Automatic suspension for 'incompetent' teachers

Image caption,
Mr Russell said incompetent teachers should face automatic suspension

Teachers who are under investigation for incompetence should be automatically suspended, Scotland's education minister has told the BBC.

Mike Russell said the change would prevent such teachers from moving to other schools while under assessment.

Currently, any teacher sacked for incompetence by a local authority can continue teaching elsewhere as the General Teaching Council investigates.

Mr Russell said he intended to stop this but unions have raised concerns.

Speaking to BBC Scotland's investigations team, Mr Russell said: "Anybody in the GTC process should be suspended from a further job until that process is through.

"I will make sure that is what the GTC is trying to do and if they don't have the powers to do it I will look into the ways they can get powers."

His comments come after the case of Susan Barnard, the first teacher to be struck off for incompetence in Scotland.

She was sacked by Perth and Kinross Council over concerns about her teaching abilities in 2006.

However, she was hired by Stirling Council eight weeks later and worked for the local authority until she was eventually struck off following a GTC investigation in 2008.

At present, the GTC can suspend a teacher going through a competency hearing.

However, the power is discretionary and has never been used.

The head of Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, said a move to automatic suspension raised serious concerns about the long-term impact on those teachers cleared by any investigation.

He said: "There may be circumstances in which it is appropriate to suspend and an assessment has to be made.

"But to apply a blanket policy that anyone who comes under suspicion or is subject of complaint or allegation should automatically be suspended would be quite appalling.

"There are many incidents where teachers have complaints of various kinds made against them which turn out not to be sustained, or upheld."

You can see BBC Scotland's investigation - Teachers: Could Do Better on BBC One Scotland at 2235 BST on Wednesday.

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