Responding to the Scottish government’s 2017 consultation on plans to change the way in which schools are run, the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) argued that it should assume greater responsibility for the “registration and regulation” of education professionals beyond teachers.
It talked about pupil support assistants, college lecturers and pre-school practitioners, saying that “asking GTCS to assume greater responsibilities” would bring “greater coherence” and “offer seamless regulation from nursery to school and to college”.
But by June 2017, the government was proposing an Education Workforce Council for Scotland (EWCS), which would replace the GTCS and register a wider range of education workers – everybody from teachers and college lecturers to school librarians and community learning and development (CLD) workers.
Now, the GTCS has made clear its position: it is “strongly opposed” to the current proposals. The GTCS argues that replacing it with an education workforce council has “the potential to do irreparable harm to the status and identity of teachers” and “impact adversely on the global reputation of the Scottish education system”.
It also says that a workforce council would cause registrants to rise from the current 74,500 to 203,750 and could cost as much as £7 million to set up – money that would be “much better used to support front-line services that deliver learning and teaching”.
Does the GTCS now regret ever suggesting that its remit could be expanded?
“No, because we were doing it anyway,” says GTCS chief executive Ken Muir. To begin registering a wider group of professionals would simply be an “extension of the direction of travel we have been trying to move in for the past three or four years”.
The GTCS already registers college lecturers on a voluntary basis. It is in the process of registering independent school teachers and there is a pilot running so that instrumental music instructors can become registered.
Expanding the GTCS organically could “enhance the professionalism of those involved most directly in the learning and teaching of children and young people”, says Muir, pointing out that GTC stands for General Teaching Council, not General Teachers’ Council.
The GTCS is therefore arguing for the “strong GTCS brand” to be retained and for the body to extend its reach. It identifies three groups that it should begin registering and regulating: early years practitioners, college lecturers and instrumental music instructors.
Beyond these groups, the GTCS suggests that the government should ask it to “consider the extent to which other appropriate professional groups might be registered and regulated”. However, it stresses that only those “directly involved in the learning and teaching process” should be registered by GTCS.
In response to the government’s EWCS proposal (see box, above), it says: “It is felt by the council that the inclusion of some professionals who are only indirectly involved in learning and teaching – such as school librarians and home-school link workers – will not bring any direct benefits to teachers, children and young people and risks eroding the professional identity and status of teachers.”
GTCS convener and recently retired secondary headteacher Derek Thompson says: “We are supportive of the direction of travel, it’s the way we get there is the thing we disagree about. Some organisations don’t want anything to do with this – we are not in that category. We are suggesting alternative ways to get to a similar place.”
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan says that his union is supportive of the GTCS growing, but that there have to be limits.
Flanagan explains: “That idea of the organic growth of the GTCS into relevant groups directly involved in teaching is an accepted agenda and no one is opposed in principle to that – indeed, the EIS has championed the case for registration of instrumental music teachers and college lecturers. Clearly, however, that has to have a limit to it – otherwise you end up with a monolithic, one-size-fits-all structure, such as being proposed in the workforce council.
“We are opposed to the idea of a single body for everybody in education. Such an approach would face huge operational challenges and teachers could potentially be marginalised, to the detriment of professional standards.”
Muir takes it one step further, saying that if the GTCS is replaced it could lead to “the disassembling of the teaching profession”.
In its submission to government, the GTCS says that when the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) was disbanded six years ago, it led to the definition of a teacher becoming blurred and reduced protection for the public. Muir continues: “That disassembling of teacher professionalism in England, that’s not something we would like to see happening in Scotland…If the GTCS is disbanded and is not replaced with something with similar powers, we run the risk of what’s happened in England.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government says that its education reforms are based on international evidence of how highperforming education systems work – and will deliver extra help for teachers in the classroom, more professional development and a stronger voice for parents and pupils.