April deadline on appraisal
All teachers will undergo their first appraisal within two years and be reappraised at two-year intervals if the Scottish Office succeeds in implementing a voluntary system. Schemes would be approved for operation by April next year.
Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, had his first meeting on Monday with the National Co-ordinating Committee for Staff Development of Teachers and made it clear that the decision to abandon Tory plans for compulsory appraisal did not mean any easing up on pressure to progress swiftly.
Maggi Allan, director of education in South Lanarkshire, who chairs the committee, described the meeting as constructive and the time-scale as "onerous though achievable".
Mrs Allan is keen to tie appraisal to school development plans and training opportunities, a missing link which an unpublished HMI report concedes has been a weakness in existing systems.
Appraisal must be separate from procedures to deal with incompetent teachers, Mrs Allan stressed, and administration must be kept to a minimum.
Mr Wilson said after the meeting: "Teachers who have been through the appraisal process generally valued it and I want to be sure that all teachers undergo the same process. I shall do what is required to see that happens. We have not opted in Scotland for a mandatory national system of appraisal, but this in no way signifies complacency about standards based on a constructive, locally determined approach within a Scottish framework."
The committee's first task will be to revise the guidelines for council-run appraisal schemes, which have been generally agreed with the unions.
Some new authorities have already embarked on appraisal, and the Educational Institute of Scotland has agreed that the General Teaching Council should have powers over appraisal and incompetent teachers.
The Government has yet to clarify its views on the role of the GTC, which has been seeking powers over staff appraisal, teacher competence and in-service courses for eight years. Ministers have an election manifesto pledge that it would be given an enhanced role over "the accreditation and development of teachers".
Mr Wilson said last week at the launch of his standards initiative: "There will be a role for the GTC in appraisal but we have not yet decided what that role should be."
Mrs Allan, however, will have to be persuaded of the merits of a stronger GTC usurping what fellow directors regard as their preserve. They are strongly opposed to its proposed role in vetting appraisal schemes, and they may only be willing to consider incompetence as a new ground for being struck from the register where they pass cases to the GTC.
The vice-convener of the GTC has meanwhile suggested that the education authorities and teacher training institutions should be prepared to grant the council extended powers on a voluntary basis.
This "second-best" solution could be the way forward if the GTC does not win Government backing for legislation to extend its quality control beyond probationary and disciplinary cases, Gordon Kirk said last week.
Addressing graduates, the Moray House principal said the GTC hoped it would be granted the extra powers it sought. But he added that the changes could still be introduced on the basis of a voluntary agreement between the council, the education authorities and teacher educators.
In practice, however, the voluntary approach is only likely to work in the case of GTC accreditation for in-service programmes. Striking staff from the register for being incompetent would require a change in the legislation.