Discipline hearings may go as GTC struggles to cope

22nd October 2010 at 01:00
Pre-abolition staff departures and tripling of case referrals result in 'extraordinary' pressures

There is a "very high risk" that the General Teaching Council could be forced to end disciplinary hearings because of the uncertainty caused by the regulatory body's abolition, even though this is not due to happen until next year at the earliest, its bosses have admitted.

Some ten per cent of GTC staff have already left their posts and Government spending cuts have put an end to recruitment.

Ministers planning a replacement disciplinary system are placing "extraordinary demands" on the body, according to chief executive Keith Bartley. In addition, teacher referrals to the GTC are at a record high and the number of hearings has had to be tripled.

Mr Bartley told a GTC council meeting there is a danger that staff may be unable to carry out the tasks required.

"The risk of being unable to fulfil statutory functions during a period of great uncertainty for staff... remains very high," Mr Bartley said.

"This is particularly so as the many information demands made through the joint transition board and more widely across Government are placing extraordinary demands upon staff."

The board, made up of GTC and Department for Education staff, meets fortnightly to thrash out a successor regulatory body.

Despite the increase in referrals and cases heard by the GTC, the Department for Education has said its operations and expenditure "should be pared back to the minimum level necessary".

There is a ban on publications and advertising, a recruitment freeze and restrictions on contracts and expenditure.

Around 20 of the GTC's 195 staff have left. A company called Xue, ("change" in Mandarin) is running workshops for the remaining workers to help them find other careers when the GTC ends.

Mr Bartley said there would be a "serious risk" to the GTC's reputation if there were a high number of cases waiting to be heard when it is axed. He wants 419 hearings to be held before July 31, 2011.

All council members, many of whom are working teachers, have been asked to work a guaranteed four days a month rather than on an ad hoc basis.

But a "significant number" of those teachers will not be able to commit to extra hours, the council says, and there might not be enough people to "meet the need for an increased volume of hearings".

An extra 42 teachers and 21 lay members were recruited in May, but were not appointed because Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that the GTC would be scrapped a week later.

"It has now become clear that availability within the current pool to meet demand is likely to be insufficient," Mr Bartley said.

"The reputational and operational risk to the council of delays in completing casework remains high. A failure to deliver the planned number of hearings because of lack of member availability to ensure panels are properly constituted is currently a risk."


Fee concerns add to troubles

Concerned GTC bosses fear that teachers will stop paying the controversial fees which fund the body because of its impending closure.

The abolition of the body could "affect the future collection of remaining fees". This year the GTC has been unable to get money from all overseas-trained teachers and instructors, and had to start a second "salary deduction collection".

Currently 512,000 teachers receive an allowance of #163;33 each year, paid by employers. This equates to some #163;16.9 million. The fee for 200910 was set at #163;36.50, but many teachers, such as those doing supply work, are not eligible to receive the allowance and pay the full #163;36.50.

The total fee income for 201011, including fees paid by teachers in independent schools and by instructors, is estimated to be #163;21.4 million.

Scrapping the GTC will save #163;16 million a year, schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs.

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