Bans will be sole sanction for 'crude' GTC successor

3rd December 2010 at 00:00
Fears of 'rough justice' as ministers 'simplify' disciplinary system

The disciplinary watchdog that will succeed the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) will only have one sanction available to it - to ban teachers from the profession, it has emerged.

Teachers who commit less serious transgressions will be allowed to remain in the classroom and will not face reprimands, suspensions or demands to attend extra training, which can currently be imposed.

Ministers want the regulatory system for teachers to be simplified, with disciplinary powers to be passed to the Department for Education. There will also be a return to the "list 99" system of banning unsuitable adults from working in schools that will be made available to the general public.

"We will put new arrangements in place for the regulation of the teaching profession and for dealing with professional misconduct and incompetence," last week's education white paper announced.

"The department will have the powers, where necessary, to bar teachers from the profession.

"There will be a simple list of those who have been barred, which employers and the public will be able to access, and the disciplinary process will be simplified further by reducing the current range of sanctions to a ruling that a teacher will either be barred or not."

Moves to abolish England's GTC will be included in the forthcoming education bill, although full details of what will replace it have not yet been spelled out.

Teaching unions have consistently complained about the length of time it currently takes for cases to be heard by the GTC. Careers are put "in limbo" while cases are investigated, which can then result in no action being taken.

But concerns have been raised that a less complex disciplinary system could lead to harsher treatment of teachers.

John Bangs, visiting professor at London University's Institute of Education, said: "It will lead to a very crude system which isn't good enough.

"If it doesn't recognise the different levels of seriousness of offences, it could lead to rough justice."

Gail Mortimer, chair of the GTC, said she was "shocked" at the plans. "Simplicity of process has merit, of course, but much risks being lost with this approach, including consistency, transparency and fairness to teachers," she said.

"Good and effective regulation calls for a proportionate response; it's hard to see how this could be accomplished when the choices are between no action at all and a complete bar from the profession.

"Although the Government has stated it will make its decisions public, it would be a retrograde step to return to the regulation of teachers without a fair and public opportunity for a case to be heard."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The fact that Michael Gove wants to simplify the disciplinary system shows his base ignorance, as it was the one part of the GTC which actually worked. You need to have a more sophisticated system which can do more than only ban."

GTC powers

Range of options

The GTC can impose a range of sanctions depending on the seriousness of teachers' behaviour.

At the top end, staff can be given a prohibition order, meaning they are struck off the teaching register and are unable to work in state-maintained schools.

The GTC has struck off 14 teachers for incompetence and a further 125 for unprofessional conduct since 2001.

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