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'An insult to teachers'

Critics dismiss the General Teaching Council's 17 professional rules. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Teachers will have to abide by 17 rules being drawn up by the General Teaching Council for England, which could be used against them in disciplinary proceedings.

Critics say the Code of Conduct, which includes requirements to treat everyone with respect and avoid crime, is an insulting mixture of "the obvious and the blindingly obvious".

Responses to the 17 commandments suggest they are unlikely to improve the council's popularity among teachers. Last month in a survey of teachers in England, 47 per cent rated the GTCE as "unsatisfactory" or worse. One in six rated it as "very poor". Only 5 per cent of those asked could name John Beattie as its chairman.

And the council revealed this week that 45,000 teachers have yet to pay their pound;28-a-year fee, depriving it of more than pound;1 million.

The code is based on evidence from more than 60 GTCE disciplinary and induction hearings in the past two years. The draft was put before its 64-member council this week. It includes rules that say that teachers will:

* maintain their professional competence

* maintain high expectations for pupils

* treat everyone with dignity and respect

* maintain standards through professional development

* ensure pupils' safety and welfare

* work effectively with parents, carers and fellow professionals

* observe confidentiality

* not abuse their professional position

* maintain high standards of probity

* avoid criminal offending

According to legislation the council may draw up a code but it is not compelled to do so.

Carol Adams, the council's chief executive, said: "These are guidelines specifically for the GTCE when there are hearings against the tiny minority of teachers who have fallen below the professional standards. They will also inform teachers of what the minimum standards are."

Some members expressed concern at the wording of some clauses. Judy Moorhouse, a National Union of Teachers' council nominee, said: "We are setting teachers up to be hostages to fortune, especially when we expect them to ensure the safety of pupils."

Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, described the document as "unnecessary, bureaucratic and professionally insulting".

She said: "Teachers are already in a legal minefield. We have asked the GTCE on more than one occasion not to draw up codes which can be used as the basis of disciplinary action."

Mike Walker, director of the teachers' employers' organisation, said the clauses ranged from "the obvious to the blindingly obvious". But he added:

"We would urge the GTC to keep this as simple as possible and use it as a framework rather than a rulebook."

Professor Ted Wragg, of Exeter university, said: "A professional who needs telling these things should not be in the job."

Council members have three weeks to submit any changes before it is put out to consultation by employers, unions, focus groups and other organisations.

A final version will be considered in the summer with distribution scheduled for September.

The Code of Conduct follows the publication two years ago of the GTCE's Code of Professional Values and Practice, which sets out "the beliefs, values and attitudes of teacher professionalism".

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