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Hundreds take the back door to England;General Teaching Council

Neil Munro rounds up an outbreak of contentious issues at the General Teaching Council in Edinburgh

A SURGE in applications for registration from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is seen by the General Teaching Council as a bid to enter schools in England by the back door.

The GTC describes the applications as "fraudulent or at least cynical" and will no longer pass the names of teachers from overseas countries to the Department for Education and Employment.

Teachers outwith the European Union can only achieve qualified teacher status south of the border if they go through the graduate teachers' scheme or are registered with the GTC. The council would be breaking the law if it refused to register anyone whose qualifications met Scottish requirements.

"We welcome enquiries from people who genuinely wish to teach here," Ian Clark, exceptional admissions secretary at the GTC, says. "What we are anxious to avoid are the cynical applications from people who move to London, apply to register here but have no intention whatsoever of setting foot on Scottish soil."

Enquiries from Australians remained steady at just over 100 a year from 1995 until 1998 when they shot up to 148. This year 79 had applied by April 22, which gives a pro-rata full-year figure of 227.

Enquiries from New Zealand totalled 73 last year and are likely to reach 102 this year. There were 56 South African applicants last year and, based on enquiries to date, 150 may apply this year.

Mr Clark had suggested that they should be required to sign a disclaimer that they were not seeking registration as a short-cut to working in England, but Robbie Burnett, the GTC's solicitor, advised that this would be difficult to enforce. English authorities would also be open to a charge of discrimination if they refused to accept a GTC-registered teacher, Mr Burnett said.

The episode has revealed that it is now more difficult for teachers outside the European Union to teach in England than in Scotland, an ironic twist since the GTC was widely seen in the past as a barrier by insisting that overseas applicants take additional qualifications to conform to Scottish teacher training regulations.

The GTC now looks at all applicants from beyond the EU on their individual merits and grants registration if they meet Scottish criteria. Approval can be provisional until more extensive teaching experience is acquired.

The DFEE plans to adopt a scheme of individual assessment for overseas teachers, in line with Scottish practice. But the earliest a fast-track scheme could be in place would be 2000 and this might be delayed by the establishment of a GTC for England.

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