GTC moves on checks

26th October 2007 at 01:00
The General Teaching Council for Scotland has moved quickly to close a loophole that could have seen foreign teachers working in Scotland without stringent background checks.

Fears had emerged that a new European directive would override Scottish standards for assessing the suitability of applicants seeking to register as teachers.

It threatened to allow individuals to work in an EU state other than their own for up to a year without the level of checks that the GTCS would like, at the end of which they could apply to extend their stay.

But after The TESS highlighted these concerns last week, the GTCS responded by saying it would demand rigorous background checks of applicants from EU countries, even if they invoked the directive.

This could, in theory, see the matter going to the courts, but the GTCS is standing by a decision that it says is in the public interest. A spokesman said: "Teachers applying under the directive will be required to complete overseas police clearance checks in addition to the standard Disclosure Scotland application. The GTC Scotland is required to operate in the public interest and accordingly, places the utmost importance upon the safety of Scotland's young people."

He said policy was in line with recommendations in the Bichard report, which was published following the Soham murders in 2002.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "No teacher can be employed in a local authority school without Disclosure Scotland background checks being done, and authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that a teacher has the necessary skills and knowledge necessary to do the job they have been assigned to.

"The GTCS is familiar with teaching degrees throughout the EU, so rarely has to ask for information on the content of a degree, and under the directive it can ask for material to substantiate an applicant's claim. The directive does not stipulate what this material should be - that is a matter for the GTCS."

No one has applied to join the register in Scotland under the new directive. A report on its implications is expected to go the GTCS council meeting on December 12.

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