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Training pledge on new-look appraisal

The Education Minister has moved to meet criticism of teacher appraisal by emphasising that the new scheme to be introduced in August will insist on "well directed training and development for teachers".

Brian Wilson announced that he had accepted revised guidelines from the National Co-ordinating Committee for Staff Development of Teachers. While teachers would have an annual meeting to address their training needs, in-depth interviews based on "direct knowledge of their performance" would only be held every two to three years.

The committee believes this will link "staff development and review" more naturally to the development planning cycle of schools and education authorities, cut down on the bureaucracy, and minimise disruption to teaching.

The Educational Institute of Scotland has cautiously accepted what it regards as an improved set of principles. But Fred Forrester, the union's depute general secretary, says it has reservations about funding and called for the reinstatement of specific in-service training grants to local authorities.

"Money for in-service is now subsumed within the general pot of Government grant to local authorities," Mr Forrester said, "and we are not convinced that it is being spent on staff development. We would therefore strongly urge the Scottish Office to reintroduce specific grant to which the Government does not seem to be opposed in principle."

Shelagh Rae, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, welcomed the acceptance that "there should be a professional entitlement for teachers but also a focus on improving learning and teaching rather than a bureaucratic process standing on its own". But Mrs Rae expressed concern over funding and said staff development budgets were under "enormous pressure".

Mr Wilson confirmed that councils were already funded to operate teacher appraisal and in-service. The Scottish Office said later that pound;23.7 million would be available for the scheme in1998-99. He also insisted that the revised guidelines "are all about the training and development of our teachers and no one should feel threatened".

There will be separate arrangements for dealing with incompetent teachers, Mr Wilson said.

The National Co-ordinating Committee believes it has come up with a scheme that fits in with school management systems and is easy to operate. Criticism of previous schemes has centred on the fact that appraisal in the past has been isolated from school development planning and the general evaluation of schools' performance.

The Government now expects teachers to have had their first appraisal interview by June next year, and thereafter to have in-depth reviews every two to three years. Mrs Rae, who is director of education in Renfrewshire, fears this time-scale is unrealistic.

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