Backlash hits GTC power bid

9th October 1998 at 01:00
The General Teaching Council appears to be heading for one of the most turbulent periods in its 33-year history, as the Government sets what could be a collision course with the education authorities and unions over the council's powers and membership.

The Scottish Office's education White Paper, essentially Labour's manifesto for the Scottish parliament, has already been trailed as likely to include beefed-up powers for the GTC to test teacher competence, striking off those who fail, and to take a new role in appraisal and career development.

This was signalled last year in the general election manifesto, in whose drafting Helen Liddell, the Education Minister, was closely involved and to which she therefore remains more committed than Brian Wilson, her predecessor.

Any such move will open up a serious breach with the education authorities which insist on "management's right to manage". Anne Wilson, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education, confirmed the authorities' hostility when she spoke at the GTC meeting in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Reports from the latest round of education committee meetings continued the chorus of opposition to any additional GTC powers. Glasgow said there was no need for another central body to oversee staff development, Perth and Kinross dubbed such moves "naive in the extreme", Falkirk said GTC involvement should be limited to assisting authorities and North Ayrshire called for a review of "the structure and operation of the GTC".

The Educational Institute of Scotland, which dominates the 22 teacher seats on the council, disagrees and insists that if any body has to have such powers it should be the GTC.

But the Government, already in conflict with the unions over Higher Still and changes in conditions, is unlikely to be impressed by the system of teacher elections to the GTC, which are currently under way. Plans to set up an equivalent body in England allow for teacher nominations rather than elections and ministers south of the border are fond of making a distinction between a General Teaching Council and a General Teachers' Council.

The GTC's recent criticism of classroom assistants as likely to infringe the work of teachers will not have convinced ministers that the council has an arm's-length relationship with the unions.

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