Teach First graduates given go-ahead
The general Teaching Council for Scotland has agreed that graduates from a controversial teacher training scheme in England can be registered to teach in Scotland.
The council, in an about-turn, has reached the accommodation with the Teach First organisation, which is now pressing to be able to operate north of the border.
Previously, the GTCS refused to register Teach First alumni - who tend to be parachuted into difficult schools in England after only six weeks of training - because it said the programme did not equate to a Scottish teaching qualification.
But Teach First has now adapted its qualification - offered in conjunction with a number of English universities - to make it a masters-level PGCE, which gives it "equivalence" with Scottish teaching qualifications. Graduates on the Teach First programme from 2009 onwards will now be recognised, said a GTCS source.
Professor Sonia Blandford, adviser to the chief executive of Teach First, told The TESS that the organisation had also reached an "agreement in principle" with the GTCS and Glasgow University to introduce a "transition module" for graduates from its earlier programmes, which would allow them to register to teach in Scotland without having to do a full year's PGCE, as was previously the case.
The final details of this module are due to be discussed next month, when Teach First's management also plans to meet members of the Donaldson review of teacher education to discuss the possibility of Teach First expanding into Scotland, she said.
The programme was set up in 2003 in England and picks bright young graduates with a 2:1 or first class honours degree from what it calls England's "top" universities. The programme lasts two years and has an emphasis on leadership training, with much of the course spent "on the job" in secondary schools.
Last year, however, the GTCS said: "We do not think that the Teach First course is sufficiently rigorous and equivalent to the level of initial teacher education teachers registering in Scotland require."
The irony of the previous situation was that Teach First graduates who wished to work in Scotland were eligible only to teach in independent schools, where there is no requirement to be GTCS-registered, or had to prove their worth through the council's "exceptional admission"arrangements.
Professor Blandford said she was "really pleased" with the development. She predicted that around 30 Teach First graduates per year over the next three years would want to work in Scotland.
"Whether that means we will have a centre in Scotland remains to be seen - that will all be part of the discussions we have next month," she said.
GTCS chief executive Anthony Finn pledged the council would not "dilute the high standards that teachers must meet to be fully registered to teach in Scotland". At the same time, he added: "We were keen to find a way forward which would recognise the strength of those Teach First graduates who are able to prove their suitability to register with GTC Scotland."
A spokesman for the GTCS said it had so far received four applications for registration from Teach First graduates. Of the four, one had achieved registration through the "exceptional admission" route.
Plans to introduce new powers to regulate teacher competency were placed before the Scottish Parliament this week.
The Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011 will give the GTCS the right to examine competence cases, even if a teacher has already resigned from his or her post. It aims to close a loophole which allowed teachers to avoid being struck off by moving to a job in another area before their employer had set a date for a disciplinary hearing.
The change is part of a series of reforms to the GTCS which will not only introduce a system of "reaccreditation" for teachers, but will also make the council independent of government.
The reaccreditation scheme has been attacked by teacher unions, but the GTCS sought to reassure them that it would be based on "supporting teachers to improve their skills thoughout their careers" rather than a system of "relicensing", as was mooted previously in England.
The mantra likely to be repeated by Anthony Finn, GTCS chief executive, is that it is not about teachers "proving" themselves as teachers but "improving" themselves.
He commented: "It will be important for GTC Scotland to secure a consensus on an appropriate name for this (reaccreditation) process, and on ways in which we can ensure that it is supportive of teachers and meets their future professional needs."
If passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Order will become law in 2011 and take effect in 2012.
- Original headline: Teach First graduates given go-ahead north of the border