GTCS 'professional update' to keep tabs on standards

But regulatory body says process will steer clear of competence issues

Elizabeth Buie

The Scottish government saw it as a "re-accreditation" process, but 85 per cent of respondents have endorsed the title of "professional update" for the General Teaching Council for Scotland's new programme for maintaining and improving teacher standards.

A paper issued this week by the GTCS insists the process will not be a measurement of competence.

"Professional update will focus on continuous improvement rather than on determining whether or not a teacher is, or has remained, competent," it says.

"In line with the GTCS framework on teacher competence, competence cases will therefore continue to be handled by authorities in the first instance, with cases of alleged serious professional incompetence referred subsequently to GTC Scotland for resolution."

Routine elements of professional update will include an annual update of information by registered teachers, involving the submission to GTCS of address and personal details; a continuing engagement in professional review and development; and a five-yearly sharing of evidence to confirm that a teacher has maintained his or her professional skills and understanding.

The GTCS stresses the importance of teachers receiving relevant continuing professional development opportunities, but assumes that teachers will not have to pay for CPD themselves.

Employers should have a responsibility to produce professional update schemes that meet national (GTCS) principles but allow flexibility for local circumstances.

Other arrangements will be needed for teachers in education-linked posts who are not currently teaching; others working outwith education; and supply teachers.

Education directors, for instance, or even former teachers in similar positions to GTCS chief executive Anthony Finn, who are still registered but have not taught in a school for some time, will be required to decide whether their registration status is that of a "practising" registered teacher or a qualified, registered teacher who is not currently practising.

The reaction

The appropriateness of a five-year cycle for professional update should be monitored and reviewed, said the EIS union.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, EIS and School Leaders Scotland all emphasised that an enhanced PRD process would work only if appropriately resourced.

"The current experience of many teachers through existing PRD processes is one of frustration at the lack of meaningful response by schools and authorities to identified development needs," the EIS said.

The union warned that comments in the McCormac report only served to heighten concerns from teachers that the supportive tone and nature of the GTCS proposal was not matched by the agenda of others.

Ann Ballinger, SSTA general secretary, welcomed the GTCS paper's clarity that professional update was not meant to be a mechanism for getting rid of allegedly incompetent teachers.

Her union's members who held senior management posts in schools had made the point that in a school of 70 or 80 members of staff, 60 to 70 would be performing perfectly adequately. They were telling her: "That's time we are taking up that we could be putting to better use."

It would, she predicted, become a "paper exercise" in most cases.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, added: "It's time-consumptive and it will cost if it is to be done properly, and therefore should be supported with an appropriate resource of time."

Leslie Manson, speaking on behalf of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said the process had as its basis a "better, more supportive, more rigorous PRD across all authorities".

"There's evidence that not all authorities and all schoolscentres deliver to a standard that would be required to ensure public confidence. That's the key challenge," he added.

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Elizabeth Buie

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