GTC axe falls on England but it couldn't happen here. Right?

15th July 2011 at 01:00
Don't relax just yet - the GTCS is vulnerable if the two nations' attainment gaps keep widening

Be afraid, Tony Finn, be very afraid. The winds of change are blowing through education at every level in England - and the wind does not recognise borders. Gusts will be felt on Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh, home of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Last year, the English education secretary, the former Scots journalist Michael Gove, announced that he would abolish the General Teaching Council for England, saying: "I believe this organisation does little to raise teaching standards or professionalism. Instead it simply acts as a further layer of bureaucracy while taking money away from teachers."

The reaction appears to have ranged from indifference to jubilation. This is one reason Tony Finn, the chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, the august body created by statute in 1965, should be afraid.

Another is that the English might just find that abolition of the GTCE makes no appreciable difference to teaching standards or the profession's reputation and the idea might just catch on in Scotland.

The education unions piled in to welcome Gove's move while the comment section of the Guardian - where one might think the GTCE would be defended robustly - only stretched to 23 posts, most of which expressed joy, relief and demands by members wanting their money back.

North of the border, the GTCE's abolition has provoked concern that teachers facing disciplinary action in English schools will simply resign, melt into the background and apply for teaching posts in Scotland (TESS, 1 July). Tony Finn will require the GTCS to take a more intrusive look at teachers coming from England.

Fortunately for him, the GTCS has a far wider role in Scottish education and is supported by the unions. Thoughts of the GTCS ever being abolished would surely seem fantastic?

Well, yes, but consider the possibility of comparisons being made between educational standards in Scotland and England in, say, five years' time. Attainment levels already suggest England is outperforming Scotland.

What if the introduction of Gove's academies and the abolition of the GTCE see the gap in England's favour grow? Will questions not be asked about the need for reform in Scottish education and is it not possible that the GTCS will be seen as an expendable layer of bureaucracy?

Think Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education and ponder the future of GTCS again. Might the responsibilities of the GTCS not be split up?

Be afraid, Tony Finn. Be very afraid.

Brian Monteith is a former MSP and public relations consultant to the GTCS

Brian Monteith, Political commentator.

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