Unqualified staff thrown a lifeline to keep teaching

9th January 2015 at 00:00
Independent schools breathe sigh of relief as teachers given ‘probationary’ period to gain qualifications

Unqualified teachers in independent schools in Scotland who are about to be forced to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) have been thrown a lifeline that will allow them to keep teaching.

The GTCS has revealed a new category of registration that will allow staff to register while they work towards full recognition.

The new route into teaching – which is called provisional (conditional) registration – will also allow schools and councils in areas where there is a shortage of teachers to recruit staff who are not yet fully qualified.

The move has been welcomed by authorities in the north of Scotland, where the recruitment crisis is particularly acute. In Moray – where the council warned earlier this year that children could be sent home because of teacher shortages – there are plans to use the new route into teaching to recruit people living in the local military population (see box, right).

It is thought that more than 700 teachers in independent schools are not registered with the GTCS. However, under legislation making its way through the Scottish Parliament, the government plans to force all teachers in Scotland to register with the regulatory body.

Hundreds of jobs ‘at risk’

Many teachers in independent schools would be eligible for registration but it is estimated that 240 do not hold the necessary qualifications. When the changes were announced, the sector warned that some schools could close, such as the International School of Aberdeen, which recruits most of its staff from abroad.

However, as of this month, provisional (conditional) registration will be available to applicants who do not meet the GTCS normal criteria for full registration. This will allow teachers who trained outside of Scotland to complete probationary service, during which time they will have to make up for shortfalls identified in either their academic or teacher education. For example, this could be an option for someone who has been through a structured programme of training, such as England’s Graduate Teacher Programme, but does not have a teaching qualification.

Provisional (conditional) registration would enable them to top up their qualifications by completing an appropriate PGDE or PGCE programme within three years. However, if they failed to meet the condition in the time frame, they would be deregistered.

TESS understands that GTCS is in conversation with Scottish universities about providing top-up qualifications. The new category of registration, coupled with the accreditation by the GTCS of some PGCE courses at universities in England, would solve “the vast majority of the problem” when it came to getting independent school teachers registered, said John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools. “There will still be some people, for instance, who come with very specific qualifications to special needs schools who this does not help,” Mr Edward said. “But this, along with the accreditation of a couple of PGCE programmes at universities in England, will provide options for most people affected.”

‘Flexible’ registration

Provisional (conditional) registration used to exist in Scotland but was withdrawn because of concerns that some teachers were failing to meet the conditions but staying in the classroom. Today the GTCS argues that, thanks to technology, it will be better able to keep track of the teachers. Derek Thompson, GTCS convener, said: “When the register was paper, it was incredibly difficult to make sure that conditions had been met. It’s a different world now and we know where people are, what they have had to do, and we can check on them.”

The GTCS ran a consultation on proposed changes to its registration rules. It received 72 responses; the general feeling was “supportive”, said a report to the GTCS council. However, some respondents expressed concern that the changes could put at risk the all-graduate teaching profession in Scotland.

But the move was about being flexible “while ensuring that appropriate teaching standards are maintained in Scottish schools”, said Tom Hamilton, director of education, registration and professional learning at GTCS.


‘Terrible’ teacher shortage

Moray Council started the school year with 58 vacancies in its schools, and trying to recruit teachers during the current shortage was “absolutely terrible”, according to Laurence Findlay, director of education and social care.

Of those vacancies, 12 were recently being advertised for the third time. The latest figures showed that the council had 27 posts vacant across its 53 primary and secondary schools.

“The impact may be that heads and deputes are teaching more or using non-subject specialists for supply. That’s of huge concern to us,” says Mr Findlay.

“We’re finding it particularly difficult to recruit to science, home economics and technology posts. We recently appointed a home economics teacher but that was on the fifth re-advert.”

Six teachers – all primary – who have spouses serving at RAF Lossiemouth and the army’s Kinloss Barracks have shown interest in being registered through the new route into teaching that the GTCS is making available – provisional (conditional) registration. This could have “a hugely beneficial impact”, Mr Findlay says.

However, more initial teacher education opportunities are needed in the north east, he adds. Mr Findlay called for ITE at the University of the Highlands and Islands to be extended.

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