MINISTERS who are relaxing the regulations on who teaches what in which classroom may be taken to court by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
The profession's gatekeeper is taking the almost unprecedented step of considering a legal challenge to the way the Scottish Executive is introducing classroom flexibility, claiming an attack on its core duty of ensuring that properly qualified teachers are in front of pupils.
Matthew MacIver, GTC registrar, told members on Wednesday that legal advice was being taken on whether ministers were breaking the terms of the 1965 Act which set up the council and subsequent education legislation up to 1992, by scrapping elements within the Schools (Scotland) Code 1956.
Mr MacIver fears that the second stage of the repeal next year may damage the fundamental responsibility of the GTC to have teachers in primaries and secondaries with appropriate qualifications.
He claimed that the Executive, in the first round of the Code's removal which comes into force on July 31, slipped through the repeal of a regulation that has to date ensured only primary-trained staff could become heads of nursery schools.
The GTC was not given the chance to comment.
In contrast, local authorities have welcomed the added flexibility with the rapid spread of integrated pre-five services.
The next stage in the Executive's move to loosen the profession is being driven by the commitment of Jack McConnell, the First Minister, to have teachers work between sectors in upper primary and the first two years of secondary.
Mr MacIver warned GTC members of the "significant" threat to its duties. "I want none of you to be under any illusion as to the importance of this. The GTC Scotland came into being in the mid-1960s to ensure that children were to be taught by qualified teachers.
"That is still our core business and that is why we have taken legal opinion and why we will continue to make representations to the Scottish Executive until we ensure that there will be no diminution in teaching qualifications," he said.
Mr MacIver believes there is already scope for teachers to take other qualifications and develop specialisms, such as teaching across the 10-14 age range, without abandoning key protective legislation.
Ministers have conceded that teachers in special schools will continue to require extra qualifications.
10-14 debate, page 5
UNEASE AT USE OF ASSISTANTS
The GTC has announced that it will monitor the professional development of classroom assistants after assertions by the GMB union that south of the border 80 per cent of assistants marked pupils' work and half delivered aspects of the curriculum and helped to plan lessons.
Dorothy Finlay, GTC education convener, cautioned: "There may be knock-on effects in Scotland the way the Westminister government is using adult-pupil ratios."