Doubts over value of teaching council

13th April 2001 at 01:00
NEARLY half of the teachers polled in an NOP survey believe that the General Teaching Council will do nothing for them.

The findings, to be released on Monday, will make depressing reading for the film-maker Lord Puttnam, chairman of the GTC, who once said he wanted to make teachers feel 10 feet tall.

Just one in four of the 1,007 teachers surveyed by NOP last month believed that the council would represent the interests of teachers with employers and the Government.

Only one in 10 of the teachers, all members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, thought it was the GTC's job to regulate the profession. Yet this is one of its two key aims.

More teachers believed the council was there to represent and support teachers who got into difficulty at work (12 per cent) and improve standards (15 per cent).

When asked who the GTC had been intended to represent, a quarter of respondents said the Government and 62 per cent said teachers.

But six out of 10 teachers supported the setting up of a GTC. A spokeswoman for the council said: "We are determined to create a GTC of which they can be proud."

The GTC, whose work began last September, has been dogged by difficulties. Its original attempt to collect teachers' addresses for its database sparked a complaint, upheld by the regulatory body for data protection, from the National Union of Teachers. And last week it cut its fees for a second time, following objections from the NUT that the proposed pound;25 fee was unlawful. Originally the fee was to have been pound;30.

This week, just 10 days after its embarrassing climbdown over fees, the council was accued of misrepresenting its role, as its turf war with the unions escalated.

Union leaders believe the GTC is acting outside its remit (see box).

Legal advice issued to the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers attacked GTC claims to be a "membership"organisation when registration was compulsory. It warned too that the council would be acting outside its legal powers if it became involved in contentious debates and in conditions of service.

To add to the beleaguered council's troubles, there were warnings that a venture between it and the BBC could mean a serious conflict of interest.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers attacked a proposed joint venture in digital broadcasting for schools. The union said the venture meant the GTC would no longer be able to advise the Government objectively when it came to educational broadcasting.

The GTC pledged to look at the issues raised by unions. But a spokesman said: "The bottom line is that we're working to create an organisation which is committed to raising the status of the profession. Over the coming months we'll be working hard to explain our role to teachers."


THE General Teaching Council's first priority, set out in its corporate plan, is to raise the status of the profession. It will be an advocate for teachers, pushing for improvements and change on their behalf.

Yet these goals are not set out anywhere in the 1998 Teaching and Higher Education Act, which established the GTC and defined its remit. This says the GTC's two principal aims are to raise teaching and learning standards and improve professional conduct.

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