A simple matter of principals

10th March 2000 at 00:00
IT DOESN'T match Section 28 (aka section 2A) as the most unexpected educational row of the year. But the General Teaching Council's high dudgeon, reported last week, over some of the Government's plans for its future comes close.

Peter Wright, a member from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, went so far as to fear "a balkanised and hamstrung council". Wolseley Brown, another former EIS president and convener of the finance and general purposes committee, said they were being treated "shabbily" by ministers.

Jean Miller, a Glasgow principal history teacher, spoke of "growing staffroom anger". Ministers were sending a message to the profession that it could not be trusted, according to May Ferries, another ex-EIS president and convener of probation. Council convener Norma Anne Watson, a former president of the Educational Institute of Scotland, pledged to seek the support of parents. Finally, Ivor Sutherland, the registrar, raised the spectre of legal action.

So what on earth can have had such a galvanising effect? There is to be a year shaved off the council's four-year term, separate representation for headteachers, a reduced teacher majority, a limited role in teachers' ongoing career developmentand the prospect of ministerial intervention in the work of the GTC's committees. Innocuous surely?

The proposal that the teacher majority on the GTC should be just one sparked a spat between May Ferries and Gordon Kirk, the vice-convener and the man formerly known as the principal of Moray House. Ferries challenged the view that the majority was not just one if you included the five seats for the teacher education institutions (one for lecturers and four to represent the institutions, usually principals).

"I revere my colleagues in the TEIs," Ferries said jovially, "but they cannot be said to speak for classroom teachers". This brought Kirk to his feet to respond "in a collegial way," which meant some of us anticipated an almighty row.

But dissenting shakes of the head were as heated as it got as Kirk pleaded for a united front between teacher training and the classrooms.

He recalled fondly those mass meetings when the five TEI principals would gather in solemn conclave to decide who should represent them on the GTC. Such was the depth of the principals' democratic instincts that they appointed registrar Sutherland to act as returning officer. So teachers really have nothing to worry about.

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