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Rift over path to chartered status

EXPERIENCED teachers will walk away from chartered status unless there are substantial changes to the current proposals, key members of the General Teaching Council for Scotland warned last week. They are demanding more recognition of classroom practice and experience and less academic focus.

But at a full council meeting their concerns sparked a furious row with Gordon Kirk, dean of education at Edinburgh University, dismissing any revision that would create a two-tier route. "That would be deeply divisive," Professor Kirk said.

A majority of GTC members clearly disagreed with his view about the merits of a 12-module qualification. They are pressing for school experience to be recognised and accredited and greater flexibility in the proposals, which were drafted by a team that included Professor Kirk.

Bruce Heil, assistant principal of Telford College and a member of the College Lecturers' Association, believed it was vital there was more than one route in, although 10 years down the line it was possible Professor Kirk's model would prevail.

"There are many teachers who because of the work they have done in the classroom over the last 20 to 30 years believe they are probably deserving of chartered teacher recognition. If we are to say to those people that they would now have to go back and take what is an academic qualification and alongside that some new professional experience to show they meet this qualification, then I don't think these people are going to be very happy," Mr Heil said.

Margaret Smith, a Fife secondary teacher and member of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "A lot of older teachers feel it has nothing to do with them and that their experience and qualifications are being downplayed and considered irrelevant."

Similar concerns were echoed by May Ferries, a Glasgow primary depute headteacher and past president of the Educational Institute of Scotland. One of the reasons for planning an academic route was to avoid achieving chartered status on the "headteacher's whim". But the professional route would, ironically, involve the judgment of heads.

"We have to face reality that some people will welcome the traditional academic route and others want an alternative to that. We are seeking to ensure that both the academic route and experiential route are equally valued," Ms Ferries said.

In 10 years, teachers could be taking a module every second year, stretching through a large part of their career.

In a heavyweight battle of the deans, Douglas Weir, former dean of education at Strathclyde University, rejected Professor Kirk's model. Teachers welcomed the standard but disputed the means to reach it. It did not need a course at a university. Speaking on behalf of a GTC subgroup, Professor Weir said: "What is in dispute is whether a simplistic conflation of the standard for chartered teacher with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework is sustainable. It is our view that the conflation is not sustainable and it is my contention that a 12-module masters degree will not satisfy this council."

Professor Kirk, however, said 7,000 teachers were already following the master approach - a figure Professor Weir disputed - which built on the existing framework for teacher training. He challenged the assumption that the proposals ignored the professional dimension. "We reject the thesis that there are academic bits of this and professional bits of this. The standard for chartered teacher strongly emphasises professional action. That is what the whole thrust of the initiative is concerned to do. There needs to be a framework. I am against the idea there should be two frameworks."

The GTC is to hold further talks before offering advice to the Scottish Executive. Ministers will take the final decision.

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