Academy staff spared from licence to teach

Union leaders outraged by twist in plan to monitor professional status

Teachers working in some academies will be exempt from the Government’s controversial new “licence to teach”, The TES has learnt.

The revelation has added to the fury of some teachers’ leaders over a policy that will eventually see all teachers and heads having to prove they are worthy of their “licence” every five years.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the position of qualified teachers working in academies would depend on the funding agreement for the individual school.

If this deal does not require them to register with the General Teaching Council, which will develop the scheme, announced this week, then they would not need a licence, a spokesman said.

John Bangs, NUT head of education, said: “I find this extraordinary. Aside from the absurdity of having to jump through an additional hurdle like licence to teach, the exemption of academies is a demonstration of the Government’s inequitable approach to schools.”

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said the Government had been working on the plan with its social partners “for some time following the Children’s Plan”, which was published in December 2007.

But several union leaders in the Government’s partnership have told The TES it was dropped on them as a “fait accompli” last month.

Mick Brookes, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said that he only learned of the plan the day before it was revealed.

“This has been announced without the social partners’ awareness and begins to convince me that the Government only wants to use the social partnership for things it wants for itself,” he said. “If it wants the partnership to work, it has to be a two-way process.”

The “licence to teach” is designed to be similar to the accreditation already in place for doctors and lawyers. To qualify for it, teachers will have to demonstrate to heads that their classroom skills, knowledge and training are up to date.

Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary, said she feared the scheme could amount to a “bully’s charter” for rogue heads.

It is planned to be introduced gradually from September 2010, when all newly qualified teachers beginning their jobs this September will have to gain a licence, along with teachers returning after a period away from the profession.

Mr Balls said returners to the profession would be able to teach without a licence until they had spent enough time teaching to allow heads to judge whether they should be awarded one.

Asked what would happen to teachers who were refused licences by heads, Mr Balls said: “They won’t be able to teach if they haven’t a licence.”

John Dunford, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said he would be pushing to ensure there was an adequate appeals process for teachers, otherwise schools could find themselves embroiled in court action.

The scheme was announced in a white paper that also proposed pupil and parent guarantees that could ultimately see schools that break them facing legal proceedings.

Mr Balls said the GTC would monitor the “licence to teach” and check that it was running smoothly.

But the Conservatives indicated that they would not continue with it if they form the next government.

Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary, said it was “another huge bureaucratic measure that will cost a fortune and cause all sorts of problems”. “We don’t support it,” he added.

by William Stewart: Published in The TES, 3 July 2009.

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