Unions' chartered gloom

But heads show more enthusiasm over proposals for new professional status

UNIONS HAVE condemned plans to give teachers the chance to gain professional status in the same way as doctors and lawyers. But there is more optimism from heads for the chartered teacher scheme, which will raise status without extra pay.

The TES Cymru obtained draft responses from the National Union of Teachers Cymru and UCAC, the Welsh language teachers' union before the end of the consultation by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) on February 1. Other unions also commented on the proposals. Only the NASUWT Cymru disagrees with the scheme in principle, though the finer details are proving contentious with other unions.

Dr Heledd Hayes, education officer for the NUT Cymru, said: "The concept of chartered teacher should be a milestone to celebrate, not a millstone.

These proposals are not reassuring."

She said expectations in the criteria for the new scheme were too high and that there was no such thing as a "perfect teacher".

Gruff Hughes, of the Welsh language teaching union UCAC, said: "We are concerned chartered status will become necessary for teachers if they want to advance in their careers. There is some confusion over what they are doing and what responsibilities they have."

But Chris Howard, head of Lewis School, Pengam, said: "It is generally a good idea. It gives teachers something to go for."

Phil Whitcombe, head of Bryn Hafren comprehensive in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, said it had the potential to "raise the game in Wales".

But Brian Lightman, head of St Cyres school in Penarth, said he was not sure how the plans fitted with existing pay structures. Under the plans, there will be an optional national professional development programme for teachers "aspiring to excellent classroom practice middle leadership".

Unlike the case in Scotland, it will not bring extra pay. But Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, has already acknowledged that it could influence pay awards.

Geraint Davies, spokesman for the NASUWT Cymru, said chartered status could lead to devolved pay and conditions.

He said: "The GTCW should not be meddling in a matter potentially associated with such things."

The GTCW said chartered status will give teachers a more structured and coherent route to professional development. It could be gained after five years' teaching.

Dr Philip Dixon, director at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said the scheme "would recognise skills, experience and professionalism".

The GTCW had been expected to hold a day-long event on Monday at the Wales Millennium Centre promoting the new scheme, along with key speakers and a performance from the Welsh National Opera, but changed the venue at short noticeJto its HQ.

Mal Davies, GTCW chairman and head of Willows high school in Cardiff, said:

"We have strong support from teachers. The status will be aimed at those who are able to work towards this standard."

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