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'It's time that we got off the ropes'

THE "collage of contradictory demands" on teachers came in for heavy criticism this week from Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University.

Giving the first in what is intended to be an annual series of lectures sponsored by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Sir Stewart urged teachers and the council "to reclaim the profession" before others did it for them.

"We have been pushed back so far in the past 20 years that we are punch drunk," he said. "It's time to get off the ropes."

There had to be a debate about the direction education should be taking, what the challenges are for the future and what is expected of teachers, Sir Stewart said. The education Bill was a good start but itdid not encompass the width of the issues.

There were "multiple and not always compatible demands" on teachers, he suggested. A formalised curriculum was expected but also more time for team games. There should be more respect for teachers but not more pay. Schools were supposed to convey traditional values but also to be the engineers of change.

Despite these pressures, Sir Stewart, a philosopher to trade, urged teachers not to lose sight of the fact that the profession is a vocation as well as a career. "Education is the only chance for some," he said. The profession had to be self-regulating and self-disciplined, and a commitment to continuous professional development must be a central feature.

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