Some laws are made already broken

26th June 2015 at 01:00

Apparently, some 100,000 new words of law are written every month in the UK; the equivalent of the complete works of Shakespeare twice a year.

A very sensible movement called Good Law contends that if you're going to add to that largely impenetrable mountain, you'd better make it "good law". The movement's disciples would probably baulk at the Education (Scotland) Bill, large swathes of which have not been formally consulted on, including most of the headline-grabbing elements. These include provision for a chief education officer in every council, plans to force independent school teachers to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland and moves to improve the attainment of disadvantaged children.

According to local authorities, the proposals "would have benefited from more scrutiny and development time". Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Liam McArthur, has described the bill as "cobbled together".

Now the Scottish government is looking to make an amendment requiring all new headteachers, whether in the state or private sector, to hold a master's-level Standard for Headship qualification (see pages 6-7). Unfortunately, this too looks like something developed on the back of a fag packet.

Rod Grant, headmaster of Edinburgh independent Clifton Hall School, blogged about the qualification when it was announced for new state school headteachers earlier this year. It was common sense to give leaders appropriate training, he argued. But ultimately he opposed the move because the "precarious position of headship" would become "even more unappealing".

Now that the prospect of a mandatory qualification is looming for his own sector, his language is less measured but the sentiment is the same. It would be "a disaster", he tells TESS, as private schools often recruit from outside Scotland where no one will hold the qualification.

If you plan to require 200-plus independent school teachers to improve their qualifications in order to meet GTCS registration requirements, ensuring that their headteachers are also suitably qualified seems a logical next step. The government argues that the plans "will bring alignment to the whole area of teacher registration".

However, it is worth asking what problem exactly this new law is intended to solve. Improving the qualifications of headteachers in the state sector was about following London's lead and appreciating the role of strong leadership in narrowing the attainment gap, but this is not an issue that fee-paying schools grapple with.

Education secretary Angela Constance has said that "some sort of equivalency" will be considered for headteachers coming into Scotland from elsewhere. It might be, therefore, that leaders will be able to cobble together a range of CPD experience. But why make them leap the hurdle? This requirement seems destined to become a bureaucratic burden with no benefits. Bad law at its worst.

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