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Teaching council on union turf

Teacher unions say that they, not the new professional body, should be the voice of staff over pay and conditions, reports Warwick Mansell

A TURF war threatened to break out between unions and the General Teaching Council at its first public meeting this week.

Union representatives on the new professional body for teachers clashed with other members, including the chairman LordPuttnam, over the GTC's right to speak out over teachers' pay and conditions.

The unions believe such areas are beyond the council's remit. In particular, they railed at a proposal to include the council in the annual consultation on pay and conditions.

Pete Bishop, National Union of Teachers nominee on the council, said that Lord Puttnam's calls for unity with the unions would be undermined if the council was consulted in the "negotiations and discussion" which he implied were union territory.

Lord Puttnam responded: "There are any number of inputs to the School Teachers' Review Body (the organisation that deals with teachers' pay and conditions). For us to volunteer not to have an input seems to me quite bizarre.

"We are a pro-teachers group. All we can be is another positive voice working for the profession."

Elected member Anthea Tulloch Bisgrove, an English teacher from Davenant foundation school, Essex, said: "I think that morale is so low in the profession that we should have as many voices as possible supporting teachers."

In the event, the decision over whether the council shold be consulted by the pay review body was postponed. An amended motion, without the contentious clause but including proposals to consult teachers on reform of the inspection system, was passed unopposed.

After the meeting, Lord Puttnam claimed that the unions' position had been held by only four union nominees among the council's 64 members.

"Four people here have a position. And I would do exactly the same if I were them. In the end the motion (amended to remove the reference to consulting the pay review body) was carried unopposed. There is a sense now that we are moving on."

Mick Carney, a National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers nominee, also clashed with Lord Puttnam over proposals for a "pool" of expert teachers to put themselves forward as advisers to the council. Again, the matter was postponed.

However, the unions did welcome much of the detailed work of the council, particularly a paper on professional development. The council is proposing a national entitlement to development time for teachers in their second and third year in the profession.

More experienced teachers might be eligible for sabbaticals of half a term, said GTC chief executive Carol Adams. The council hopes to discuss its proposals with ministers in the new year.

Underlying the debate was concern about the council's impact on teachers. Ms Adams has said that "awareness of the GTC continues to be at a low level".

Leader, 14 GTC focus, centre-page pull-out

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