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EDITIONS
Unions 2000 Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Teaching watchdog under fire
lord puttnam
Lord Puttnam: Mission to improve teachers' morale
By Alison Stenlake at the NASUWT conference in Llandudno

Teachers are calling on the government to rethink how the new professional body for the teaching profession will work.

The General Teaching Council (GTC) is being set up as an independent body to maintain professional standards and promote teaching in England.

Its chairman, film-maker Lord Puttnam, amused delegates at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), with clips from four of his films featuring teachers.

But one delegate said the GTC reminded him of another of his films, Chariots of Fire, because "it was about a chap running round in circles".

Others said they were angry because advice on how the new council should function, given by a specially set up partners' group, had been ignored by the government.

They said this was likely to undermine teachers' confidence in the GTC, and urged the government to incorporate three points of advice into the regulations for the council.

Wary

Many teachers believe the GTC, due to start operating in September, could be a positive development, but are wary about how it will operate and who it will be accountable to.

They are also against having to pay an annual registration fee to fund its work. It has not yet been decided how much this will be, but teachers in Scotland - where there has been a teaching council since 1966 - have to pay 20.

The three specific changes they want are:

  • The teaching council should not get involved in issues about teachers' competency before they have been dismissed.
  • Experts from outside the GTC should not sit on its disciplinary panel.
  • On the council's register of teachers, only mandatory qualifications should be listed - not, for example, whether teachers hold the National Professional Qualification for Headship, or whether they have passed through the new performance-related pay threshold.
Delegates agreed that if the government did not act on the advice the partners' group had given it on these points, the GTC's credibility would be "seriously impaired."

Before the issue was debated, Lord Puttnam, chairman of the council, and its chief executive Carol Adams, addressed the conference about the GTC's role and aims.

Lord Puttnam said that improving the morale, status and perception of the teaching profession was "absolutely central" to the GTC's role, and he hoped teaching in the 21st century would be a "far more rewarding profession".

'High standards'

Ms Adams said the GTC's tasks would include encouraging professional development and training, reducing bureaucracy, overcoming recruitment problems, exemplifying high standards of teaching, and bringing back a sense of enjoyment to the profession.

carol adams
Carol Adams: "Your chance to influence government policy"
It would also give teachers a chance to advise the government on future education policy, through the teachers on the council.

After watching Lord Puttnam's compilation film, Bill Bradbury, association secretary for St Helen's and Newton, said the GTC reminded him of Chariots of Fire, because "it was about a chap running round in circles".

"I just wonder whether the GTC is going to run round in circles," he said.

Lord Puttnam said that what the film had been about was "two men winning on their terms".

'Imposed and unwanted'

"The GTC has got to be about a profession winning on its terms," he said.

Simon Whitney, of the association's Norfolk branch, said: "I still need to be convinced that we even need a GTC. The GTC is being imposed on us, certainly it is something that this organisation never wanted or asked for."

The NASUWT also says it does not want the GTC to get involved in teachers' pay and conditions.

But its general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, said the union wished the new council well, and had a "vested interest in making it a success".

Ms Adams said delegates' views would be taken into account in discussions held before the rules and regulations of the council were concluded.

See also:

13 Apr 00 | UK Education
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