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GTC to act as safety valve

MINISTERS are refusing to allow the General Teaching Council any direct say over the removal of incompetent teachers while lining up a compromise deal to allow it to check on employers' procedures.

Mounting pressure to allow parents and staff a right to complain directly about a teacher's conduct has forced ministers to concede the increased powers in a system of checks and balances.

Local authorities remain sceptical but the GTC is happy at the move towards its position.

Peter Peacock, Deputy Children and Education Minister, told Holyrood's education, culture and sport committee on Tuesday that while allowing direct complaints to the GTC would be "dangerous and intervening and confuse the role of the employer" there was scope for increased council monitoring in its wider role as guardian of the profession.

Mr Peacock said the GTC could "stiffen the resolve of authorities" in reacting to public concerns.

The Scottish Executive does not believe the GTC could handle complaints from across the country, many of which could be vindictive or vexatious. Mr Peacock also dismissed the argument that complaints should be directed to the GTC in the same way complaints about lawyers and dentists are directed to their professional associations. "The sheer number of teachers warf the numbers in other professions," he said.

The proposed GTC role of scrutinising local authority procedures will be subject to talks between the council and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Precise details for dealing with incompetence and implementing disciplinary action will now be delayed beyond the education Bill. Mr Peacock revealed that the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service's report on what sanctions should be available is likely to hand responsibility for dismissal to directors of education and is due to be published next month.

Ivor Sutherland, the GTC's registrar, said: "The Scottish Executive has caught on to the idea that the bulk of the world seems to want us to have a more robust role than the Executive was proposing to give us. I can see the difficulty the minister is facing because of the sensitivity of the local authorities' role. But we have never wanted to undermine their role or be in conflict."

However, Keir Bloomer, president of the Association of Directors of Education, said: "It will be interesting to discover how the Executive feels that this will make any useful contribution. On the face of it, it is hard to see what the GTC would add to authorities' existing procedures."

Gaelic campaign, page 4

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