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Minister backs separate teaching council for Wales

The Government is considering setting up a separate General Teaching Council for Wales, linked to the new Welsh Assembly, writes Clare Dean.

Peter Hain, the Welsh education minister, wants to give teachers in the principality a stronger voice - and to ensure there is no artificial barrier to members teaching in either country.

Ministers also believe it is crucial that comparable standards are achieved between both England and Wales. GCSE students in Wales are now outperforming their English counterparts. This year the percentage of candidates achieving higher grades in Wales rose by 1.5 per cent on the previous year to 55. 6 per cent. In England there was 0.4 per cent increase on the previous year to 55.4 per cent.

The proposal for the Welsh GTC - currently out to consultation - emerged as the principality prepares for a referendum on devolution later this month.

It is suggested that a Welsh teaching council would be complementary, without being identical, to the GTC proposed for England "the better to meet the distinctive circumstances in each". Mr Hain said: "There is a clear balance of advantage in establishing a distinct council in Wales.

"Consistent with the Government's policy on devolution, it is important that decisions which affect our education should be taken in Wales. The Assembly must inherit as coherent and accessible an institutional structure for the regulation and development of the profession in Wales, as possible."

There is no intention that arrangements in Wales for funding, quality assuring or inspecting the work of initial teacher training institutions should be changed.

Funding for initial teacher training will be channelled through the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector will remain responsible for inspecting ITT institutions - just as it inspects schools and the further education sector in Wales.

Like the proposals for England, the Welsh GTC is expected to be funded through a Pounds 10 annual registration fee for teachers. It is estimated some Pounds 280,000 could be raised each year. Mirroring England again, no exact composition of the GTC is mooted, although a consultation document said serving teachers and heads should form a "significant part". It added that it would be wrong for teachers simply to be nominated by unions. However, there may be a case for a limited number of union nominations.

Ministers expect the GTC to reflect the interests, too, of parents, governors, teacher trainers, local education authorities, churches, businesss and the wider community. They have raised the prospect of standards of conduct for the teaching profession - the GTC in Scotland is already working on a code - and claim the Welsh GTC would become a major decision-making and advisory body.

Areas it would cover include the promotion of teaching as a career, entry to the profession, the "barring" of unsuitable entrants and assuring professional standards.

It would be obliged to liaise and co-ordinate its activities with the GTC in England.

Comments on the proposal should be sent, by October 17, to Tom Hunter, FHE1, Welsh Office, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF1 3NQ.

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