Scotland’s biggest teaching union is to debate an emergency motion opposing controversial Scottish Government plans to” fast-track” new graduates into teaching at its annual general meeting which begins today.
The unusual move by the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) to hold a special meeting at its conference in Perth on the issue comes after it emerged last week the Scottish Government is “shortly” to tender for placing high-performing graduates in schools.
It is believed the Scottish Government, under pressure due to the shortage of almost 700 full and part-time teaching posts, wants to implement its own version of Teach First, the social enterprise charity which places graduates in primary and secondary schools in England and Wales.
The new approach, previously dismissed by the SNP, has been welcomed by the Scottish Conservatives.
Under Teach First graduates receive five weeks university tuition before starting work in schools where they carry out 80 per cent of a teacher’s timetable and work towards the postgraduate diploma in education over two years.
The motion calls on the union to campaign against any proposals reducing the balance between academic and practical placements.
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said the union had always strongly opposed “delivering education on the cheap.”
“The emergency motion reaffirms our very strong view that parachuting non-qualified people into schools is not a solution to the recruitment challenges facing Scotland’s schools. We cannot dilute standards for the sake of political expediency.
“The way to attract more people into the profession is to enhance the status of teaching to make it an attractive career choice for highly qualified graduates.”
Liz Smith, MSP, Conservative shadow education spokeswoman, said it was “baffling and foolhardy in the extreme” the SNP had taken so long to implement such a scheme.
Ross Greer MSP, Scottish Greens education spokesman, described Teach First as a “disastrous model.”
“Scottish Ministers need to rethink their approach. They are clutching at straws if they think the way to improve the quality of our education system is to rush graduates into schools on lower pay than properly qualified teachers, undermining high professional standards.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As we have made very clear, any new route into teaching will require a partnership with a university to maintain academic rigour and all programmes must be of the highest quality.
“Initial teacher education is provided through universities with all courses accredited by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
“The approach referred to in the EIS motion is not our intention. Our plans are about attracting more people with the right skills and abilities to become teachers, by developing new routes and making training available to people from a wider range of backgrounds, and without comprising quality.”