The General Teaching Council for England is the new regulatory and professional body for teachers. Its aims are:
* To raise the professional status and public standing of teachers.
* To provide an independent and influential voice for teachers.
* To maintain and guarantee high professional standards of teaching.
What does it do?
The Council's responsibilities are to:
* Maintain a register of teachers.
* Advise the Secretary of State and others on: the standard of teaching; standards of conduct for teachers; the role of the teaching profession; professional development; performance management; and recruitment.
* Investigate and hear allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence.
Register? Does that mean me?
For most teachers the answer is yes. If you're in a teaching post which requires qualified status, you have to register, even if you're part-time or doing supply work. This includes teachers attached to LEAs who are required to spend time teaching in schools.
There are a few exceptions: if you are unqualified; in the process of getting qualified status; or were trained overseas (and employed for up to two years in total in temporary posts lasting for up to four months each). If you have been disqualified from teaching you will not be eligible to register.
What do I have to do?
Nothing. Information will be sent out via schools and LEAs in January, setting out the timescale for the registration process and professional subscription. If you have qualified status and you're already working in a maintained or non-maintained special school, including unattached and supply teachers and those in pupil-referral units, you will hear from the GTC again in late March and early April. The GTC has been working with employers to collect data to enable them to register you. If you haven't heard from them by mid-May 2001, contact the GTC registration helpdesk on 0870 001 0308. If you hold qualified status and work elsewhere in education, you'll still be able to register. Use the GTC's "Application to Register" form, which will soon be available on-line (www.gtce.org.uk) or call the helpdesk.
Who is paying for this?
In the first year of operation the Government will foot the bill. But it is the Council's responsibility to be self-funding, so after October 1, 2001, teachers will have to pay a subscription. The level of subscription will depend on the budget set by the Council. It will also depend on the final number of registered teachers.
Can the GTC really discipline me? And how?
The GC will consider all cases where a teacher has been dismissed for misconduct or incompetence, or has resigned in circumstances where the employer considered dismissal. It will not consider cases involving issues of child protection. The Council's role begins once the employer's role has been completed.
The work will be carried out in three committees: an investigating committee, a professional conduct committee and a professional competence committee. There are appeal rights and the GTC says the procedures will be fair.
The Council can remove you from the register on a temporary or permanent basis; attach conditions to your registration; issue a reprimand or a caution; or decide no further action is necessary.
If it's a teacher's voice, why are there non-teachers on the Council?
While most Council members are practising teachers, it is hoped that the remaining members will ensure that there is a healthy and balanced cross-section of the education community. This includes parents, governors, employers, the trades unions, higher education and other interest groups. The GTC says: "It is a General Teaching Council rather than a General Teachers' Council."
Will non-teachers judge teacher competence or professionalism?
The balance of individual committees will reflect the overall composition of the Council. In line with other professional bodies, committees will comprise a balance of teacher and non-teacher members. The GTChopes the combination of professional understanding of the issues, together with a broader view from outside the profession, will lead to public confidence in the process.
Who represents me and how can I contact them?
It doesn't work like that. Council members represent the profession rather than their local area - they are not delegates. Elected members for senior schools, for example, represent all teachers who teach children over the age of 12.
You can contact GTCmembers via the website (www.gtce.org.uk), where they are keen to hear your views.
Have we seen this somewhere before?
It's a first time for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has had a GTC since 1965. The Welsh GTC came into existence on September 1, 2000, at the same time as the English GTC. Ireland will start work on a GTC next year, and Australia will be watching the English version closely as it is considering the idea too.
Where can I get more information?
Check out the GTC's website at www.gtce.org.uk. Their national telephone helpline number is 0870 001 0308. You can write to them at: The General Teaching Council, 344-354 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8BP.