A charter written in disappearing ink

21st October 2011 at 01:00

Chartered teachers - if ever there was a scheme that was mismanaged, this must be it. Right from the start there were criticisms, whether it was that teachers were self-selecting or that they had to pay for their courses while aspiring heads received funding for theirs.

But the scheme fitted onto the CPD ladder that was promoted to cultivate the new "professionalism" following the teachers' agreement of 2001. It was to recognise talent in the classroom and reward those prepared to deepen their understanding of teaching and learning through academic research.

If the practice has not always lived up to the theory, and there has been resentment over their pay and confusion over their role, that is down to the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, which established the ground rules. It is, as Gavin McCrone has said (TESS, 18 March), one of his regrets that his committee's ideas for advanced chartered teacher status and for annual assessments were never implemented. So it's ironic that the SNCT is the body that put the scheme on hold this spring.

Nor is it the only group which appears to have changed its tune. When the revised standard for chartered teachers was launched in 2009 to ensure more focus on leading learning, the SNP Government minister, Keith Brown, sang the praises of chartered teachers. They were, he said, "ideally placed" to take forward Curriculum for Excellence: "As well as a strong knowledge and understanding of best practice in their field, they can bring confidence and a drive to succeed".

Only last year, Education Secretary Michael Russell urged chartered teachers to stand up for themselves and "challenge your school's senior management team where. it is hampering the potential contribution you can make". Yet this year, he signed up to a freeze on entry.

So, what changed? The recession for one thing, and tough pay negotiations with Cosla in the run-up to the Holyrood elections in May. Some might call that political expediency, but now that the political pressure is off, Mr Russell is still failing to stand up for chartered teachers and has been since before the McCormac report advocated their abolition. It's little wonder they are angry (News Focus, pages 12-15).

There is, of course, no need for the Government to accept McCormac's recommendation. It's early days to pull the plug on a scheme with much to commend it. As Graham Donaldson acknowledges in his report on teacher education, there is international interest in ways of recognising accomplished teachers and the original McCrone concept "retains some resonance". If that means better selection of candidates, clearer expectations of how they can add value, and greater local authority control over numbers, as he suggests, then that surely is worth considering.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor, gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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