A vote too far for the GTC?

15th December 2000 at 00:00
ARE teachers stupid or what? That seemed to be at the heart of a debate at last week's meeting of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

The issue was whether the complexities of the single transferable vote (STV) should be visited on the elections for the new council which have to take place, to the GTC's ongoing fury, next March. A minor sub-text emerged, namely "will teachers be able to understand it?" That was, until the real subtext emerged, which was that the dominant Educational Institute of Scotland members wanted nothing to do with it, while the minorities such as the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (supported by the voice of the Church of Scotland - yes, the GTC is a broad church) thought it was a splendid idea.

It was all too, too complex, according to convener Norma Anne Watson, Wolseley Brown, May Ferries and Sonia Kordiak (all EIS, as it happens). Nonsense, said the SSTA's Peter Wright. STV should not present highly-trained graduates with insuperable problems, Wright added.

We are not so sure. Tony Finn, the council's educted education convener, pointed to one of the suggested rules as to how votes should be distributed among election candidates. "If one or more candidates have surpluses which have not been deferred, transfer the largest surplus."

But there's more. "If the surpluses of two or more candidates are equal, and they have the largest surplus, transfer the surplus of the candidate who had the greatest vote at the first stage or at the earliest point in the count, after the transfer of a batch of papers, where they had unequal votes. If the votes of such candidates have been equal at all such points, the Returning Officer shall decide which surplus to transfer by lot."

Florida, eat your heart out. May Ferries spotted the problem. Teachers are indeed highly educated, she said, but they are "very busy people" to be able to cope with all this complexity. It was then the third subtext emerged: the GTC does not want a voting system that deters teachers from voting, and for its election turn-out to be even lower than it normally is. Straightforward, really.

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