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Close-up on teachers' champion;General Teaching Council;News;News amp; Opinion

Former film-maker David Puttnam knows he is going to have to prove himself as head of the teachers' professional body, reports Caroline St John-Brooks

DAVID PUTTNAM loves to talk - which is fortunate, because for the next 18 months he will be paid to talk up the teaching profession.

He sees his new role as chairman of the General Teaching Council as being an active advocate for teachers, raising their status in the eyes of parents, the public and the mass media.

What's more, he believes that establishing a professional body for teachers will enable them to "realise their potential and the potential of their profession".

Although he left school at 16 and has never taught in a school, Lord Puttnam's experience of the world of education is not exactly negligible.

He has been a member of the Government's standards task force for two years, is chancellor of Sunderland University and a governor of the London School of Economics, and pioneered the "Teachers' Oscars".

His deputy, Professor John Tomlinson - formerly director of the Institute of Education at Warwick University - and Carol Adams, the GTC's chief executive, are both well-respected in the field.

David Puttnam sees a confident teaching profession - "in charge of their lives and their jobs" - as critically important for the future of the country. "The cornerstone of Carol's and my job," he says, "is to convince teachers that they are agents for change in society - that they have the ability not just to alter this country for the better, but to actually secure its future. No other sector of the population can do that."

He also thinks the Government has still not fully recognised how crucial a strong teaching profession is to the economy.

He likes to quote Sir Claus Moser's remark that "uniquely, education alone is both the cause and the consequence of national prosperity".

Does he believe his advocacy will enable education to winkle more money out of the Treasury? "Yes, in time," he says.

"Because the logic of the position is unarguable. We need a highly-educated population. Everything that is happening in the economies of the rest of the world is pointing in the same direction".

Puttnam knows, of course, that some teachers will feel that his appointment demonstrates the Government does not trust the profession enough to give it real control over its own council - and will be watching his progress with a close, if not jaundiced, eye.

"In a couple of years' time, the teaching profession can decide if this was a brilliant idea or a mistake," he says. "And in the meantime, I will be working frenetically to prove it was a brilliant idea."

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