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GTC plunged into chaos over fees

General Teaching Council forced to consider its options as teachers refuse to pay. Warwick Mansell reports

ENGLAND's General Teaching Council could end up not costing teachers a penny, its chief executive revealed this week, after fewer than one in eight agreed to pay the pound;23 fee.

Council chief executive Carol Adams is in desperate talks with ministers, union leaders and employers after revealing at the council's last meeting two weeks ago that only 50,000 of the country's 410,000 registered teachers had consented to the payments.

The situation, which is presenting the council with the unwelcome prospect of forcing employers to deduct the fees from hundreds of thousands of teachers' salaries, has forced Ms Adams to cast around for possible alternatives.

One likely move is for the council to launch a major campaign in September to try to persuade teachers of the merits of payment. It will write to all teachers to convince them that pound;23 is a price worth paying for a council which, it claims, will be independent of Government.

But Ms Adams also told The TES this week that she was in talks with ministers and employers over a fallback position.

The plan is for teachers to continue to pay the fees, but they would be reimbursed by their employers. Employers would, in turn, be reimbursed by the Government.

This plan would be partly modelled on schemes which operate successfully in other professions, such as law, where firms pay solicitors' fees to the Law Society. Ministers, however, do not reimburse the companies.

Ms Adams said the plan had not yet been finalised. And Mike Walker, of the teachers' employers organisation, said, as The TES went to press, that he was not aware of the proposal.

The council wrote to all teachers last month asking them to select preferred payment methods. The hope was that most would volunteer to pay the fees by direct debit. However, the two largest teacher unions, who have been in dispute with the GTC, advised their members not to volunteer for the payments. Ms Adams is hoping to persuade them to change their stance on non-payment.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the union was considering changing its advice to members after Ms Adams said the council would consider amending the way it portrays itself to teachers. The union has long argued that the council has been claiming, wrongly, to be a professional voice for teachers, instead of a body set up to regulate them.

But the National Union of Teachers said it had no plans to change its advice for members not to volunteer to pay.

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