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Light touch for global GTC

The General Teaching Council for Scotland now accepts that "light-touch regulation" has to be the way forward.

This was candidly admitted last week by Matthew MacIver, the council's registrar, speaking at the end of the first ever international conference of teaching councils, organised and hosted in Edinburgh by the Scottish GTC.

Mr MacIver even held out the prospect of a global teaching council for a world which is now a global village, but said it was still too early. Gary Brace, chief executive of GTC Wales, also looked ahead and asked: "Is it time to start thinking about an international teaching qualification?"

For now, however, delegates seemed content to settle for an annual international conference of teaching councils.

Mr MacIver told them: "I would not wish to give the impression that we are some form of medieval bastions - defending an old world against the demands of a new world. I say that as someone who represents a council which has gained a reputation for bureaucracy second to none.

"Nevertheless, we would be quite naive if we did not also accept that the world of regulation itself is changing. I have no doubt that we are moving into a world where light-touch regulation will be the watchword, rather than the kind of regulation we have all been using."

As The TES Scotland reported last week, the "five nations" talks involving the four UK GTCs and Ireland are set to continue with the aim of strengthening mutual recognition of qualifications. Greater ease of mobility for teachers across national boundaries was encouraged by Peter Peacock, Education Minister, when he addressed the conference.

But the conference also heard calls for changes to encompass more than just qualifications. Mr Brace said mutual recognition should also cover registration, teacher induction and disciplinary orders. Case study work between councils, he said, might centre on the question: "What would you require of a teacher with qualification x and experience y?"

Mr MacIver said it was important to cover "which teachers have been found guilty of professional misconduct in our own particular jurisdictions, child protection issues, teaching qualifications, registration issues and professional standards".

He was adamant, however, that the GTC Scotland (motto: Tutela ac Praesidium, or Guardian and Protector) would not compromise on standards, particularly the all-graduate teaching profession in Scotland and the requirement for teacher training (the placement scheme south of the border, which encourages graduates to go straight from university to teach in schools, is firmly resisted in Scotland).

Mr MacIver said he understood the need to come to terms with the army of non-teaching staff and para-professionals now in schools, but added: "I am quite clear in my own mind that there is a difference between the teacher and the carer, between the teacher and all the other para-professionals.

"I am quite clear that the teacher has a different role to perform than the other people who are involved with a young person's development."

The councils were challenged by Gordon Jeyes, former director of children's services in Stirling and now deputy chief executive of Cambridgeshire Council, to put children's rights at the forefront of their concerns.

"When considering professional practice, do you put your impact on the lives of children first?" Mr Jeyes asked. "Is your professionalism theoretically grounded, outward looking, clear in its ethical orientation? Above all, is it on the side of the children rather than on narrow conditions of service or producer constraints?"

Mr Jeyes called for a strategy of "putting children first". He said that the issues were too important just to be left to teachers. "They need the support of all of us."

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