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Advisory role only for GTC

After years of discussion, the new Teaching and Higher Education Bill finally gives English and Welsh teachers a General Teaching Council.

The Bill says that the GTC will "advise" the Secretary of State on matters such as teaching standards, standards of conduct for teachers, recruitment and medical fitness to teach. It will also keep a register of all those who are qualified to teach.

Teacher representatives and unions are disappointed that the council has been relegated to an advisory role, without direct powers to police the profession.

Nor does the Bill go into detail about who will run the GTC. The Government is anxious that it does not become a mega-union, and the unions argue that without adequate union representation it will not have the support of the profession.

The other big question is what will happen to the TTA when the council is set up; many of its envisaged functions are currently carried out by the TTA.

The initial costs of setting up the GTC will be met by central Government, but then it will eventually be depend ent on subscriptions from teachers.

The Bill also covers: * Induction Year

Teachers just out of training college will have to serve a probationary year. Full qualified-teacher status will not be granted until this year is successfully completed. Those who do not come up to scratch will have to repeat the year.

* Headteachers qualification

Aspiring headteachers will have to obtain the new professional headship qualification before they can apply for jobs.

The requirement does not apply to existing or acting heads. David Hart of the NAHT said extra money was needed to pay for supply staff to cover for teachers studying for the qualification.

* Tuition Fees

The Bill introduces Pounds 1,000 means-tested tuition fees and a new student loans scheme repayable through PAYE.

Education Secretary David Blunkett has sent letters to A-level students encouraging them to consider university, and putting the best possible spin on the new loan arrangements. Early figures show that applications are down since the announcement of tuition fees.

The Government could also encounter opposition to its plans to withdraw funds to universities that charge top-up fees. Mr Blunkett said that it was his duty to ensure that public money was being used equitably. His aim is to prevent the formation of an "Ivy League" sector catering to the elite. The higher education unions and vice-chancellors will want to have a guarantee in the Bill that all the money raised from tuition fees will go into HE.

This week the Government was discussing the withdrawal of subsidies given to Oxford and Cambridge to pay for the collegiate system and one-to-one tuition.

* Teacher Training Inspection

The Bill clarifies the right of the chief inspector to scrutinise teacher training and advise the funding agency. The inspectorate must be given access to the premises of the institution "at all reasonable times" and is given the right to inspect any documents the chief inspector considers relevant. Over the past year there has been considerable annoyance among universities about the chief inspector Chris Woodhead's insistence on re-inspecting primary teacher training.

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