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GTC needs special measures

For almost a century The TES has supported the idea of a general teaching council. Like any honourable profession, the high standards required of teachers should be defined, guaranteed and promoted by a body largely made up of their peers, not by politicians and their appointees.

When the GTC for England was finally created in 2000 it faced some suspicion. Sadly it has failed to dispel the profession's doubts. In all four areas of its remit, the GTCE is found wanting. It produced a register of teachers but failed to collect the subscription of one in 10. It drew up a bureaucratic code of conduct but its disciplinary panels are often unduly lenient. This week's case of a primary teacher allowed to continue to practise, despite faking epileptic fits and attacking her head with scissors, is only the latest example. Would the panel really be happy to entrust their children to someone capable of such behaviour?

No doubt the council has provided advice to ministers, but precisely what advice remains obscure. Unlike other independent bodies it does little to publicise its stance.

Most seriously, it has not even begun to promote the status of teaching or even of itself. The consequences of all this are dire. Only 10 per cent of teachers bothered to vote in recent council elections. Many who did, voted for candidates who want to close it down. No secondary state school head even stood for election.

Almost half the teachers in a recent TES poll rated the GTCE somewhere between unsatisfactory and very poor. It even scored below Ofsted. In contrast, the Welsh GTC is far more popular, with electoral turnouts more than double those in England.

The GTCE's chief executive subsequently admitted: "We need to increase teachers' understanding of, and engagement with, their professional body."

But that was always true. The council now faces an even more uphill task.

If anything, teachers are even more cynical about it. The GTCE now needs to make a completely fresh start if it hopes to win support from the profession.

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