Fine line between classroom and management
The outgoing chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland has once again set his face against chartered teachers becoming part of the management structure in schools - despite the Education Secretary's wish for them to take on leadership roles and act as a "school-wide resource".
Matthew MacIver told chartered teachers at their national conference (TESS last week) that this would "conflict with the fundamental philosophy of the chartered teacher programme", which is "to acknowledge the worth and value of classroom teaching".
He described this as the basic concept which was "unambiguously important".
In her address to the same conference, Fiona Hyslop launched a further review of the role and responsibilities of chartered teachers, after taking a pot shot at the review group, set up by her predecessor, for having "ducked some of the most difficult issues".
The GTCS will now be expected to grapple with some of these issues, since it has been asked by Ms Hyslop to draw up "unequivocal guidance" on the evidence teachers must provide before being accepted on to the chartered teacher programme. This should be "robust, validated evidence of good classroom practice", and include the possibility of "senior colleague endorsement".
The move opens up the possibility of heads having a say in nominations to the chartered teacher programme, and therefore an expectation that they will assume management duties once they complete it. Although Ms Hyslop was careful to say the principle of "teacher self-nomination" should be retained, she also said chartered teachers were "ideally placed" to work with senior management in implementing A Curriculum for Excellence.
Chartered teachers will also be expected to demonstrate their skills through classroom observation and other school-based activities, so that they really are seen as the best and therefore have credibility with other teachers. "This will ensure a better understanding by their colleagues of what chartered teachers have been judged on," Ms Hyslop added.
Mr MacIver said he was not against a discussion "which would ensure schools get the best out of the skills and strengths of chartered teachers". But he cautioned against Scotland following the route taken in Wales, where the chartered teacher scheme will involve preparing teachers for leadership roles and for headship.
"My view has always been that chartered teachers meet a real professional need in the classroom," Mr MacIver commented.
The evolution of the chartered teacher role he preferred to see lay in it leading a move from an all-graduate profession to one where every teacher held a masters degree. This would be "a symbol of the highest standards expected of what is the key profession," he added.
Strong support for "mainstreaming" chartered teachers to become part of the normal career path in schools came from a leading Australian researcher who has studied equivalent schemes in England, the United States and his own country. Lawrence Ingvarson, principal research fellow with the Australian Council for Educational Research, said the advanced skills teacher programme in Australia was not a success because it was seen as creating "an alternative career path".
He believed that being a chartered or advanced skills teacher ought to be "a condition for eligibility to all promotion positions", observing: "Do we really want to have heads and deputes who, by not having such a qualification, have not shown a commitment to the highest professional standards in teaching?"
Mr MacIver acknowledged that many chartered teachers saw themselves on their way up the career ladder, although that was because "it is the only career progression open to them".
Fiona Hyslop's forthright stance on how chartered teachers should be selected and what they might be expected to do, appeared to win them over.
One reflected a general view that the Education Secretary "showed a real commitment to chartered teachers" and that she had been "brave and honest".
The two headteachers' organisations, which were represented at the conference, supported moves to ensure would-be chartered teachers had to demonstrate "effective classroom practice" and require the endorsement of senior colleagues to enter the scheme.
But they were not at one on whether being a chartered teacher should be a requirement for those wanting to get into school management.
Bill McGregor, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, supported such a move.
But Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland, said it might seem an obvious step, but was concerned it might put the concept of the chartered teacher at risk and place another hurdle in the way of headship at a time when applications were in decline.
"As in football, the best players don't necessarily make the best managers," Mr Dempster commented.
A spokesperson for the Educational Institute of Scotland said it supported the proposal to strengthen the eligibility so would-be chartered teachers must show evidence of good classroom practice and high professional standards.
But the union insisted that the initiative on who should become a chartered teacher ought to remain with the teacher, "and not be determined through crude line management".