IN THIS SECTION
The granting of independent status to the General Teaching Council for Scotland is an historic and important milestone in teacher professionalism. The Council, already the oldest such body in the world, has now become the world's first independent, self-regulating professional body for teaching.
GTC Scotland has always been financially independent, being funded by teachers rather than from the public purse. We also had a wide range of professional responsibilities but some decisions were subject to final approval by the Scottish Government. On 2 April 2012 the Order conferred independent status on GTC Scotland, together with enhanced powers and greater flexibility of operation.
Independence has brought significant changes to our Council and some adjustments to the way we carry out our business. Independence has also opened opportunities to offer new services to teachers and other education professionals.
Many of the changes outlined have not impacted significantly on the day to day work of Scotland's teachers. What is without question is that we will continue to provide an efficient, fair and robust service to and on behalf of teachers, just as we have done since the GTC Scotland was established in 1965.
In January 2008 the First Minister, Alex Salmond announced the Government's intention to establish GTC Scotland as a 'self-regulating, profession-led body, along the lines of the General Medical Council'. One of the key objectives behind the change was to create a professional body for teachers working in Scotland which could operate flexibly and maintain and improve professional standards.
An extensive consultation on the future status of GTC Scotland showed considerable support for the way we conduct our business and encouraged Government to grant more power to an independent GTC Scotland.
The Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011 was agreed by Parliament in March 2011.
The Order confirms the independence of GTC Scotland. Previously, we were financially independent, being funded by teachers; we had a wide range of professional responsibilities but some decisions were subject to final approval by the Scottish Government. From 2 April 2012, our status changed, allowing us to become the world's first independent, self-regulating professional body for teaching, with enhanced powers and greater flexibility of operation.
The Order also made a number of other important changes to our structure.
Independence for GTC Scotland changed the way in which our Council is constituted. The new Council that governs GTC Scotland is smaller. It has reduce from 50 to 37 members made up as follows:
- 19 elected registered teachers
- 11 members nominated by educational stakeholders 7 lay members appointed following a selection process conducted by an independent panel
Council membership will follow a rolling programme with election, nomination and appointments processes taking place every two years, with half of the members stepping down at the end of each two year period.
Members make decisions on GTC Scotland policy. Since the Council has a significant role to play in shaping the teaching profession of Scotland, members therefore play a pivotal role in raising educational standards.
From setting and maintaining codes of conduct, to guiding and supporting teachers through induction, probation, into the classroom and even onto headship, the Council makes a positive impact on the working lives of teachers every day. In addition, the Council has set out clear Professional Standards to clarify what is expected at each stage in a teacher's career.
These are important responsibilities. Council members therefore have a duty to observe the highest standards of impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relation to GTC Scotland policy and to the direction and organisation of the Council itself.
Yes. There are changes to powers and also to the language in which some of the legislation is framed but teachers will still recognise the existing work of GTC Scotland as the core of this new provision. For example, the Order sets out a range of responsibilities for GTC Scotland, including:
- the maintenance of a register of teachers and for setting the rules governing registration generally;
- the investigation of the fitness to teach of registered teachers (and applicants) and for the setting of rules governing this process;
- establishing and reviewing the standards for entry to primary and secondary initial teacher education courses, as well as the standards of conduct and professional competence expected of registered teachers;
- reporting on our functions annually to the Scottish Parliament;
- carrying out our work in a way which represents best regulatory practice.
Yes. There are differences which include:
- Fitness to teach related issues
- Handling competence cases
- Registration of other professionals
- Re-accreditation or Professional Update
The Order revises the view that GTC Scotland has a role in 'disciplining' applicants or registered teachers and instead sees GTC Scotland's role as investigating and determining their 'fitness to teach'.
GTC Scotland is required to refuse to register any applicant that we consider to be unfit to teach; and to remove from the register any registered teacher that we subsequently consider to be unfit to teach. An individual is to be considered 'unfit to teach' in terms of the Order if GTC Scotland considers that the individual's conduct or professional competence falls significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.
We previously only had two decisions we could take if a teacher is found to be falling below the expected standard of professional competence - to remove the teacher from the Teaching Register or to take no action. The Order now allows GTC Scotland to make any such teacher's registration subject to conditions. This flexibility may be useful in cases where we think that a teacher will meet the required standard if certain steps are taken.
The Order also places a duty on employers to refer any case to GTC Scotland where an individual resigns or abandons their post and the employer would (or might) otherwise have dismissed the individual on grounds of incompetence. This means that teachers subject to discussion of alleged incompetence cannot avoid having their case considered by the GTC Scotland.
The Order allows GTC Scotland to keep registers of other educational professionals working in educational settings, if it considers this to be appropriate.
The Order places GTC Scotland under a duty to bring forward a system of re-accreditation for registered teachers.
We have taken the view that this must be a positive and helpful experience for teachers; and we see effective and supportive systems of professional review and development as being central to its effective delivery. Our working title for this process is therefore Professional Update.
In order to look carefully at the issues around such a scheme, we set up a Working Group. One of the first outcomes of the Group was to identify the aims of Professional Update, which are:
- to maintain and improve the quality of our teachers and to enhance the impact that they have on pupils' learning;
- to support, maintain and enhance teachers' continued professionalism and the reputation of the teaching profession in Scotland.
We recognise that many teachers will have concerns about Professional Update and that it is therefore important to secure a consensus on a suitable way forward. Tangible benefits for teaching, for teachers and for learners will only result from a system which is seen to be supportive of teachers and is introduced in a way which is acceptable to them. The teaching profession is constantly changing. GTC Scotland therefore anticipates that an effective system of Professional Update for teachers will ensure that teachers have:
- a responsibility to consider their development needs;
- an entitlement to a system of supportive professional review and development which can:
- assist them to identify constructive ways to update their skills
- provide access to opportunities which can address those areas identified as requiring support
- help them to manage change
- offer a focus on ways in which they can enhance their careers
- confirmation that they have maintained the high standards required of a teacher in Scotland's schools and colleges. (The Standard for Full Registration is the baseline standard for all fully registered teachers. It is now normally attained at the end of the Teacher Induction Scheme but is maintained thereafter throughout a teacher's career).
GTC Scotland also recognises the need to ensure that proposals are practicable; supportive of teachers and not constrained by bureaucracy; and that they allow individual teachers the opportunity to identify and meet their future needs.
Finally, Professional Update is not a tool to get rid of teachers. It is anticipated that Professional Update will focus on continuous improvement rather than on determining whether or not a teacher is, or has remained, competent. In addition, it is anticipated that the small number of cases which lead to a formal review of the competence of an individual teacher may be assisted by the improvements in professional review and development arising from the introduction of Professional Update.
In line with the Code of Practice on Teacher Competence, therefore, competence cases will continue to be handled by local authorities in the first instance, with cases of alleged serious professional incompetence referred subsequently to GTC Scotland for resolution.
In summary, Professional Update should support teachers to keep their skills up to date. It should offer a means of helping teachers to do their jobs better (improving) rather than obliging them to keep proving that they are competent.
At the time of writing we have carried out a consultation with teachers and other education professionals as to how Professional Update should operate.
Find out more about Professional Update
Yes, as a result of becoming independent, we now have more flexibility about how we investigate and determine whether registered teachers and applicants are fit to teach. We have therefore introduced a new set of rules (our Fitness to Teach and Appeals Rules) governing this process. These make some changes to the procedures that have been in place to date. We have now introduced a more proportionate, modern and efficient approach which we have designed to meet the interests of the profession and the public.
Key changes include:
We have introduced a new first phase to consideration of the complaints that we receive about teachers or applicants. This will allow complaints which are frivolous or have no bearing on a teacher's fitness to teach to be dismissed by our Investigating Panels at the earliest possible opportunity.
- Consensual arrangements
We have introduced arrangements to allow teachers to consent to receiving a reprimand, or to being removed from the Teaching Register, at an early stage of our process. We think that this will help speed up our proceedings and be fairer to all those involved. The process will be open and transparent to ensure that the public interest is protected.
- Simpler rules of evidence
In deciding what information or evidence should be admitted at a hearing, we have provided in our new rules that panels will focus on whether the information or evidence is relevant and fair. We hope that this will make our hearing procedures more straightforward and easier to understand (we currently follow what the courts do which can sometimes make hearings complicated).
- More use of witness statements
We have introduced a general rule that witness evidence at hearings will be submitted in a witness statement. A witness will only need to attend a hearing if the panel or any of the parties want to ask them questions. We hope that this will make the process of giving evidence quicker and more proportionate and sensitive to the witnesses involved.
- Streamlined temporary restriction proceedings
A temporary restriction order is an interim measure that we will take as soon as possible when we identify that a teacher remaining in a classroom could be a risk of harm to children or young people.
Any such decision would normally be taken at the early stage of a case, pending a full investigation and hearing taking place. Under our new rules, where a teacher agrees that it is appropriate for such a measure to be taken, a temporary restriction order may be put in place without a hearing being held.
We have also made a change so that temporary restriction hearings will usually take place in private. We think this is a more appropriate approach because early release of information about a case to the public could harm not only the investigation but also the individual concerned.
- More disposal options
The new rules provide for a wider range of possible disposals where a panel decides that a teacher or applicant's fitness to teach is impaired.
For example, a Fitness to Teach Panel could place conditions on a teacher's registration where it is found that he / she lacks professional competence and the panel considers that, if these conditions are met, the teacher will again meet the standard of competence required.
The new rules also proposed that dual disposals could be used. This means that an individual could be reprimanded and also be made subject to a conditional registration order at the same time.
We believe that the increased range of disposals will help to ensure that Fitness to Teach Panels can take the most appropriate and proportionate steps possible to regulate teachers where their fitness to teach is found to be impaired.
As is appropriate for an independent body, GTC Scotland will continue to be fully funded by registered teachers. Although the legislation gives GTC Scotland additional statutory functions which will require to be resourced, there is also scope to operate more flexibly and more efficiently through revised structures and procedures. GTC Scotland currently charges one of the lowest fees of any professional regulatory body in the UK. The Council is committed to maintain this position in the future and does not consider that the changes brought about by independence will significantly affect the current level of registration fee.
Independence offers formal recognition of the high standing and respect in which teaching and the teaching profession are held in Scotland. It is a positive sign of the trust placed in GTC Scotland to lead the profession, as it seeks to maintain and enhance professional standards.
September 2010 - January 2011
Scottish Government consultation period
1 October 2010 - 10 January 2011
GTC Scotland consultation period
9 March 2011
Draft Order laid in the Scottish Parliament for approval - Order approved
17 March 2011
Order passed into law
4 April 2011
First part of the Order (enabling powers) commences
2 April 2012
First fully independent Council formed and all functions in place