Qualified but cannot work here? General Teaching Council for Scotland faces recruiting challenge


By Declan O’Dempsey

The BBC says former teachers with English teaching qualifications, living in the local military population could be recruited by Moray Council to alleviate staff shortages.  Currently they cannot work because they qualified outside Scotland. The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is considering approval of Moray’s pilot scheme under which English qualified teachers could be provisionally registered during top-up training.  However can it continue to seek to justify forbidding provisional registration pending “top up” training generally? 

All over Scotland there is a teacher shortage. Until now Scotland has claimed its education is so different that it cannot permit such provisional registration.

The GTCS is a public authority and subject to the Equality Act 2010 [(s149)] which requires it, in the exercise of all its functions, to have due regard to the promotion of equal opportunities to persons of different racial groups. Those of a non-Scottish national origin are from a different racial group to those of a Scottish national origin (see e.g. Northern Joint Police Board v Power [1997] IRLR 610 (EAT) and BBC Scotland v Souster [2001] IRLR 150). 

There is a requirement that anyone (whatever their national origin) must have a Scottish educational qualification to teach in Scotland. This places teachers without that qualification at a particular disadvantage compared with it. The majority of those with the qualification are of Scottish national origin and the majority of those who do not have it are not.

The GTCS must therefore consider two things:

1.  Is the requirement lawful or does it discriminate indirectly against e.g. English qualified teachers?

2.  Even if it does not constitute unlawful discrimination, how can the GTCS have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity in formulating its stance on the requirement?

If the GTCS maintains an absolute ban on non-Scottish qualifications it may argue that it can justify it, referring to the special nature of education in Scotland.  Whether that is a relevant distinction can be doubted but GTCS could argue that it has an aim of maintaining the integrity of the education system.  Is the absolute ban an appropriate and necessary means of achieving that aim? 

If the ban is absolute, it supports the idea that the Scottish educational qualification is so special that any temporary inconsistency with the methods reflected in the qualification undermines it.  However if the ban is not absolute and permits provisional teaching whilst top up training takes place, then there is plainly an alternative means of achieving the aim.  If the GTCS concedes that this is a possibility, then it has always been a possibility. Why has a more flexible approach not been adopted over the last decade? 

Regardless of the Moray council proposal, it is self-evident that permitting such registration promotes equality of opportunity between different racial groups without harm to educational standards.

Moray council’s is strangely restricted to those who are already in “the community” (the spouses of military personnel). The restriction is not relevant to the quality of educational standards.  These people are already geographically close, and only present temporarily. They are likely to be in the Scottish teaching community only whilst their spouses are stationed at Lossiemouth.

I suggest that this could never be a legitimate basis for restricting provisional registration. Is it beneficial because, even if the teachers do qualify in Scotland, they are only present temporarily and are likely to be taken out of the teaching community when their spouses are relocated?  However if that is not the rationale for a restriction, it is difficult to see what is.

The GTCS acknowledges that something must change: it could offer more flexibility in how it registers teachers; there are a number of proposals it will put to the December council meeting for approval. These will offer more flexibility. The GTCS should look closely at whether it can continue to justify the restriction on provisional registration by those whose teaching skills and qualifications are as good as their Scottish counter-parts. The real question is why the SGTC has not looked at this much earlier and applied its mind to the reforms it needs to make. The GTCS has to give concentrated thought to how to overcome the shortage.   

For media coverage click here.