Destined to be a loser from start

27th February 2004 at 00:00
Teacher Training Agency (TTA), Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), Department for Education and Skills (DfES) - but where in the alphabet soup does the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) belong?

From the moment of its conception, the GTCE has been destined to be an orphan child.

In the beginning the appointment of a credible chair was crucial in winning teachers' confidence. Instead they plumped for Lord David Puttnam, probably head-hunted over canapes at a Whitehall reception - the consummate luvvies' luvvie.

The failure to appoint a plausible and convincing figure from the world of education hamstrung the GTCE from the start. The Government's pathological distrust of teachers was implicit in Lord Puttnam's appointment. Would doctors, dentists or lawyers tolerate an outsider leading their professional organisations?

The planners next erected an unwieldy, creaky edifice called the Council.

This body was composed of four sections:

* 13 people directly appointed by the Secretary of State;

* 16 members from other quangos, obviously working on that sound playground principle, "if we let you go on our quango, we can have a go on yours";

* 25 teachers, elected in a turnout so low that the dullest parliamentary by-election would struggle to emulate it;

* nine nominees from teacher unions. Even the elected members came from a national ballot and therefore had no identification with - or responsibility to - a particular area or constituency. This has increased the impression of a remote, inaccessible and distant organisation.

In its glossy pamphlet Working for teachers, the GTCE sets out a number of criteria to assess its effectiveness.

Included were recruitment and retention rates, media portrayal of teachers, teacher morale and the status of the profession and levels of registration.

By any standards the GTCE is a suitable case for euthanasia.

And what has happened to this "voice" of the teachers when it has been required to speak out on topical issues? Teachers' pay? - we'll get back to you on that. Classroom assistants teaching? Er I Voice of the teacher? More like a breathless whisper.

Richard Knights

16 The Fairway


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