A passport for English teachers

GTCS could help hundreds cross the border by validating course

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After yesterday's historic referendum, much work will be required to establish the new relationship between Scotland and England. But the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is already attempting to do its bit for cross-border cooperation by accrediting a teaching course outside the country for the first time.

The move to validate a one-year course at the University of Northampton will make it easier for teachers in England to be registered in Scotland and move north of the border to work.

At the moment, people who complete their initial teacher training in schools rather than following a traditional postgraduate route are not allowed to work in Scottish state schools because their qualifications are not considered sufficient.

Now, the GTCS is attempting to make it easier for the tens of thousands of teachers potentially affected by this rule to move north, and has entered a partnership with the University of Northampton to accredit the latter's part-time "top-up" course.

Teachers on the course will be expected to complete two master's-level modules evaluating different kinds of learning theories. They will also undertake small classroom-based research projects in an area relevant to their practice.

Helen Scott, deputy dean at the University of Northampton, hoped the accreditation would help people to fulfil their career ambitions. She said it was first developed eight years ago for teachers who wanted to work in other countries but whose school-based training was not a recognised qualification.

"If they wanted to work in another country there was nothing for them, so we provided the course for our own students initially," Ms Scott said.

"The Graduate Teacher Programme is gone, but we have School Direct and some of those people will have qualified teacher status [QTS] only," she added. "We think there will be a continued market for people getting those qualifications. We have had 20 to 25 people on the course every year and we think the demand will continue."

The course costs pound;950 for teachers who did not gain their QTS with the University of Northampton, with a pound;200 discount for former students. Plans have been laid to make it a distance-learning course in order to open it up to more people.

GTCS chief executive Ken Muir told TESS that accrediting the course would make it more straightforward for teachers from England to register in Scotland, a prerequisite for finding a job in a state school.

But he added: "This is not simply about being able to teach in Scotland, it is a matter of public interest and protection. It is also about maintaining and ensuring standards."

Tom Hamilton, director of education and professional learning at the GTCS, said that validating the course would be a "win, win, win" for his own organisation, the university and students.

Certain parts of Scotland continue to have teacher recruitment problems. As reported in TESS last year, Aberdeen City Council approved a scheme to tempt English teachers north of the border with cash bonuses of up to pound;5,000 to relocate. Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire Council took its recruitment campaign to Canada and Ireland in an attempt to fill vacancies in both primary and secondary schools.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: "Our preference will be that teachers train in Scottish establishments, but we would not have a difficulty with the GTCS accrediting courses in England. People are coming up from England and it is better that they have attended a GTCS-accredited course."

He also said the course would help to raise awareness in England that there was "a different regime in terms of standards". "In England, it is such a hotchpotch at the moment, so it is better for there to be a stated practice," he said.

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