Higher Still bowls a googly;General Teaching Council

11th June 1999 at 01:00
Neil Munro rounds up an outbreak of contentious issues at the General Teaching Council in Edinburgh

A DECISION on setting up an inquiry into the absence of teaching qualifications for new subjects created by Higher Still has been side-stepped. That means subjects such as psychology and philosophy will not initially be taught by qualified staff.

"If this becomes a substantial issue, we will have to decide whether to create additional teaching qualifications (ATQs) in these subjects," Tony Finn, the GTC's education convener, said.

"The problem we face is that we don't want to create ATQs when they are unnecessary or to create unemployment for teachers who cannot get jobs in these subjects when they qualify."

Douglas Weir, dean of education at Strathclyde University, pointed out that teachers of a "cognate" subject, such as religious education in the case of philosophy, were capable of taking the related subject.

Mr Finn said philosophy was the easiest case to deal with, given its relationship to RE. "But Higher Still will bring in other subjects - psychology springs to mind. There are many teachers who will have psychology as part of their BEd qualification but who are not necessarily teaching in a cognate subject."

Decisions on whether subjects such as media studies and outdoor education need a specific qualification to teach them were "delicate and complex", Mr Finn said.

"It is our responsibility, as custodians of professionalism, to ensure that subjects are taught in schools by those who are credibly trained and credibly qualified. We have to ensure this does not develop in ways we would find unacceptable."

The sensitivities were soon underlined by Peter Clark, reader in logic and metaphysics at St Andrews University, one of four higher education representatives on the GTC. Dr Clark suggested that philosophy was not related to religious or moral education. Psychology was also a subject in which Scotland had a worldwide reputation and which was fundamentally important in its own right.

Philip Banks, HM chief inspector with responsibility for Higher Still, has already made clear his own view that there is unlikely to be an explosion of courses in the wake of the new programme.

A wider review was proposed by Bart McGettrick, dean of the education faculty at Glasgow University. Professor McGettrick said that the traditional teaching qualification was under threat at both ends of the secondary spectrum. Qualifications are felt to be too specialised for the multiplicity of courses in the first two years but not specialised enough in the upper secondary.

He questioned whether the concept of closely linked "cognate" subjects had any continuing relevance. "Cognateness probably doesn't come with the subject content but with the generic, pedagogical skills of what it means to teach," he said.

The suggestion of a review was sidelined by Norma Anne Watson, the GTC's convener, who said the idea would be "taken on board".

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