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Instant polls on teaching policy

TEACHERS could be given an on-line "vote" on some of the key issues facing the profession under plans being discussed by the fledgling General Teaching Council.

The council's new website, to be launched in September, could allow for polls of teachers on topics ranging from professional development to what constitutes effective teaching.

The plans, currently being drawn up by council officers, are at an early stage and would need to be approved by elected members after the council first meets on September 26.

But if accepted, they could form a key part of a wider strategy to ensure that the GTC's advice to ministers is backed by authoritative research and the broadest possible consultation.

Teacher surveys would be used in parallel with research founded on the new professional database, a list of every teacher registered with the council which GTC officers see as a potentially powerful investigative tool.

The database will include basic information on a teacher's school and qualifications, as well as anonymised data on their career histories.

GTC officers hope it will allow them to develop sophisticated research techniques such as selecting multiple representative samples of teachers fo surveys on issues such as recruitment and retention.

Every teacher would be given the opportunity to refuse to participate in such research and the database will comply with data protection legislation, the GTC promises.

The website will also embrace discussion groups, a news service and the opportunity for teachers not automatically registered with the GTC to do so voluntarily.

Maureen Burns, GTC head of policy and communications, said wide consultation would be a key to the council proving its influence with Government to teachers.

She said: "We have got to make sure that we are credible, that we are making positive policy suggestions and that they are practicable. High quality research and wide canvassing of opinion are a key part of that."

The idea was given a cautious welcome by the National Union of Teachers, which already carries out on-line surveys of members, who were given the chance to vote electronically in the recent performance-pay ballot.

John Bangs, assistant secretary, said: "We would be interested in this approach - so long as the GTC views this as complementary, and not a substitute for, the extensive consultation that the unions have with their members."

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