ENTRY to Scottish teaching is facing a radical shake-up after a science teacher from England, who was prevented from working north of the Border because he lacked a degree, won a landmark court ruling.
The body that regulates the profession said a ruling by Scotland's highest civil court, which backed the man's claims he was entitled to work in Scotland, could be considered a step away from the concept of teaching as a graduate profession.
Union leaders have warned they would have serious concerns about the possibility of lower standards among teachers north of the Border.
Three judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh backed Derek Sturridge in his claim after he was prevented by the General Teaching Council for Scotland from working because it felt he did not have a degree-level qualification, a requirement to teach north of the Border.
Mr Sturridge has built up considerable experience after qualifying as a teacher in England in 2001, the court heard. He also has a postgraduate certificate in education from Birmingham University.
Mr Sturridge argued successfully in court that his graduation from the Royal Society of Chemistry was the equivalent of a degree and the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)was forced to back down.
The ruling means the body will be required to be more flexible in future over qualifications achieved by prospective teachers.
There has already been a substantial controversy over the Teach First scheme in England, where high-flying graduates are allowed to teach in schools after just six weeks, although the initiative would not be allowed in Scotland in its current form.
In a report issued following the court ruling by Lord Brodie, Lady Clark of Calton and Lord Philip, the GTCS head of fitness to teach Lindsay Thomson said: "There is a potential for a volume of new applicants for registration, particularly from English qualified teachers without degrees, to emerge.
"It could also be considered to be a further step away from the concept of teaching as a graduate profession.
"It will require GTC Scotland to be explicit about why a degree is required, rather than a UK equivalent, if the requirement for a degree is maintained."
Last night, teachers' leaders called on the graduate nature of the profession to be protected against incursion.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "We would have very serious concerns about the lowering of entry requirements to the GTCS register.
"Scotland has one of the best- qualified teacher workforces in the world and retaining an all-graduate profession is important to maintaining our high standards.
"We believe that a degree-level qualification and a relevant teaching certificate should continue to be essential requirements for all teachers in Scotland."
However, Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said it could open up the profession.
She said: "Parents are most likely to be concerned about the need for teachers to be qualified to an appropriate level rather than the specifics of one qualification or another.
"Logic says this is going to need to be reviewed regularly, because nothing stands still, and having teachers from different backgrounds and with a wide range of experience issurely going to benefit our young people as long as standards are maintained at a high level."
A GTCS spokesman said the outcome of the Court of Session case would not have an impact on the current requirement that all applicants for registration with the body must have a degree-level qualification.
He said: "What the Court of Session has said is that some qualifications are equivalent to a degree and we accept this finding.
"In fact, we see the outcome of this case as an opportunity to review our policies and ensure they are fit for purpose in what is a rapidly changing education world. Learning is more flexible than at any time in history.
"It is possible for someone to gain degree-level qualifications through professional bodies and in other different ways from the traditional university route."
Mr Sturridge was not available for comment yesterday.