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Protecting Teacher Professional Standards The Scottish Government has announced plans to merge the General Teaching Council for Scotland into a new body representing teachers and others working in education. With elections to the GTCS set to take place in January, the EIS will be taking the opportunity to campaign for strong teacher representation on the GTCS and the protection of the independence of the organisation itself.

The EIS has highlighted its serious concerns over the Scottish Government’s plans to disband the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) and to transfer its functions to a new Education Workforce Council whose members would be appointed rather than in part elected by the teaching profession as they currently are. The EIS believes that the GTCS must retain responsibility for upholding Standards within teaching, and approving all applications for registration to teach in Scotland’s schools. Commenting on proposals to disband the GTCS, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “The EIS is committed to defending the role of the GTCS, in the face of this unwarranted interference by the Scottish Government on its independence. Teachers fund the GTCS through their subscriptions and have an elected majority on its ruling Council. What right does the Scottish Government have to remove that democratic accountability from the profession? The Deputy First Minister often talks of empowering teachers; a useful first step would be to take his hands off our GTCS.” Mr Flanagan continued, “At a time when we are seeking to enhance the status of teaching as a profession, in order to recruit additional high-quality graduates into our schools, this undermining of our professional standards body is profoundly unhelpful and deeply troubling. Is it coincidence that these proposals have come after a period when the GTCS has been resolute in upholding professional standards in the face of the Scottish Government’s flirtation with Teach First


The Scottish Educational Journal

and while the Scottish Government is pursuing ‘fast-track’ approaches to teacher training?” The GTCS is an independent body and the EIS believes the Government should respect the work that it does rather than seeking to undermine or control it on the basis of a centralising agenda. The GTCS is also internationally recognised as a success story and has provided a model for teaching councils globally for the work that it does to support the teaching profession in the interests of quality education. The current proposal is to merge the GTCS with the Standards Council for Community Learning and Development for Scotland and then open it up to other education workers. The EIS is clearly not opposed to other education staff having a professional standards body but does not believe that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is the best way to achieve this. Indeed, it has the potential to be a set-back on the road to greater quality and equity in the education system in Scotland. Mr Flanagan added, “No evidence has been provided by the Scottish Government as to why this merger is needed or where the support for the change is coming from. It seems to be a case of the government feeling the need to ‘do something’ for the sake of being seen to change things.” In addition to highlighting the absence of a firm rationale or obvious support for the proposal, the EIS will be articulating a large number of objections in a range of fora over the coming weeks and months. These are outlined in the next column:

“The Deputy First Minister talks about empowering teachers; a useful first step would be to take his hands off our GTCS.” – Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary

• There is no evidence-base or credible support for the proposal • It will erode the status and devalue, the professionalism of teachers • Teacher professional voice and influence, within the Council and Scottish Education more widely, will be muted to a large degree • It amounts to a reduction in the level of support to the profession • Proposed governance arrangements for the EWC will weaken democracy and accountability to the teaching profession • Control will be shifted towards government • Removal of the GTCS risks lowering the bar for entry to the profession.

SEJ December 2017  
SEJ December 2017  

The December 2017 edition of the Scottish Educational Journal.