It's not an MOT, it's a 'professional update'

1st October 2010 at 01:00
General Teaching Council for Scotland finds new term to put the shine on teacher re-accreditation

The general Teaching Council for Scotland is putting its own literacy and numeracy skills to the test, as it struggles to find a more teacher- friendly term to describe its controversial "re-accreditation" plans and tries to make 50 go into 37.

Its meeting this week heard that the GTCS was now referring to "re- accreditation" as "professional update" in a bid to allay teachers' fears that they would be tested on a regular basis - and, if found wanting, could find themselves struck off the register.

"We are not interested in words that begin with `re'," said David Drever, GTCS convener, as he sought to consign any discussion of re-accreditation or re-licensing to the dustbin.

The process should not sound like an MOT where the equivalent of brake- checks were being carried out, he said.

"We want this to be a forward-looking system that answers the needs of teachers and helps them to improve and develop."

The GTCS must also agree measures to reduce the size of its council, once it achieves independent status, from 50 members to 37. The number of elected teacher seats will then drop from 26 to 19. This will require the reduction of seats in some categories (FE drops from two seats to one) and the possible abolition of others.

But the most sensitive task facing the GTCS is the introduction of a mandatory "professional update" of teachers every five years.

When plans to grant independent status to the teachers' regulatory body were published last year, the Scottish Government said it was "inviting" the GTCS to introduce a system of re-accreditation. This invitation had been, said Mr Drever, something of a "rhetorical flourish": "What would have been the outcome if we had refused?"

Ministers have now imposed this on the council as a legal duty.

"While the GTCS did not ask for this responsibility or ask for the invitation to be given to us, nevertheless we are clearly of the opinion that there is no body better suited to looking at this issue," Mr Drever added.

Anthony Finn, GTCS chief executive, pledged that any Scottish system of professional update "would focus on continuous improvement rather than on determining whether or not a teacher is, or has remained, competent".

But he acknowledged the tensions between professional update and competence and said the two could not be kept completely separate.

"It is clear that there are links between a process of professional update and issues of competence," he commented.

"For example, it is hoped that the small number of cases which lead to a formal review of the competence of an individual teacher may be assisted by improvements in professional review and development arising from the introduction of this new process; and those cases which, despite these improvements, are still referred to GTC Scotland for resolution will be informed by the work undertaken during professional update," said Mr Finn.

The quality of professional review and development - the foundation block of the process - was at best "patchy" across Scottish schools, said Mr Drever.

The council is also concerned that funding difficulties for CPD could undermine its plans, while Mr Finn warned that the Donaldson review of teacher education would be published at the same time as budget cuts were handed to local authorities and universities.

"Let's hope he can be brave enough to promote a system of professional support for teachers, not only at the beginning of their careers but across their careers where too often support is inconsistent," Mr Finn said.

Elizabeth Buie,

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