The head of the General Teaching Council for Scotland has suggested that the Scottish Executive should put pound;5 million into the chartered teacher programme. Matthew MacIver, the council's registrar, fears that otherwise teachers will be reluctant to shoulder the financial burden involved.
But in a lukewarm response the Executive says it has "no plans" to change the funding arrangements, arguing that chartered teachers can recoup their costs by earning pound;6,500 more once they complete the 12 modules.
Mr MacIver, however, wants the first module, which costs pound;600, to be subsidised. He has also proposed a similar move, with a further pound;1.3 million, for staff who have been in the classroom for around six years.
This would involve some 2,000 teachers a year.
Mr MacIver asked: "Why do aspiring chartered teachers have to pay substantial amounts of money to achieve that status while aspiring headteachers do not? At the moment, around 6,500 teachers have expressed an interest in the chartered teacher programme. For the small sum of around pound;5 million, all of them could have their compulsory module one paid.
That would send out such an important message and would undoubtedly raise morale."
None the less, the GTC rejected suggestions that take-up had been lower than anticipated, saying that 2,500 teachers have so far embarked. "We always thought there would be 2,000-3,000 teachers active at any one stage," Myra Pearson, depute registrar, said.
Seventy-seven teachers have achieved full chartered teacher status, with a further 39 coming through in June. Around 360 are following the accreditation route, offering evidence of prior classroom experience and learning as evidence, and some 800 teachers are at the second stage of the programme, either through the university or the accreditation route.
The GTC points to emerging evidence that former assistant principal teachers and senior teachers are being attracted because their promotion prospects have been blocked following the abolition of these posts in the teachers' agreement.
Myra Pearson, depute registrar, said: "The more experienced teachers who were APTs and senior teachers are often the ones who would relish a chartered teacher role because they miss having one in the new structures."
The GTC has circulated a questionnaire to the 6,500 teachers who expressed an initial interest. "Some have continued their interest and others have not. We want to know why not," Mr MacIver said. Some 1,500 responses have already been received.
Ms Pearson said: "There is no doubt cost is a concern for teachers but, to a certain extent, that is outwith the GTC's control. We need, however, to look at ways of making that reasonable and manageable."
Every teacher should have "a professional entitlement" to take the first module at no cost.
Ms Pearson said that taking time out to do the 20-hour self-evaluation module over two or three days in an intensive session or as a group activity would probably be the most beneficial route, but teachers might also do it online or over a longer period.
"It might help people decide if they want to head down the chartered teacher classroom-based route or become more involved in leadership and management."
Rosa Murray, the GTC's professional officer for continuing professional development, said: "Those teachers who come on to the chartered teacher programme say it revitalises their self-worth and professional self-esteem.
We know that the Scottish teaching profession, particularly among a certain age-group, has suffered from low professional self-esteem."
If teachers were asked how they knew if their pupils were improving, Ms Pearson said, they would answer: "I would look at how they achieve and engage.
"But if you ask teachers how they know whether they are improving, they are not necessarily used to discussing that in the same way. We now have a generation of teachers who are coming through training and induction which expects them to justify what they are doing. But, for others, doing this module would give them a chance to reflect on what they are doing. It would be almost like diagnostic assessment - but it would not be a test."
A spokeswoman for the Executive played down any talk of a crisis of confidence, describing the take-up so far as encouraging. "It is not something we expected all teachers to immediately sign up for. It is the kind of thing they are doing when the time is right for them and for their school.
"Of those eligible teachers, there are others who see their future in management and promoted posts, and they are unlikely to go for the chartered teacher programme because it is not designed for them but for others who want to carry on working in the classroom.
"In terms of funding, we have always said we believe that, because there are financial rewards in undertaking the chartered teacher programme, it is right that teachers should have to finance it themselves. There are no plans for that to change."