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'Writs will fly' on probation rights

LAWYERS are set to profit from increased levels of teacher-led litigation when the professional development arrangements of the McCrone package are fully implemented, secondary heads were warned this week.

Douglas Weir of Strathclyde University's education faculty told members of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland at their spring conference that the "trickle" of probationer teachers who appealed against decisions of the General Teaching Council for Scotland not to grant full registration or to extend probation would increase considerably after the system is put on a more formal footing from next session.

Heads were also told that teachers who have been granted full registration may resort to litigation if they felt that a school or local authority had not fulfilled the obligation to provide effective continuing professional development.

Professor Weir, vice-convener of the GTC, said probationers would suffer financially if they did not reach full registration because they could not move off the training point on the salary scale. This could lead to them going to a legal adviser or union with allegations of failure by the school in which they had their induction year.

"That will lead to quite a lot of litigation in comparison with the present levels of litigation," he said.

Professor Weir told The TES Scotland that if career advancement depended on a satisfactory continuing professional development portfolio, a fully registered teacher could claim that a school or authority had let them down.

Ken Cunningham, president of the HAS, told The TES Scotland that a full CPD programme was some way down the line, perhaps in five to 10 years' time. "If CPD programmes are fair, balanced and planned, the litigation scenario should not happen."

Professor Weir warned of tension in staffrooms if older teachers did not "come to terms" with CPD and found themselves being overtaken by much younger staff in the promotion stakes.

He said: "Teachers, especially in secondary schools, delight in slagging off bad CPD courses, even though privately they will admit that some courses are positive and worth while.

"This has led to a resistance among experienced teachers to some forms of in-service. If they are going to come to terms with the new CPD process they are going to have to learn to use these courses more intelligently.

"If they don't there will be one striking impact - while older teachers might feel that they can get by with career experience, younger teachers will have no alternative than to take CPD courses and will then leapfrog over them in career terms."

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