Comment - This is 'old politics' covered by language of a fresh start

11th June 2010 at 01:00

When is a professional not a professional? When they don't have a professional organisation.

We have heard a great deal from the Coalition about "professionals" in the education field and how they should be "left alone" by the politicians.

Funny, really! I think abolishing a body that was established because the teaching profession wanted a self-regulating organisation of its own is somewhat at odds with the current rhetoric.

Mind you, the contradictions abound - with the new administration saying on the one hand that we should "free everyone" from central diktat, while on the other it will determine the exact form of phonics to be taught in primary schools and the shape and delivery of history throughout the system.

The medical profession has the General Medical Council and the legal profession has the Law Society. If the health or justice secretaries suggested otherwise, there would be an enormous outcry.

Preaching that teachers should be treated as professionals and given greater freedom comes ill from a coalition Government that is prepared to abolish an organisation which, with all its faults, was designed to provide that professional independence and oversight.

The GTC was also intended to give teachers a voice outside the legitimate role of trade unions so that they could defend their broader collective interests. This should not be cast aside lightly.

The other thing that the Conservatives preach is that they are constantly cutting "waste" and public expenditure. As with some other high-profile initiatives to "cut" public spending, we find once again that the spending being targeted isn't actually from the taxpayer at all, but from individuals - in this case, teachers' subscriptions.

There are many lessons in this controversy which apply broadly to the world of politics; namely, that whatever the good intentions, an organisation will run into difficulty in defending itself if it has not listened to and provided genuine support to those whose interests it promotes.

In the haste to rid itself of quangos, the Coalition is flailing about looking for anything that can have the tag of "abolition" attached to it. So Becta, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency and, now, the GTC are to go.

It might be instructive for the Coalition to reflect that its rhetoric about avoiding the setting aside of everything that Tony Blair achieved might also apply to institutions which may require improvement, but do not deserve abolition.

We seem to be having a rather bad dose of "old politics", covered only by the language of a new beginning.

- David Blunkett Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough; as Education Secretary, he oversaw the creation of the GTC for England.

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