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Puttnam slams GTC abolition as 'shortsighted'

The Government's decision to abolish the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) is "incredibly short-sighted", according to an attack by the educationalist and film producer Lord Puttnam.

Education Secretary Michael Gove's move to scrap the body is wrong and part of a "neurotic rhetoric" coming from the Coalition, according to the peer, who was instrumental in setting up the GTC and served as its first chair.

"The GTC may not have been perfect but the very last thing the Government should do is destroy public bodies to no purpose and with absolutely no plan," he told the annual Wales education lecture in Cardiff.

He said he was "delighted" Wales still had its own teaching council, and said he hoped the Assembly government would not follow the example of Westminster.

"Over the past three decades I have sat on the boards of at least 10 public bodies," he said. "Each could at some time have been justifiably closed down. Instead the boards undertook the difficult and challenging process of reform and improvement. In every single case a more efficient and effective organisation emerged."

He said bodies like the GTC had a "vital and continuing" role to play in delivering education, and said England could learn much from Wales.

Scrapping the GTC was one of Mr Gove's first major announcements after taking office. It is expected to shut next year, although no decisions have yet been taken about whether another organisation will take over its regulatory role.

Lord Puttnam, who retired from film production in 1998 after three decades in the business to focus on education and the environment, also spoke about the changing role of teachers in the 21st century.

He said that despite new digital technologies, the need for teachers was "more crucial than ever".

"Young people may be very smart about using technology but there are considerable challenges around helping them to sort the wheat from the chaff," he said.

He said that although the definition of what makes a good teacher is quite likely to change a lot, teachers are still "key to all our futures".

"Skilled teachers will quickly become society's greatest asset," he said. "It pays to remind ourselves that no education system can be better than the quality of its average teacher."

He pushed for more investment in continuing professional development for teachers, and in a dig at the Westminster coalition said it was "not something that could be farmed out to some vague concept of big society".

"There needs to be a meaningful ring-fenced commitment by government here in Wales as well as London," he said. "It's counterproductive to scrimp and save on investment in our teaching workforce over the next decade. It's imperative we develop a workforce skilled and equipped to deal with the new technologies."

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