Unions and employers scrap over sackings

A refreshed and competent teaching profession requires more than new ways of sacking teachers, council leaders have told the Scottish Office. They also make the startling claim that the General Teaching Council, which wants the power to dismiss incompetent teachers, already allows too many unsatisfactory staff through the net.

By contrast, the Educational Institute of Scotland's executive council is today (Friday) preparing to confirm its support for the GTC's bid to decide on teacher competence. Although the leadership's response will be challenged by some executive members, the union's annual conference has already approved this new role.

Betraying its well-worn antipathy to the local authorities, the union reported in June: "We consider it preferable that these issues should be tackled from a professional rather than from a political or an employers' perspective. "

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, in a response likely to be endorsed by its education committee today, calls for more thorough recruitment, better resourced training, improved probation, a rewarding career structure and better preparation for promotion.

Cosla's submission acknowledges that alternatives will be necessary "where teachers have given lengthy, satisfactory service but have started to fail to keep pace with the welter of changes in teaching and learning". This will require funding for retraining teachers in other jobs and for a "modest" premature retirement scheme.

But the changes in superannuation from September 1, which will force authorities to pay a greater share of early retirement costs, will inhibit the recruitment of younger staff, Cosla states.

Its submission also calls for headteachers to be given management training and support before a new disciplinary regime is introduced. This would stress the importance of keeping "accurate, open and unambiguous records".

As expected, Cosla firmly tells the GTC not to interfere. The teaching council, which appears to have lost the argument with the Government, wants a comprehensive staff development role for itself including the power to intervene independently of the employer where a teacher is underperforming.

The authorities say bluntly that the GTC should be content to do its current job more thoroughly "by further scrutiny of the course content of initial teacher education courses and by applying rigorous criteria throughout the probationary period".

Cosla claims: "On occasion probationers about whom there are reservations are registered and become the teachers about whom there are serious doubts. "

Councils acknowledge grudgingly that referring the case of a dismissed teacher to the GTC can be "helpful" but say this is "purely so that the fact of dismissal can be recorded and not so that the GTC can arrive at an independent and potentially different conclusion".

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