Only half of teachers would continue to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland if it weren't compulsory, according to new research.
The survey, which questioned 4,500 teachers, was commissioned by the GTCS to mark its 50th anniversary. It finds that perceptions of the organisation are "very positive" and that there is widespread support for a regulatory body for the teaching profession in Scotland (bit.ly StakeholderEngagement).
However, only 50 per cent of teachers said they would continue to register if it weren't compulsory. Of the remaining 50 per cent, 20 per cent wouldn't register and 30 per cent were undecided. The most common reason given for not wanting to register was the annual fee of pound;50. Overall, 51 per cent of teachers had a generally positive opinion of the GTCS.
`Just another external force'
The survey - which questioned teachers, members of the public, GTCS staff and representatives from stakeholders such as local authorities, universities, government and colleges - finds that the group of people "most negative about GTCS" is teachers.
"Many teachers have little or no contact with the organisation other than the annual payment of their registration fee or receipt of the Teaching Scotland magazine at regular intervals during the year," the report says. "These respondents tended to have a relatively neutral view of GTCS and most held little by way of perceptions of the organisation, either positive or negative."
The vast majority of teachers who took part in the survey (94 per cent) agree there is a need for a regulatory body for teachers; 83 per cent of respondents consider the current role of the GTCS to be important.
But the GTCS was perceived as "just another external force" by teachers and not something they had ownership over, according to Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union. He called for the GTCS to "position itself on the side of teachers, not the educational establishment".
"Teachers see the GTCS as being more responsive to government than the concerns of teachers," he said.
Many teachers would be unaware of much of the body's work, Mr Flanagan added. And their responses would also have been influenced by concerns about Professional Update - a project spearheaded by the GTCS that will involve teachers' professional learning being signed off every five years.
Professional Update will lead to all teachers having "a greater level of interaction with the organisation in the coming years", the researchers write.
However teachers still have concerns about the initiative, including worries about additional workload and an increase in bureaucracy, the study finds.
The researchers recommend publicising "a number of positive messages about Professional Update to ensure that all teachers have a clear picture of its intended outcomes and usefulness".
Of all the roles undertaken by the GTCS, the Student Placement Service (SPS), which the body took responsibility for in June 2012, came in for most criticism from respondents.
The study reports problems such as: students not benefiting from a wide enough range of placements; lengthy journeys to placement schools; and insufficient capacity to change placements. Improvements are needed to ensure the SPS works "effectively and efficiently", the researchers say.
Kenneth Muir, chief executive of the GTCS, said it was "determined to develop as an organisation to offer efficient and practical services to teachers. And understanding what they think about us is the right way to do so."
"We are pleased by the outcomes of this research, which was positive about the role of GTCS," he added. "A total of 94 per cent of teachers, 98 per cent of stakeholders and 94 per cent of the general public agreed it was important to have a regulatory body for teaching in Scotland. Only 11 per cent of teachers had negative views of GTCS, [along with] 7 per cent of stakeholders and 1 per cent of the general public."
An action plan to address the findings of the research will be discussed at the September meeting of the GTCS council.
Recent cases heard by the GTCS fitness to teach panel include two school leaders being struck off for buying cocaine in a bar and a teacher being barred from the classroom for a string of offensive outbursts.
But while teachers fear such incidents will create a negative picture of the profession, they have little effect on public opinion, the GTCS survey finds.
Only 3 per cent of the 1,000 members of the public polled said they remembered a specific case that had gone before the GTCS; 18 per cent recalled seeing some coverage but were unsure of the details.
The researchers conclude: "Teachers' concerns over poor media coverage are not shared with the general public at large."