Angry staff jam teaching council switchboard

Outrage after GTC warns 251,000 teachers that it will deduct pound;23 from their salaries, reports Warwick Mansell.

ENGLAND's General Teaching Council received up to 18,000 calls a day from irate teachers after informing them it was about to deduct its pound;23 registration fee from their salaries.

But only 700 a day actually got through as the eleven overworked staff attempted to deal with the calls.

A council report reveals that, on average, its Birmingham head office was deluged with some 10,000 calls a day throughout June, a figure it described as "unmanageable". Many people struggle in vain to get through.

The revelation comes as final figures reveal that 251,000 teachers, 49 per cent of the council's register, elected to have the fee deducted from their salaries rather than pay it voluntarily.

The flood of calls came after the GTC wrote in May to all its registered teachers to confirm payment arrangements, and despite ministers boosting salaries by pound;33 to cover the fee.

A report presented at the council's last meeting said some of the calls had been from teachers anxious to update their details. But others had been "extremely challenging and abusive" about the move to deduct the cash.

Although staff had been trained in how to take the calls, the sheer number had led to considerable frustration for many teachers and stress for staff.

The report provides another vivid illustration of the struggle the council has had in trying to create a register of more than 500,000 teachers from scratch.

It also admits that the council has not taken full advantage of computer technology to help it deal with the calls and improve communications overall.

There had been no overall strategy to improve customer service, the council had not taken full advantage of the Internet to deliver services to the profession and information given to staff members to pass on to teachers was often insufficient or poor.

Graham Brady, the Conservative education spokesman, who obtained the figures after asking questions in Parliament on the issue, said:"Teachers question how independent the council is. The figures simply reflect the hostility, or at least apathy, of the profession."

Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "These figures are unsurprising. Teachers resent being asked to pay a fee to an organisation which has not yet demonstrated its relevance to them."

Maureen Burns, GTC head of policy and communication, said: "A lot of people were frustrated about not being able to get through the first time they rang. The call-handling will have to be better in the future.

"But what people have to consider is that this is the first time anyone has sought to register the whole of the profession in one single process. That is a remarkable undertaking and it has not been easy."

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