Never the twa shall meet

19th May 2006 at 01:00
David Henderson reports from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association's conference in Aviemore

Few secondary teachers want to teach in primary and few primary teachers want to switch to secondary, Matthew MacIver, registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, says.

About six teachers a day are applying to the council for registration in a second subject but there is no rush to change sectors, Mr MacIver told the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association's annual conference in Aviemore.

Mr MacIver rounded on the Scottish Executive for repealing the 1956 legislation that set strict standards for the teaching profession. He was already concerned about the gradual erosion of teachers from the pre-school sector. "It seems everybody can look after a child except a registered teacher," he said.

Ministers abandoned the 1956 schools code last year, partly to remove the barriers between teachers working in the different sectors. Some secondaries such as Eastbank Academy in Glasgow are now experimenting with the use of primary teachers in S1 and S2 to help groups of selected pupils in core subjects.

Others believe class size cuts in English and maths in S1 and S2 might only be met by deploying more primary teachers.

Mr MacIver accepted the need for greater flexibility in the profession and the political reality of the push to raise staffing levels. "What I do not accept," he said, "is that that flexibility should be without academic and specialist standards. That is why professional registration is absolutely vital, especially in secondary where we need that element of knowledge which is at the base and heart of being a professional in terms of subject specialism."

Mr MacIver said he was "delighted" with the response to the GTC's documents on the framework for the profession and professional registration.

"We are receiving on average six applications a day from secondary teachers wanting registration in a second subject. You will not be surprised to learn that they are coming from the Higher Still subjects, from social subjects and the sciences. We could have predicted that," he said.

"You will not be hugely surprised to know that there are not hundreds of primary teachers wanting to teach in S1 and S2 and there are not hundreds of secondary teachers wanting to teach primary 1."

Mr MacIver raised the ante on professional standards by calling for a review of the principal teachers' grade. In 10-15 years, he said, there might be few leadership candidates because of the shift from principal teachers to the chartered teacher programme. A survey had shown that 74 per cent of new teachers saw chartered status as the natural career progression.

There was now a standard for teacher education, full registration, chartered teacher status and headship, he said, but none for principal teacher, a key route to leadership.

Mr MacIver also revealed a small shift in the gender balance of new recruits, with a 2 per cent increase in the number of men coming into primary and secondary. This appeared to be prompted by men over the age of 30 looking for a career shift.

Leader 22

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