You can't hurry competence cases, GTCS told

9th September 2011 at 01:00
Concerns grow that fast-tracked process may destroy careers

Plans by the General Teaching Council for Scotland to speed up procedures for competence hearings have raised fears that they may be prejudicial to teachers.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "While I accept it is very important to deal with incompetent teachers, I think we have to recognise it's a person's career, not just their job - and whatever is done has to be done properly and that person has to be given an opportunity to improve."

EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith added: "Recent reporting (of competence cases) has focused less on the issue than the time it has taken. I am not arguing it should take an unduly long time - that doesn't benefit anyone either - but it is important, especially as the GTCS moves towards independence, that it not only acts but is seen to act in a way that is not being driven by extraneous pressure."

From the point of view of parents, Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, was reluctant to suggest that the GTCS had taken too long to dispose of some competence hearings - a claim raised in the case of maths teacher Janet Garner, who worked at two Clackmannanshire secondary schools between 2003 and 2007.

She said the fact that the GTC was looking at streamlining its system "tells us they see that their systems are taking too long".

The proposed changes to the GTCS's procedures are part of three consultations it announced last week in the run-up to becoming an independent body next April.

The first consultation is around "fitness to teach" - the new term for competence under the legislation governing the GTCS's move to independence from the Government. The other two are on revisions to the existing Code of Professionalism and Conduct (CoPac) with a renewed emphasis on the dangers of social networking; and the introduction of a new Student Teacher Code.

Fast-track dismissal, p47

Elizabeth Buie, elizabeth.buie@tes.co.uk.

FITNESS TO TEACH AND APPEALS RULES

The GTCS wants to streamline the process by introducing:

- a new first phase of consideration of complaints by an investigating panel - to weed out frivolous, malicious or vexatious complaints

- an option for the teacher to consent to their removal from the register or consent to receiving a reprimand

- an option for a "case management discussion" with the teacher concerned at an early stage to identify the nature and extent of any areas of disagreement

- the holding of temporary suspension (to be renamed "restriction") hearings in private, with the procedure simplified

- the relaxation of rules of evidence

- more use of witness statements as opposed to personal appearances

- clarification of the appeals process

- most cases still to be heard by a panel of five, but can be quorate with three

- the use of video links in exceptional circumstances

- dual disposals - for example, reprimand and conditional registration order

- the power to claim back costs from teachers deemed to be obstructive.

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