Major changes to the way teachers are punished will result in them being "recycled" rather than disciplined, the chair of the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has warned.
Education secretary Michael Gove announced the axing of the GTC last year and will take over full control of regulation next year.
As part of the changes, heads will no longer have a legal obligation to refer badly behaved teachers to the new disciplinary body, which will not deal with incompetence.
As a result, GTC chair Gail Mortimer warned, there will be no national regulation of competency and this could lead to incompetent teachers being passed from school to school.
Mrs Mortimer said the changes, going through Parliament as part of the Education Bill, risk damaging the "standing and status" of the teaching profession.
"I am concerned that, unlike other professions, the teaching profession will have all its fundamental precepts, professional and ethical frameworks in the stewardship of only the secretary of state - its code, standards, professional qualification, means of discerning its professional norms and so on," she told members of the GTC council last week.
"Surely this poses a risk to his stated aims of raising the standing and status of teaching as a profession?
"We know that recycling of teachers below the threshold of competence remains a part of employment practice, even if it has diminished with the presence of national regulation," she said.
Mrs Mortimer said the changes "will not deliver what the Government intends and may instead open a highly problematic scenario for this or any subsequent government - one in which the profession is disempowered from taking collective responsibility for its standards".
With regard to unprofessional conduct, she warned that because the only sanction will be an outright ban, it would lead to many minor misdemeanours going unpunished.
"Given the potential severity of the sanction, the risk is that the most appropriate response may not be found either because the employer refrains from referring or because the secretary of state has limited himself to the one sanction of prohibition."
Dugald Sandeman, director of the workforce group at the Department for Education, was jeered by some members of the GTC council when he outlined the case for scrapping the body. He promised details of the new regulatory system would be decided before April.
He admitted the Government has not yet worked out how much it will cost or if teachers will have to pay fees, but estimates savings will be "at least #163;10 million".
POWER TO SACK
Education secretary Michael Gove (left) told MPs last week he wanted to ensure teachers barred for "gross misconduct" were kept on a central list "which is updated continually".
"The General Teaching Council, which was responsible for dismissing and barring incompetent teachers, succeeded in barring only 14 teachers over the 10 years that it was in existence," he said.
"We need to ensure that at school level, headteachers have the power to dismiss those whom they consider to be inappropriate. We must ensure that headteachers who are doing a fantastic job and are generating improved results have freedom and flexibility over the staff that are required to carry on doing that great work."
BY ORDER OF THE MINISTER
The secretary of state for education will have the power to order investigations of referrals in relation to:
- allegations of unacceptable professional conduct;
- allegations of conduct which may bring the profession into disrepute;
- cases where there has been a criminal conviction.
The secretary of state will decide if there is a case to answer and whether to ban the teacher. Bans will be the only sanctions.