Registration for special needs

MUCH of what Terry Hyde (TESS, June 23) says is right. There is no doubt that children with special educational needs are sometimes (or even often) short-changed in terms of the provision which they receive. I agree wholeheartedly with the central point of his letter.

He is, however, mistaken and out of date in regard to the contributions of the General Teaching Council. The council certainly does not send the message that teachers of learning support or teachers of pupils with specific educational difficulties are in some ways not "proper" teachers. I would therefore welcome the opportunity to set the record straight and to explain the council's present policy on the registration position of such teachers.

Some years ago the council changed its policy on the registration arrangements for teachers working in the general field of support for learning. It decided to do this because so many probationers were finding their first teaching post in what used to be called "special" or "remedial" education.

Previously it had not been possble for their experience to be recognised because they were trapped by the rigidity of the registration system and had to retain their probationary status despite five or 10 o even 15 years of well attested and successful work in schools. This was a situation which clearly could not be allowed to continue.

If they choose, probationer teachers can now complete their probationary period either in learning support in a mainstream primary or secondary school or in a special school.

After two years of successful classroom practice and on a headteacher's recommendation, teachers with a primary teaching qualification are entitled to receive full registration - primary (learning support) or primary (special educational needs).

By the same token their secondary counterparts are eligible for the award of full registration - secondary (subject) (learning support) or secondary (subject) (special educational needs). In other words, support for learning in all its forms is no longer seen to be providing experience which is not acceptable for full registration.

In view of this policy change I hope Mr Hyde will now recognise that the General Teaching Council has done its bit to ensure that teachers working in support for learning are indeed bona fide and "proper".

Dr D I M Sutherland


General Teaching Council

for Scotland Letters to the Editor

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