Back to work after a break?

13th May 2011 at 01:00
Not till you've done 10 days' training

Teachers who want to return to the classroom after a long break could have to pay for at least 10 days of catch-up training, according to a controversial suggestion from the teaching watchdog.

The General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) said qualified teachers who apply for registration after more than five years away from the job should be required to update their skills. However, teaching union NASUWT Cymru accused the council of "overstepping the mark" and urged a rethink.

In a document put out for consultation, the GTCW says teachers who want to pick up their career after a long break can face difficulties and often struggle to adjust.

They may lack confidence or feel out of touch with new developments, it claims, or experience difficulty securing a teaching post because their knowledge and skills are out of date. This is particularly the case at primary level and for certain secondary subjects, it adds.

"When such persons seek to return to the classroom, it is important that they are fully prepared and their knowledge and skills are up to date, not only for the benefit of the pupils they teach, but for their own benefit," it says.

The GTCW says the proposed scheme "fills a gap", as there are currently no specific requirements for teachers returning to the profession after a prolonged absence.

Teachers would be required to undertake at least 10 full days of what the GTCW terms "updating", made up of any combination of supervised teaching, formal study or self-directed study. It will be up to teachers to choose what training they need; not all options will incur costs.

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, said the scheme was "fundamentally flawed".

"It should be down to individuals to decide if they want to update their skills, not the GTCW," he said. "This scheme is overstepping the mark and the council is going beyond its remit, which is to register and regulate the profession, not mandate training. It seems like the GTCW is just trying to justify its existence again."

Mr Phillips said the five-year figure was "arbitrary" and could be discriminatory, but the GTCW said that, in discussion with teachers, unions, employers and others, it was seen as the longest break that teachers could take without compromising their knowledge or skills.

Gary Brace, chief executive of the GTCW, said the scheme was flexible, and was in no way intended to be a barrier.

"The scheme is consistent with the GTCW statutory remit to ensure that everyone on its register is properly trained, prepared and equipped to teach effectively," he said. "It is also in line with other professions such as medicine, which have `returning to practise' requirements."

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