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GTC lowers drawbridge

Automatic recognition of teachers' qualifications in the UK to be formalised in 2007

Teachers from other parts of the UK will have their qualifications automatically recognised by the General Teaching Council for Scotland from the early part of next year.

The decision to offer mutual recognition of teachers qualified in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will make it easier for other UK teachers to work in Scottish schools.

The move is prompted by the apparent anomaly that teachers from European Union countries have their teaching qualifications automatically recognised by other EU states, but there is no automatic transferability of teaching qualifications within the UK.

Thus, a teacher trained in, for instance, Poland, Latvia, France or Spain should have the automatic right to teach in a Scottish school, as long as they have passed the normal disclosure checks. However, a teacher trained in England would have to have their degree and professional qualifications assessed, as well as undergoing the normal police checks.

Figures from the GTC in Scotland for January 1 to November 30 this year show that 217 teachers from countries covered by the EU directive on qualifications were registered to teach in Scotland. More than half, 120, were from Poland, which was targeted in a Scottish Executive recruitment campaign. In addition, 581 teachers were registered from other UK countries, 550 from England.

In practice, not all EU states implement the directive with the same amount of rigour, as we report this week in the case of the first Scottish teacher to be granted equal status with teachers in the German state of Saxony - but only after a year-long battle and despite EU regulation (p10).

A spokesman for the council said its work on mutual recognition within the UK was a response to the EU directive of 2001, which governs mutual recognition of teaching qualifications across national boundaries in the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

A "five nations" report on mutual recognition, published this week by the National Foundation for Educational Research on behalf of the General Teaching Councils of Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, acknowledges that Scotland already de facto recognises the qualifications of teachers from other parts of the UK. However, from April 1 next year, this position will be formalised.

A GTC Scotland spokesman said it had initiated the project to introduce the mutual recognition of traditional teaching qualifications, such as the BEd and PGDE, in all UK countries.

He hoped that formalising the position in April would lead to "a much more streamlined process for teachers from England, Wales and Ireland who wish to move into the Scottish education system and who require registration with the GTCS".

Currently, someone trained in England to teach philosophy, for example, might be required by the council to undergo further training before being registered in Scotland, as philosophy is not a recognised subject in Scottish schools. However, from April, such a teacher would therefore receive automatic registration.

The National Foundation for Educational Research report finds that there is currently "a considerable convergence in terms of what is required of teacher trainees. Areas of divergence are on a more cosmetic level".

It suggests that "standardisation of the ways that the standards are presented, entry require-ments and quality assurance mechanisms would reduce system difference and encourage swifter mutual recognition of teaching qualifications".

The report notes a number of issues which remain to be tackled. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, for example, trainee teachers follow a course to teach at primary or secondary level, but their status as qualified teachers allows them to be employed in either sector.

In Scotland, however, a primary trainee is only qualified to teach at primary level, and a secondary trainee only qualified to teach at secondary level, although the creation of a new professional recognition framework by the General Teaching Couoncil in Scotland may address this point.

The researchers also point out that in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, institutions are accredited for initial teacher education, whereas in the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, it is the courses which are accredited.

Scotland, unlike the other four nations covered by the report, does not offer employment-based routes into teaching.

For details of the National Foundation for Educational Research's "five nations" report:

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