General council needs teeth of training quango, say unions

Frances Rafferty

Teachers fear that the Government's proposed model of a General Teaching Council has too few powers and will serve merely as an advisory body.

In the replies to the Department for Education and Employment's consultation document, Teaching: high status, high standards, the Government's initiative is largely welcomed in principle. A General Teachers' or Teaching Council has been on the shopping lists of a wide variety of organisations for a long time. But there is concern that if a GTC is to have a meaningful role, powers presently residing with the Government training quango, the Teacher Training Agency, will have to be relinquished.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The Government's suggested largely advisory role for the GTC is vague. Its only clear role will be signing teachers on to a register. That hardly fires the imagination."

His union also strongly opposes the proposed direct elections to the council - rather than nominations by teacher associations - on the grounds of accountability. "Representatives elected from the mass of the profession would have no means of receiving views, taking them forward and reporting back . . . such representatives would be isolated and unaccountable," he said.

The National Association of Head Teachers believes a GTC must have a substantial input into initial and in-service training. "It is clear from the consultation paper that many powers that would logically sit with a GTC are to be retained with the Teacher Training Agency," it says. "To separate authority between the council and the agency is to weaken the council at the outset. "

There is agreement that a successful independent GTC can play an important role in raising the morale of the profession and improving standards, but the teacher associations say serving teachers must comprise the bulk of the membership.

The Independent Schools Joint Council also gives the GTC its support, but warns that it must be independent from the Government and any other vested interests. The ISJC hopes that legislation will spell out the inclusion of the independent sector on the council.

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