OSCAR-WINNING film-maker David Puttnam is the Government's surprise choice to chair the General Teaching Council.
Lord Puttnam, 58, producer of Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields, will be a controversial appointment among teachers since he has no background in the profession. Despite this, he will be heading the body responsible for setting and enforcing professional standards.
He is also a Labour peer and close to the heart of Government.
Lord Puttnam has said he sees his outsider status as an advantage, since he does not come with any "baggage" from the education world.
He will lead the fledgling council, due to start in September 2000, for its first 18 months. Once established, the council will elect its own chair from among the members.
This week Puttnam pledged to be an advocate for teachers not only with the public but with the Government. He promised to argue with ministers - and the Treasury - on their behalf. Improving recruitment, he believes, depends on better pay and status for the profession.
He will be working closely with Carol Adams, the council's chief executive. Ms Adams, who began her career as a history teacher, has been an inspector, chief education officer and, latterly, an adviser at the Department for Education and Employment.
She will set up and run the council, while Puttnam will act as a cheerleader and promote the teachers' cause to the public.
Lord Puttnam, who left school at 16, came to prominence in education when he masterminded and chaired the national teaching awards. A passionate defender of teachers, he has paid tribute to the challenge they face, especially in urban schools, saying members of other professions "don't know they're born".
Last June he attacked chief inspector Chris Woodhead's "regime of intimidation and terror". Teachers, he said, needed "support, optimism and affection".
Schools minister Jacqui Smith said: "I am delighted that Lord Puttnam has agreed to take this post. We are confident the GTC will provide a fresh voice for the profession and give teachers the opportunity to lead and shape change".
Lord Puttnam's new post is a two-day-a-week job, for which the salary has not yet been decided. His equivalent at the Scottish General Teachers' Council, established in 1965, is a practising teacher, who is unpaid.
The Welsh GTC is also due to launch in September 2000, but teachers recently complained to the National Assembly that the arrangements are a "shambles".
The post of Welsh GTC chief executive has not yet been advertised, and many teachers have not received their voting forms. Christine Humphreys, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said: "I had hoped the assembly would do things better in Wales. It seems to teachers we are doing things differently - but not better".