Neil Munro reports on continued conflict over make-up of revamped council THE Scottish Executive is running into trouble over plans to shake up the membership of the General Teaching Council.
Ministers say they remain committed to teachers having the final say but the proposed changes currently out for consultation will give them a bare majority of only one seat, keeping the unions happy but not the education authorities. If the plans go through, teachers will have 25 elected seats on the 49-strong council not 30.
Peter Peacock, Deputy Children and Education Minister, has already been given a hint of the authorities' unease. Keir Bloomer, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Education, warned Mr Peacock in August: "A membership in which providers outweigh users by a ratio of six to one is not acceptable."
The Government's plans envisage one parent representative and one from industry. This has drawn criticism too but from the opposing view that the educational interest needs to be more strongly entrenched.
Local authority officials had suggested reducing the number of elected teachers to 17 in a 49-strong GTC, of whom only 12 would have come from primary and secondary schools as opposed to the current 22.
But this was rebuffed by their political leaders who have sent them back to the drawing board. At the last education committee meeting of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Brian Oldrey, education chairman in Renfrewshire, said he did not know of a regulatory body in any other profession so heavily influenced by those from outside its ranks.
Apart from the seat apiece for parents and industrialists, ministers have suggested two church representatives, a social work director and four nominees appointed by the Executive. They believe it is essential that the GTC reflects "the wider public interest".
Danny McCafferty, Cosla's education convener, said education must have a clear majority. "It's a self-regulating body for the profession which presumes that those with a vested interest should have the predominant say."
The GTC itself is also opposing planned changes which would see teachers elected from a number of different constituencies to ensure adequate representation from groups such as headteachers, pre-school staff and special needs teachers, as well as a balance of promoted and unpromoted staff.
The council believes this degree of prescription, apparently designed to minimise the influence of "unrepresentative" union could be "a charter for chaos".
In its draft response, which was not challenged at last week's council meeting, the GTC states that a policy of creating so many categories would be "professionally counter-productive".
It adds: "Teachers who are elected to the council should represent the whole profession and be accountable to the profession in its entirety.
"Would headteachers vote for headteachers and only for headteachers? There are no provisions for geographical balance, ie urban and rural teachers. The introduction of a number of small categories could also have an adverse effect on gender balance."
At a meeting with the GTC early last month, Mr Peacock reiterated the importance of avoiding "a complete imbalance in teacher representation". But the GTC believes such fears are groundless and has analysed the membership of elected teachers going back to 1983 showing that heads and other promoted staff have always been strongly represented.
The seventh council in 1991-95, for example, actually had more primary heads than primary teachers. The secondary category had just two unpromoted teachers in that time, an improvement on the sixth council which had none.
English GTC chief, page 14