GTC to ask minister for bigger stick

13th June 1997 at 01:00
The General Teaching Council and the local authorities remain deadlocked after council members voted in Falkirk last week to go ahead with a bid for extended powers.

The GTC now wants a meeting with the Education Minister to press its case. The council is keen to be the Scottish Office's chief adviser on in-service and continuing staff training, to have a veto over education authority appraisal schemes and to be able to strike off incompetent teachers.

Gordon Kirk, the council's vice-convener, said: "The body with responsibility for professional standards is not really doing its job if its responsibility stops at the end of the probationary period or where a teacher is brought to its attention for disciplinary offences."

This is anathema to directors of education whose president John Travers, a member of the council, issued a sharply worded statement after the council meeting voicing their "serious reservations". Mr Travers, director in North Ayrshire, said: "The GTC should not set itself up as an alternative to the established disciplinary procedures operated by local authorities."

Professor Kirk said councils could still dismiss a teacher. But he added: "It is not good enough that an employer can dismiss a teacher who is not fit to teach in its area but can do so in another. A national system would therefore be a support for employers."

Ken Macleod, director of education in Dumfries and Galloway, said any role for the GTC in deciding on cases of teacher incompetence would have to be based on careful screening of complaints, particularly from outside the profession. "We don't want to frustrate genuine complaints but we don't want to encourage the frivolous," Mr Macleod said.

Professor Kirk stressed the importance of avoiding "a climate of intimidation, fear and victimisation". He said: "Teaching is the most challenging and demanding of professional activities. But we say that the way to get a response from people to meet these challenges is not by hounding teachers but by providing them with maximum support."

Ivor Sutherland, the council's registrar, appealed to the local authorities not to break ranks. "We have not fallen out with the authorities yet, and we don't see why we should in the future."

Any extension to the GTC's powers will require primary legislation and the Government has given no indication of introducing any over the next 18 months unless ministers decide they must be seen to be "doing something" on teaching standards.

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