From next year, teachers will no longer have to pay a controversial fee to register to be in the profession, The TES can reveal.
The #163;36.50 charge will end when the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) is axed next March. Its replacement, the Teaching Agency, will not demand money from teachers, it has emerged.
Education secretary Michael Gove announced the closure of the disciplinary body last summer, but until legislation is passed in Parliament teachers are still legally required to pay to register if they are employed in state-funded schools.
The Teaching Agency will be responsible for teacher supply, quality and regulation. Disciplinary hearings will run in a similar way to the GTC's, but teachers will not have to register with it.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "Teachers resented paying a fee to a body that they felt failed to add any value to their professional lives. (It) focused too much time and money on activities that were peripheral to and distracted from its regulatory function."
The payment of the annual registration fee has been a point of contention among teachers since it was first introduced in 2002.
At first, fewer than one in eight agreed to pay the fee, then set at #163;23. The chief executive at the time, Carol Adams, had to hold talks with ministers, union leaders and employers after only 50,000 of the country's 410,000 registered teachers consented to the payments.
The GTC was eventually given powers to deduct the money directly from teachers' salaries, and it was agreed their employers would reimburse them for the cost of the fee. Of the current fee, #163;33 is paid by employers with teachers making up the extra #163;3.50.
Despite the relatively small sums of money involved, Alison Ryan, education policy adviser for union the ATL, said the fee had been a "definite initial issue".
"At first there was a sense teachers felt they were having to pay for something - even though the money was given back to them - and that was a sticking point from the very beginning of the GTC," she said.
"It will be interesting to see now when it's gone, and teachers realise this brings them no financial benefit, whether they will miss what the GTC brought to the table."
But Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said he could not understand why teachers were "upset" by the fee.
"It's very small compared to what doctors are willing to pay to be a member of their professional body," he said.
"The main concern of headteachers at the moment is that they are still able to check a main database to verify facts on applicants' CVs when they are employing people."
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said teachers would still be subject to other charges.
"While the disappearance of the GTC fee is welcome, we should not forget the Criminal Records BureauIndependent Safeguarding Authority charge. Teachers, particularly agency supply teachers, are still required to pay if their employer chooses not to do so," she said.
Not so fast ...
While teachers in England will no longer have to pay registration fees, their colleagues in Wales could have to pay an additional #163;5 a year. The current #163;45 annual fee had been frozen by the Welsh Government for three years until the cap was lifted at the start of this financial year.
Now the General Teaching Council for Wales says the rise is needed from next April to restore planned activities that have been cancelled over the previous four years. The decision will be taken by education minister Leighton Andrews, who is reviewing the role and functions of the body.