The General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) has adopted a controversial policy calling for the registration of thousands of teaching assistants.
Council members last week approved a proposal to introduce regulation of those who have direct contact with pupils, including higher-level teaching assistants, cover supervisors, teaching assistants, learning-support assistants, inclusion co-ordinators and behaviour mentors.
Figures released last January showed there were 20,410 full-time equivalent support staff in Welsh schools.
The introduction of the play-led foundation phase for three to seven-year- olds, with its strict adult-pupil ratios, has contributed to the growth in their number.
The GTCW argues that the move would foster professionalism and lead to a rise in standards and pupil attainment.
Although the council says it is keeping an "open-mind" on which organisation would regulate the extra staff, its position paper says it would make "economic and practical sense" if its own responsibilities were extended.
Former GTCW chairman Mal Davies first revealed the plan in TES Cymru in August, claiming that the issue of unregistered staff coming into contact with pupils had to be addressed. However, at a meeting last week council members were split.
Gareth Jones, former head of Derwen Primary in Flintshire, told the GTCW meeting: "We can't afford to ignore the large number of people who have contact with children in our classrooms. Someone has to regulate what they do and how they do it."
But Tim Cox, a teacher at Bryn Hafren comprehensive in the Vale of Glamorgan, argued that it would be a "potential mistake". He said: "I just don't think there's any comparison whatsoever with other professionals here. The word para-professional comes to mind."
The GTCW position paper emphasised that every class should have a qualified teacher in charge. It said: "(The council) does not support any initiative to diminish the professional role of the teacher or affect the quality of education delivered to pupils."
It identified a number of areas of concern, including cost, the need to garner support from the profession, and whether the registration fee should be lower for support staff than for teachers.
The council is already unpopular with some sections of the profession for charging teachers a pound;45 registration fee, of which only pound;33 is refunded through their pay.
Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, who organised a protest outside last week's meeting calling for the abolition of the GTCW, called the move a "step too far".
He said: "There's no need for the GTCW or any other body to regulate that aspect of the profession. They are simply trying to increase their income stream."
Any move to regulate support staff would require primary legislation. Education minister Leighton Andrews is seeking the devolution of powers to decide the future of THE GTCW and has said he will consider registration for the wider workforce alongside those proposals.
- Original headline: Thousands of support staff face compulsory registration