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Merit pay on the way

Teachers' pay and promotion could be linked to their performance under Government proposals for continuous professional development issued this week.

The proposal caused a furore when it was raised early last year by Michael Forsyth, the former Scottish Secretary, but it has now been revived by the Scottish Office as part of a planned framework of teaching competence, standards and qualifications.

A consultation paper says that teachers' careers lack a coherent structure after the two-year probationary period. It continues: "Setting standards at a number of points in the profession raises the possibility of making the attainment of particular standards, for example by the award of advanced professional qualifications, a condition of appointment to certain posts in schools.

"There is also the possibility of linking pay andor progression in the profession to the attainment of particular qualifications."

The paper says career development standards should be developed for "very good classroom teachers" and those who want to specialise in guidance or special needs. Standards for aspiring managers could lead to a new advanced qualification (including the Scottish Qualification for Headship).

The long-delayed plans also revive the ambitions of the General Teaching Council to have a more effective quality check on the performance of teachers after probation. The GTC's role is currently confined to confirming full registration once teachers have successfully completed their probation and striking them off if they have committed a disciplinary offence. It also vets courses in teacher training institutions.

The Scottish Office paper does not express any view on extending the council's powers. The GTC has suggested that it should be able to veto in-service plans produced by education authorities, approve in-service courses and decide whether teachers are incompetent.

The authorities are strongly opposed to such moves, arguing that they represent an infringement of "management's right to manage". The Educational Institute of Scotland believes that if such powers are to be granted they ought to be exercised by a body representative of teachers.

The Scottish Office has simply asked the GTC to draw up standards which teachers would have to meet before they are granted full registration.

Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, said: "This should give a clearer focus to probation and create greater consistency in the granting of full registration."

But Mr Wilson has knocked back for the time being the GTC's demand that it should be able to set and monitor standards for career development. That "will depend partly on responses to the consultation paper".

Ivor Sutherland, the GTC's registrar, none the less welcomed the proposals as "a significant and welcome stride forward in respect of the professionalisation of teaching". Asking the council to draw up a qualifications and competence framework for probation pointed inevitably to a post-probationary role.

The Scottish Office has yet to cost its plans, but points out that #163;30 million already goes to education authorities each year for development and appraisal.

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