Internal Market Bill – consequences for teachers

The SNP has had regular meetings with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) regarding the threat the Internal Market Bill poses to the profession in Scotland. We share the concerns raised by the GTCS and the issue was raised by our Education Spokesperson and former teacher, Carol Monaghan, during the bill’s passage.

Scotland has rightly protected the professional status of teaching and continues to value the professional standards required of practitioners. In Scotland, every teacher must hold a relevant degree in their subject as well as a teaching qualification. All primary teachers will have undergone at least four years of rigorous academic training, and secondary teachers generally five years. Additionally, to maintain registration, every teacher must undergo and document a programme of continuous professional development.

This is not the case in other parts of the UK. In England, for example, teachers are not necessarily qualified, with non-qualified teachers being paid on a different scale to those with qualifications. Even qualified teachers may not have subject expertise beyond the level they are teaching. It is not uncommon for teachers being asked to switch subjects to fill in gaps – e.g. a PE teacher switching to teach physics should they show interest or the school require this.

Teachers regularly come to teach in Scotland from other parts of the UK and indeed further afield but in every case, the professional standards and requirements of GTCS must be met. These high standards ensure our young people are experiencing the highest quality of education.

Therefore, the potential of creating a UK-wide view of teaching standards, as this Bill in its current form sets out to do, risks imposing lower standards over Scotland and threatens the very fabric of Scotland’s education system. Scottish schools could be forced to accept lower standards when it comes to teacher qualifications and experience.

Last month, Chief Executive of the GTC Scotland, Ken Muir, warned “our key concern about the Bill is the extent to which we ourselves, and parents, and users of the education system would feel that would be watering down the teaching profession in Scotland.” Please be assured that SNP MPs fully support the Lords’ amendments that have been tabled to ensure there will be no undermining of the Professional Standards of teachers in Scotland. Whilst MPs cannot currently vote on these amendments, if the amendments are successful and return to the Commons, we will certainly support them.