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Scotland’s Education secretary Mike Russell has announced the scrapping of the Chartered Teacher scheme.  That was no surprise.  The proposal came from the McCormac review of teachers’ conditions of service.
Nonetheless it will hurt many existing Chartered Teachers and has already been opposed by the main teachers’ union, the EIS.  The original purpose of the Chartered Teacher concept, introduced with the McCrone reforms, was to recognise, in status and financial terms, the value of in-depth professional development by teachers who did not wish to pursue promotion but to stay in the classroom and apply the practice their additional study had developed.
One of the major criticisms of the Chartered Teacher concept, from the outset, was from the employers.  The local authorities were unhappy about a situation which automatically gave a teacher an increased salary without being appointed to a promoted post by the authority.  It reduced the local authority’s capacity to plan its teacher salary bill.  One trusts that such a petty accountant’s quibble was not fundamental to the Education Secretary’s decision.
The two serious matters which are relevant to this issue are the principles on which teachers are remunerated and the capacity of such initiatives to raise the quality of teaching across schools.
The introduction of the Chartered Teacher grade can be seen as a retrograde step.  Once Scottish honours graduates were paid more than ordinary graduates and ordinary graduates more than diplomates, a nasty, divisive system, rooted in academic snobbery.  It also, of course, bore no relation to the quality of the work produced.  Honours graduates were not, per se, the best teachers.
There were also special payments.  At one point learning support teachers (remedial teachers as they were then known) were paid an additional allowance to attract good teachers to a lower status, more challenging area of work.  It did not necessarily attract the right people for the right reasons.
Such payments divided teachers and created an invidious, carping culture.  To a certain extent Chartered Teacher status returned that to schools.
What is true is that the Chartered Teacher professional training offered experienced teachers a unique opportunity to develop both theoretical awareness and class-room skills.  Good teachers have blossomed into excellent teachers as they pursued Chartered Teacher status.
The problems are, firstly, that was not universal, and, secondly, many whose skills were most enhanced then applied for promotions, the very opposite outcome from that intended on the scheme’s introduction.
In any change there must be reasonable transitional arrangement and compensation for the commitments and costs already incurred by more than two thousand current Chartered Teachers.
There must also be more demanding CPD expectations for Scottish teachers.  It is not acceptable that, once a qualified teacher has completed his or her probationary year, there should be no further expectations of formal, high-level professional development.
School and local authority CPD initiatives should be of a sufficient standard to carry credits for further qualifications.  It does not necessarily mean pursuing courses similar to the Chartered Teacher’s or the MEd, although it could. It should include systematic research projects, or secondments to other schools, the local authority, university or other related professional settings.  It should include an automatic right, after nine years of good service, to be given the tenth, on full salary, for such further study or secondments.
The biggest necessary change however is that such a rigorous approach should not be for volunteers only but should be a contractual right and expectation.  The Donaldson Review offers the opportunity to revitalise the professionalism of Scottish teachers.  That has to mean genuinely continuing professional development for all teachers.
The above article was first published in SecEd on 1March 2012:

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