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LORD PUTTNAM SEPTEMBER 17TH, 2000 Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

When Tony Blair came to Downing Street he said his priorities were education, education, education. To many working in the profession though their high expectations of the new Labour government have not been met, or rather the profession is low, there are 4,000 teaching vacancies in England and Wales and the row over performance related pay rumble on with the teaching unions. One of the people Mr Blair has chosen to help reverse this decline comes from another world altogether. Film director, film producer David Puttnam is now a Labour member of the House of Lords and next week launches a new teaching body for England, the General Teaching Council as its chairman. Mr Chairman, David, good morning.

Starting with the basic thing, is this a body, this new body, is it a body that is going to represent teachers and be pro teachers to the world, or is it a regulatory body fining, punishing, ejecting bad teachers?

Well it's both David and in a way the two are actually synonymous. For the first time teachers have won for themselves the same professional respect and the same professional responsibilities that for example doctors have had for many, many years. Part and parcel of presenting yourself as a profession is to take responsibility for your own professional standards and the nature of the people who represent you as a profession. So here's the whole teaching profession which consists of six different unions stepping up, being invited by government to step up and take responsibility for its own standards, its own qualifications and its own, bascially the way in which it presents itself to the rest of the world.

But is it therefore something that's rendering teaching unions obsolete or would like to render them obsolete or like David Blunkett and Tony Blair, would like to see the teaching unions weaker and less trouble?

Neither, we'll have to work with and I enjoy the notion of working with the unions, I'm a unionist myself, I was chairman of my own union for a number of years, the unions are entirely responsible for pay and conditions. Basically the GTC's role is to, is to look after the whole body and ensure that the, the profession doesn't get fragmented into this union making a run on this, on this front and another union making a run on that front, the purpose really is to hold the entire profession together and present itself to the public as what it is, the most vital, the most important profession in this country.

But the General Medical Council is that an identical parallel?

No but it's a very similar parallel and the concept I think of a professional body that I think is responsible for its own, for its own profession, professionals sorry, is, is a perfectly good parallel.

And what about the relationship with the government, in terms of being a critical friend, was one quote?

Yes I think critical friend is exactly what professional bodies ought to be. There's no point in attempting to usurp the role of government, the purpose really of a professional body and I'm sure this is true of the hauliers, is to present the best possible case for the profession and to try to get across, not just the government but the public at large, that this country doesn't have a future without a brilliant teaching profession, there is no future. I spend, I've visited something like 220 schools in the last three years, talked to a lot of bodies, mostly businessmen, about this - no one's come up with one single suggestion for the future of this country that doesn't involve a superb educational service and that in turn relies on a brilliant generation of teachers.

What about bad teachers, what are you going to do about them?

What about bad MPs, bad film producers, I mean I think any industry throws up people who are not as good as the others and the principle victims of that are other people in the industry. This show can only go out if the team that put it together are very, very good indeed and if one of them's no good you're the one that suffers and I think that teachers have got to recognise that. But there are not many, you'll remember the, the highly publicised figure of 12,000 that caused a terrific furore, 12,000 teachers is about 2.4 per cent of the teaching population in this country. I don't know, I've never worked in the industry, I don't think, can't think of an industry in which there aren't 2.4 per cent of people who are not as good as the others. But the strain is taken by the other 97.6 - something like that.

Very good, send your answers on a postcard please to this address. And in terms though, what they, if you find a teacher who's done wrong or done bad what are your sanctions, or are the only sanctions the sacking by the school?

Anything related to, as it were, a criminal offence remains with the Secretary of State so our area is competent with specifically dealing in incompetence. We have a number of sanctions but they're all done with the school, none of the procedures have changed, the governors, as it were, the frontline decision-makers in terms of what happens, but at the end of the day I'm hoping what will evolve over a number of years is a set of standards which are agreed right across the profession, adhered to right across the profession. As I said to someone the other day, if we do our job on that front really well barely anyone will know we exist, it's only when you get it wrong that you¿the shit hits the fan and you're in the papers.

And where does the General Teaching Council stand on this thorny issue of performance related pay?

The General Teaching Council has yet to meet, it meets on the 26th of this month for the first, so the General Teaching Council doesn't have a view. My own personal view as someone who comes from another industry is that we are all, all of us in Britain, are involved in one way or another with performance related pay and the notion that all teachers in all classrooms all the time are the same is a fantasy, I think any thinking teacher realises that. The key isn't the principle of performance related pay, it's the criteria on which it's operated and the judgements that are made. If you get those judgements right, if you get those criteria right then performance related pay is as, as natural, frankly, to the teaching profession as it is to any other profession.

And what about teacher morale, it's a very difficult thing for one body, even the General Teaching Council to do anything about that and everybody tells us morale is, is lower than it ought to be, what can you practically do about that David?

Come on programmes like this and try to convince people like yourself that we take teachers for granted, that teachers have every right to consider themselves under and unappreciated. I spent the last week teaching and working in a school in Liverpool, two schools in Liverpool, the conditions are grim, the teachers work phenomenally hard under very difficult conditions and I don't think that's a fact remotely appreciated by people in this country. We send our kids off to school and we assume that, that there's a group of people there who are going to look after them. Teachers are remarkable people who deserve to be treated that way.

David, thank you very much indeed.

Thanks David.

Many thanks, he's gone from Chariots of Fire to To Sir With Love.


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