You can’t teach in Scotland, top headmaster told

Andrew Strong was told he could not teach in Scotland because his degree was not in primary education, despite an exemplary career as a headmaster in Wales.
Andrew Strong was told he could not teach in Scotland because his degree was not in primary education, despite an exemplary career as a headmaster in Wales.
Have your say

Scotland’s teacher recruitment policy has come under fire from a Welsh primary school head teacher who says he was refused permission to work in Scotland because his degree was not in primary education.

Andrew Strong says he was turned down by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) to teach in Scotland’s primary schools, despite having 30 years of experience teaching south of the border – including 17 years as a head.

The news comes as the extent of Scotland’s teaching recruitment crisis continues to emerge, with one Scottish council this week telling parents that their primary aged children may have to attend school part-time due to a lack of staff.

The GTCS said it has now introduced a new registration process over the past year to make it easier for teachers from south of the border to register in Scotland.

Strong, who was a head teacher at a primary school in Cardiff, was told when he tried to relocate to Edinburgh last year that he would not be allowed to teach in a Scottish primary school because his original degree, which he took in 1981, was in fine art – despite him having a post-graduate certificate in education from a London university.

Instead, he claims, the GTCS suggested he could do a year’s probation – teaching secondary art – a subject he has never taught in a school, having spent his whole career in the primary sector.

He said: “It seems that a successful career as a primary head – on one occasion receiving the highest grades for an inspection in the country – and many years of being considered an ‘excellent’ teacher, mean nothing in Scotland, even though schools are desperate for good teachers.

“If the same rule were applied in other professions, how many promising careers would have been thwarted?”

When Strong received the phone call telling him that his application had been rejected, he was volunteering in schools in Edinburgh.

He said: “I was staying with a friend until I could get a job and volunteering in schools in Edinburgh with a workshop I had been running. I assumed, naively, that it would be a done deal, especially as Scotland was so short of teachers. In the schools I was working in, they were very short of good teachers. I was there, saying ‘Here I am, I can do it,’ but I wasn’t allowed to. It is ludicrous.”

A spokesman for the GTCS said 1,760 teachers had registered from outside Scotland in the last three years, adding that the organisation had revised its criteria for teachers from south of the border since Strong’s application.

He said: “In the last year we have introduced new pathways into teaching to offer increased flexibility. When Mr Strong applied in 2016 these opportunities were not available and although we did offer him registration he did not accept it. We are very happy to work with Mr Strong to explore whether or not he wishes to take advantage of our revised registration process.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it “welcomed the GTCS’s increase in flexibility in registration and is working to ensure Scotland’s high level of teacher professional standards are maintained”.