Chartered teacher scheme 'shoogly'

29th January 2010 at 00:00

New research on the development of the chartered teacher scheme suggests that the review two years ago was "constrained" by an unwillingness at the highest level of government to tackle difficult issues - principally, that it was open to all teachers, irrespective of how good they were in the classroom.

Joseph McGeer, a teaching fellow at the University of the West of Scotland, quotes the chairman of the review, Michael O'Neill, as saying he was ordered by former Education Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to seek a consensus instead.

She then criticised the review group for not tackling these difficulties, claims Mr McGeer, who interviewed some key players involved in the 2001 national teachers' agreement, which set up the scheme.

At a chartered teacher (CT) conference in June 2008, Ms Hyslop said of the review group's findings: "It is clear that they have debated some of the thorny issues relating to chartered teachers, but I have to express a degree of frustration and disappointment that they seem to have ducked some of the most difficult issues."

In his report The Chartered Teacher Scheme - A Study in Policy-making, Mr McGeer, a former education official in Argyll and Bute, states: "The chair felt there was `a lack of willingness at ministerial level to tackle the major issues surrounding self-selection, a greater focus on school and the role of the chartered teacher'."

He also suggests that members of the review group were too hidebound by loyalties to the organisations they represented to make radical changes. "In that respect, the EIS position was to defend open access, even though the majority of teachers did not feel this was appropriate," he said.

Mr McGeer concludes that the CT scheme is "a product of very special and possibly unique circumstances", such as the sudden availability of large sums of new government money in 2000, pressure to resolve the long-running teachers' dispute and the low priority attached to the scheme in the very wide-ranging McCrone deal.

Mr McGeer suggests there was also an "underlying philosophy" at the time of valuing, and investing in, education and teachers.

His interviewees, who ranged from Peter Peacock, deputy education minister at the time of the teachers' agreement, to Dougie Mackie, a former president of the Educational Institute of Scotland, had "differing views and expectations of the launch and development of the scheme".

In general, its implementation did not follow the pattern expected, or hoped for, by several of them.

Neither Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, nor Matthew MacIver, former chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, felt the scheme was launched properly. Mr MacIver said he was "so very disappointed that, in many ways, the whole idea never got across".

A strong impression is given that the "McCrone deal" was rushed: even in the final session of the negotiations, many important aspects of the chartered teacher scheme were not settled. Gordon Jeyes, a Cosla adviser at the time, is quoted as describing the structure of the CT scheme as "shoogly".

elizabeth.buie@tes.co.uk.

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