Editor's comment

10th July 2009 at 01:00

The Great Spotted Incompetent Teacher has reared its head again - at least in England. Labour at Westminster is proposing a regular MOT for teachers through a five-year "licence to teach" (p8). It is likely to be one of the shortest-lived proposals ever: if the Tories win the next UK election, as they appear to be on course to do, they will ditch the plan.

In Scotland, we like to believe we have a more "collegiate" approach, refusing to leap on the nearest passing fad. The assumption that teachers need to be re- licensed to prove their professional competence has its superficial attractions; after all, similar accreditation is in place for doctors and lawyers.

But we must not assume that the same rules should apply to all professions simply because they are called professions. It is relatively easy to check whether lawyers and doctors are up to speed, but endlessly contentious if experienced teachers have to submit themselves to their headteacher. Will there be different levels of competence? What mechanisms will there be to resolve disputes? It is a bureaucratic, confrontational approach.

We can only imagine the scene where younger versions of teachers like John MacKenzie, winner of this year's Lifetime Achievement award (p4), have to submit themselves to their headteacher for a licence in five years' time. "Lifetime Achievement award, eh? All very well, but what do you know about Building the Curriculum 3?"

While the teaching profession in Scotland is not always as collegiate as it likes to believe, at least we have a tendency to eschew such nonsense. Regular career reviews ought to be a staple diet of any profession, for the benefit of the individual as well as his or her place of employment. We have a name for that north of the border: for "licence to teach", read "continuing professional development".

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