No job bar after sack
TEACHERS dismissed for incompetence, or who jump before they are pushed, should not automatically have the fact recorded on the General Teaching Council for Scotland's register, the Scottish Executive has ruled.
This represents a reversal of proposals outlined in last July's consultative paper on the future of the GTC and further complicates an already tangled issue.
The latest move, confirmed in the Executive's response to the consultation this week, means that teachers fired for incompetence but not subsequently removed from the register by the GTC could find a job in another authority.
However, the register would include details of dismissed teachers who are struck off for incompetence. Ministerial reasoning is that the register should only be influenced by decisions of the council itself.
The revised education Bill, also published this week, will give the council the new and stronger powers it has long sought over misconduct, incompetence and staff development. But the Executive maintains there are sound technical arguments for its decision since it will be local authorities not the GTC which will take the initial step of dismissing incompetent teachers.
The Executive's response to the consultation states that "ministers think there is some force in the point arising from consultation that information on the register should relate only to the functions and actions of the GTC".
The relationship between the GTC and the education authority employers over their respective roles in the dismissal of incompetent teachers has been marked by fraught exchanges in the past. Ministers are now to tell both sides to get together to agree the content of the register.
National guidelines on what constitutes teacher capablity and competence will be issued following the conclusions of a national working party which has been set up under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas.
Ivor Sutherland, the GTC's registrar, warned of concern if there was no public record of a teacher dismissed for incompetence but not deregistered. "That is why we have been pressing for so long to have a role in dealing with incompetence on a national basis so decisions are not taken just by one authority in dismissing a teacher who could then move to another job in another authority.
"However, if a teacher is dismissed, we have to be informed. The council can then choose to suspend that person, which means he or she could not be employed until our investigations are complete and the suspension is lifted or the teacher deregistered."
Mr Sutherland says he has no quarrel with the substantive measures in the Bill, which will create a powerful GTC with a new range of sanctions to deal with misconduct as well as incompetence.
The council will also be given an immediate advisory role over teachers' professional development with the clear promise that an "active register" could be set up in five years' time, making continuing registration dependent on satisfactory career development.
The GTC is particularly pleased ministers have listened to objections to their original plans not to make registration compulsory for teachers in independent schools. They now intend to make this a requirement for all new teachers in the sector but will not apply it retrospectively.
The Educational Institute of Scotland has given a frosty reception to proposals that the 49-strong GTC should only have 25 elected teachers. This narrow majority was "mean-spirited and fraught with dangers for the teaching profession," Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said.