Axing the GTC is a cut above

11th June 2010 at 01:00

A few weeks ago, when asked what he intended to do about the General Teaching Council for England (GTC), the Education Secretary Michael Gove gave an enigmatic smile and said: "I'm listening to the teachers. Watch this space." Well, he's listened. And it's going.

When the GTC was first set up, there was considerable enthusiasm for it - a professional council to champion teachers and teaching. But ask teachers what they think of it now and you'll find the enthusiasm has long since dissipated.

None of my staff had a clue what the GTC was doing. They knew it raked in millions of pounds from the contributions coughed up each year, and a few knew it acted as judge and jury when teachers had been naughty. But other than that? Nothing. Zilch. And only one teacher had ever bothered to read the little magazine justifying its existence that occasionally popped through our doors.

Me? I loved the magazine. A great source of amusement, because the regulator came up with eye-poppingly banal initiatives that I'm astonished anyone took seriously. Take the Learning Conversation: a jargon-infested idea which, when unpicked, simply entailed teachers talking to each other and therefore apparently encouraging them to, er, learn from each other. Who'd have thought it?

Then there was the Red Hot Lesson, where teachers were encouraged to leave their comfort zone and try something new and exciting. I bet you don't know any teacher who would have thought of doing that ...

Then there were the questionnaires, mailed to all teachers and purportedly gathering useful information. There were some real nuggets here (not on the level of last year's Department census that asked us to tick one box if we were male, another if we were female, and a third if we didn't know, but pretty mind-boggling even so). A recent one from the GTC asked me to tick a box if I was too disabled to do my job. It occurred to me that if I'd been too disabled to do my job, I wouldn't have been doing it.

They also asked my ethnicity - yet again - and since this is recorded on other electronic data sheets we are required to submit, I phoned to ask why they wanted it and what they intended to do with it. The answer won't surprise you. They weren't sure, but somebody would call me back. I'm still waiting ...

Then there was the sheer incompetence. One of my teachers received a letter demanding that she pay her subs or she'd be removed from the register. She retired seven years ago.

Another teacher received a similar letter and replied saying she paid via the school payroll provider every year. The GTC wrote back and thanked her, and then sent another letter asking why she hadn't paid. If the money wasn't forthcoming immediately, it said, she'd be struck off and then, poor soul, she'd be stuffed because she wouldn't be able to get a job.

She telephoned again, irritated. Sorry, they said, our mistake. Relieved (because she's a young teacher and doesn't need that kind of worry), she went back to her classroom. A fortnight later, she received a letter saying she'd been removed from the register. Another phone call, another apology, and could she just be popped back on the register? No, she was told, it wasn't that simple. She'd have to re-apply.

And then, just recently, we learned that the regulator says it's OK to call immigrants savages. A teacher who did just that was told by a GTC panel he hadn't broken any rules that would bar him from the profession.

So well done, Mr Gove. It's a promising start. Now, what about Ofsted? Go on, I double dare you ...

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email:

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