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GTC aims to give you a voice

You could be forgiven for ignoring it or deleting it along with spam offers for penis extensions and cheap pharmaceuticals. But the recent email from the General Teaching Council to all 30,000 newly qualified teachers in England marks the start of a national network to give new staff greater support and a bigger voice in the profession.

The council's Engage network will email newsletters to NQTs each term containing advice, updates on research and invitations to join focus groups. New teachers will also be able to share problems and ideas on an online bulletin board and take part in special conferences and training sessions.

The Engage project manager, Sara Morgan, said: "It's the first time there's ever been a network which will be for all NQTs, and we want to give them more opportunities to feed into the GTC's national policies.

"The emails are going to be a bit like a shopping trolley. There will be some things in them that teachers are going to want to use immediately and there will be others, like a can of soup, that they will use later."

The scheme should boost the council's profile among new teachers. It has met with a mostly apathetic response from the profession since its launch five years ago. Critics, including the NASUWT teachers' union, have labelled it the "Gullible Teachers Club" and said its pound;30 annual registration fee is a waste of money.

All new teachers who register with the GTC will automatically become members of the Engage network for five years, although they can choose to be removed from the mailing list earlier. The council already runs two smaller networks: Achieve, aimed at teachers who work with black and ethnic minority pupils, and Connect, for those in charge of in-service training.

Engage will organise training sessions for NQTs on dealing with parents.

Ms Morgan said today's new staff needed Engage because they were more proactive and had higher expectations. "When I first started teaching the average age of a new teacher seemed to be around 21, while nowadays it's 30," she said. "They are older and more savvy, and have more wordly experiences from the previous jobs they have been doing which they bring to teaching."

Experienced teachers who act as mentors for trainees doing initial teacher training will be able to join the Engage network as well. From the start of this month they have also been able get official accreditation for their mentoring through the council's Teacher Learning Academy and the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

The GTC plans to register all trainee teachers free of charge from 2007.

Engage network www.gtce.org.uknetworksengagepage

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