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Teaching council poised to seize fees

MORE than 200,000 teachers are likely to have their pound;23 registration fee for England's General Teaching Council forcibly deducted from their salaries, the council confirmed this week.

The disclosure comes just days before its annual budget meeting at which council members will be asked to approve a budget of pound;12.8 million - up pound;500,000 on last year. The figure includes pound;3.9m on staffing costs and pound;2.6m on maintaining the register and the council's work disciplining teachers for incompetence and misconduct.

So far 161,190 teachers have given the GTC payment details. With 24,000 forms still to be processed, and two weeks to go before the final March 1 deadline, the council hopes that 205,000 - half the teaching force in England - will consent to payment this year.

Teachers' response rate has improved since ministers announced that pay packets will be increased by pound;33 to cover the fee, which is set to go up in 2004. The two largest teaching unions, which were advising against payment, are no longer doing so.

Carol Adams, GTC chief executive, said: "This is progress. The fee issue has been difficult for teachers, and I understand why, but hopefully we can begin to put it behind us now.

"I hope that not too many teachers will still feel so reluctant to pay (next year), given that the money is now in their pay packets."

But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Assocation of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the take-up reflected the fact that teachers had been put off by the council over-selling itself as the "united voice of teachers" in its early days.

Mr de Gruchy said: "The GTC made a mistake in pretending it could solve their problems. It lost credibility over that. It has listened to our criticisms recently to some extent, though."

Under new regulations, councils have to deduct the cash from teachers'

salaries at the end of May. The payment lasts for a year. All teachers now have to be registered with the GTC to work in state schools in England.

Teachers wanting to contact the council to volunteer for payment should call 0870 001 0308.

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