Chartered teachers are at risk of disappearing, a leading teacher union official has warned.
Drew Morrice, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, urged them to shout about their value to schools as fears grow that the proposed one-year freeze on entry to the programme could spell its death-knell.
"You have to make your voice heard, loud and coherently, on what you bring to Scottish education and persuade the people who take decisions on your behalf of your value," he said. "If you don't do that, chartered teachers will disappear."
Councils and the Scottish Government want a one-year freeze on entry to the scheme as part of their proposals to save pound;60 million from the education budget.
If adopted, the freeze would mean those already going through the programme would be able to proceed to the next incremental point but not advance beyond that, Mr Morrice told a conference in Stirling of the Association of Chartered Teachers in Scotland.
Another senior figure suggested the real issue was about control, not just money. Tom Hamilton, director of educational policy at the General Teaching Council for Scotland, cited the way directors of education and heads had questioned the worth of the CT programme, complaining in particular about management's lack of a say over who becomes a chartered teacher.
From day one of the programme, there had been antipathy towards chartered teachers, lamented Hugh Donnelly, Glasgow area secretary of the EIS. Other teachers felt that either chartered teachers were only "in it for the money" or were no better teachers than anyone else, he claimed, yet heads were not vilified in the same way for taking headship qualifications.
David Cameron, former education director at Stirling Council and now an independent consultant, said it was time more evidence became available about the impact of the programme.
He challenged chartered teachers to say whether there was sufficient clarity about their role to survive a claim under the Equal Pay Act. "What if another classroom teacher challenges chartered teacher status, saying, `You are not doing anything different from me?'" he asked.
Mr Cameron said the message he had picked up from the Government was that the freeze was effectively a means of buying more time while the teachers' agreement was reviewed under the committee led by Gerry McCormac, principal of Stirling University.
Sean Stronach, team leader for teachers' professional development and leadership, who was representing the Scottish Government at the conference, acknowledged that a freeze on entry was never going to be welcomed, particularly by chartered teachers themselves.
"But it goes back to the very difficult financial climate we are in," he said. "If you have to make cuts in budgets and you have an area where costs are increasing, is that not an area you would look at first?".
There was a recognition within the Government of the real value that chartered teachers brought, Mr Stronach commented, but the evidence from HMIE was that the impact of chartered teachers was still "variable". That was one of the aspects that the McCormac review would examine.
David Noble, chair of ACTS, said the challenge facing his organisation was how to work within such a tight timescale to make its voice heard.
Mr Hamilton pointed to findings by HMIE that, where there were significant numbers of CTs in a school, the impact was beginning to be seen.
But he added: "How are we going to measure that impact? Simply looking at exam results is not the full answer. How do we get into what chartered teachers are doing for the climate of the school?"
The prospect of a freeze on entry to the CT programme appears to have prompted a rise in entrants in at least two universities. Aberdeen University had 11 applicants to its January 2010 intake compared to 16 this year; the University of the West of Scotland enrolled 20 teachers last January compared to 28 this year.
- Original headline: Chartered teachers at risk of extinction, warns union leader