Changes to make us respected by all

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Public confidence in teaching is a must if we are to continue to raise the status and standing of the profession. And to be successful in their careers, teachers need the right skills and experiences.

Now in its sixth year, the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) has significant and expanding responsibilities for these issues - and we are planning more changes.

One of the most significant, certainly from a public point of view, is that from June the council will request an enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), which will be used to determine a person's suitability to be a registered teacher.

When making this decision, the council will apply the same standards of conduct for the applicant as it expects of a registered teacher. This is an important step in rebuilding faith in the robustness of checks carried out on teachers and, indeed, all adults seeking to work with children.

For too long, the requirement on employers to seek enhanced CRB checks on all new school staff has been simply guidance. It is time statutory checks were required for all school staff.

The recent Furlong review of teacher-training in Wales highlighted well-known problems with the current system for deciding how many teachers to train. Professor Furlong was bold in his assertion that we must cut the number of training places in Wales by as much as half in the primary sector and a quarter in the secondary over the next five years. Professor John Andrews, the GTCW's first chairman, summed up the problem when he said we are effectively training people for unemployment.

Things had to change and Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, has accepted that, especially with falling pupil rolls, there must be a better match between supply and demand of teachers.

Over-supply often compounds the difficulties already faced by new teachers in gaining the three terms of experience they need to qualify. In many cases, such experience is gained through terms taught in different schools, making it hard for the necessary funding for induction (and subsequent early professional development) to follow from post to post.

So, from September, the GTCW will not only award qualified teacher status and induction certificates, but it will also administer the funding for mentoring and development opportunities.

That work will build on the way the GTCW has managed the Assembly government-funded continuing professional development (CPD) programme, which has seen some 20,000 projects completed by teachers since 2001.

While the funding for the programme is lower than might be hoped, and much less than for the pilot scheme, the Assembly government has introduced a rolling and increasing three-year funding cycle, allowing us to plan more creatively how best to allocate the cash and spread the benefits of the available resources.

A new strand of the scheme was launched on April 1, allowing groups of teachers in the same school to work together on a CPD project. If successful, the group bursary pilot will be rolled out on a permanent basis.

We believe every teacher has the right to high-quality professional development throughout their career, along with a responsibility to stay at the top of their game.

I have been involved in the council's project to develop and implement a cohesive CPD framework for teachers in Wales. This will enable them to map their career paths, both within a classroom setting, middle or senior leadership. It will provide the means for acknowledging excellent practice by both classroom teachers and middle leaders.

The GTCW has started talks with the Privy Council to become a chartered body, which would enable us to recognise teachers' professionalism and skills via the award of chartered teacher status.

We work in one of the most rewarding professions in society. I know I have the best job in the world. Now we need to make sure everyone else knows as well.

Mal Davies is head of Willows high school, Cardiff and chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales

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