Communication is the problem

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Your editorial broadside against the GTC criticises its disciplinary hearings for being "unduly lenient"; but we are simultaneously accused of hanging unfortunate teachers out to dry. I think we usually get the balance about right.

Nor would I accept that collecting the fees of 90 per cent of teachers represents failure, but rather success, given the task's complexity and evidence that non-payment is usually the result of administrative error by the employer, rather than a choice made by the teacher.

But you do score a palpable hit when you argue that the GTC has not effectively communicated to teachers its purpose and activities. It is not the case that we never made a start, but there was a mid-term loss of confidence, and tendency to nervous invisibility.

I think there were two main causes. First, following a bruising struggle with two unions over remit and fee payment, the GTC was wary of re-igniting conflict by adopting too high a profile. Second, the GTC was anxious not to take any public stance that might make it appear backward-looking, or, heaven forbid, "cynical" in the eyes of ministers.

Some of us repeatedly pointed out the lack of effective engagement with secondary teachers in particular, and the recent GTC election brutally made the point both in the dismal 10 per cent return of ballot papers, and in the message they conveyed. Declared membership of the GTC was akin to an electoral black spot, and the heads of two-thirds of the secondary members seeking re-election rolled, mine among them.

My demise I did not foresee; but I did predict (TES, February 27) that a priority for the next council would be the debate on how to communicate better. I still believe that the GTC, to which its members have dedicated much unpaid labour, has the potential to promote our "honourable profession". I hope that newcomers, however negative their pre-election stance, will swiftly realise this.

Andrew Connell 11 Mill Hill Appleby, Cumbria

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