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GTC welcomes assistants;Letter

YOUR REPORT (March 19) of the recent GTC meeting was rather misleading in the way in which it recorded the discussion about classroom assistants. Even the heading, "No green light for assistants", has a negative spin and suggests that the council is hostile to the Government's proposals. This is most certainly not the case.

The GTC has repeatedly said that it welcomes the initiative. It welcomes the additional resources and the extra help which is to be provided for hard-pressed teachers in busy primary schools. The council has never had any problems with the principle underlying the initiative and with the idea that overworked primary teachers and their pupils would benefit from having an extra pair of hands in the classroom.

On the other hand the council did have concerns about the implementation of the scheme. It was concerned that classroom assistants might be expected to undertake tasks of a professional nature and to engage in activities which are normally carried out by qualified teachers. I think that in the early stages of the discussion about the Government's proposals the council had every right to be alarmed because there seemed to be very real dangers of dilution.

Happily circumstances have now somewhat changed. The SOEID has given a categorical assurance that "assistants will not substitute for teachers". While this unequivocal statement has allayed the GTC's fears to some extent, the council will continue to be vigilant and to monitor the situation as it develops.

The council has been neither obstructive nor negative; it has taken a wholly professional and responsible stance on what it sees as a professional issue. I have every confidence that the GTC will continue to act in the best interests both of the Scottish teaching profession and of the pupils in its care.

Ivor Sutherland, Registrar, General Teaching Council for Scotland

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