everything is going well.

"We are receiving a huge number of enquiries and are dealing with them in strict date order. Some enquiries we pass on to the development officer and sometimes they need to go to other departments."

The CPD unit is nestled among the probation, registration, induction and exceptional admissions departments in an open plan office at the GTC's headquarters in Clerwood House, Edinburgh.

"We are getting a lot of queries about accredited prior learning and also people are phoning to ask us how they go about registering," says Ms Balmer. "And a lot of people have been asking why they didn't receive a form. It could be they moved house or got married and so have a different surname, so we have to deal with these changes as well."

Ms Balmer is expecting the influx of enquiries to ease off as the information she and her team provides spreads around schools and teachers become familiar with the scheme.

"The website, which provides a lot of comprehensive information, is fully operational," she says. "We do encourage people to look at that initially as most enquiries can be answered there. You can also download the application forms online. We are confident that it is a user-friendly package."

One of the members of the administration team is organising accreditation meetings in which different universities will become providers of the scheme. These are taking place now until June 22.

"Once the accreditation events go ahead, new providers will be on the website," says Ms Balmer. "Teachers will then be able to access their logbook and start module one in August.

"Once we have checked eligibility, a teacher is given a password. When that has been activated they can keep track of their own progress.

"We will be tracking people's progress, so, if they have any doubts or questions while following the programme, they can get in touch with us.

"It's a rolling programme, because more people will become eligible all the time. We expect another influx of applications from people who want to start from August next year."

Graham Williamson, one of the development officers, who also lectures in education at Dundee University, believes the work of the unit is just beginning.

"This is a new kind of scheme for the GTC and is likely to be an expanding one. It is a long-term project that will have a long life. It will affect and involve the lives of young teachers for many years to come," he says.

The role of the development officers is both informative and administrative. "We have to help everyone play by the rules, as it were," he says. "The rules are set up for the system and we are there to inform people about them. It's a new programme and we are trying to clear some of the murkiness and obscurity."

As well as answering telephone enquiries and so on, Mr Williamson says: "We also have to provide information in a more strategic way. For example, last week we took part in an event for the professional development co-ordinators for different authorities. We gave them our input on the programme of modules and how the modules will be accredited.

"There is also the continuing process of going to meetings with interested teachers and talking to them about how they might benefit from this."

Mr Williamson is enthusiastic about the CPD scheme's inauguration. "I have an interest in this as a university professor," he says. "I have a commitment to this and want to put my effort behind it to make it successful. It's something we have needed for a long time."

Ms Balmer is looking forward to the chartered teacher scheme taking off too and feels that, so far, it has been well received.

"It's very important that teachers receive a service from the CPD providers and from the General Teaching Council," she says. "We want to provide an efficient support service and I am confident that we will do that.

"It's very much an open door policy here. We are a point of contact for anyone with an enquiry and we encourage people to contact us if they have any doubts."

The CPD unit can be contacted via e-mail

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