Editorial - GTC dismissal is no more than a crowd-pleaser

11th June 2010 at 01:00
The body was unpopular but Gove and profession still need a registrar and regulator

The obituaries have not been kind. The death of the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) decreed by Michael Gove last week was greeted with jubilation by many teachers. This wasn't just a dance on its grave, more of a street party with a parade. Ceausescu had a more sympathetic send off.

The unexpected move does not have an immediate impact on the GTC in Wales - but it has called its longer-term prospects into question (see page 4), with its detractors sharing many of the same complaints. It is not hard to see why there has been little mourning for the council in England. Popularity was always going to be in short supply for a body whose main job was policing. The fact that teachers had to pay individually for the privilege - even if they were reimbursed - was hardly going to help. Mix in unwieldy disciplinary hearings, bureaucratic incompetence and a code of conduct that could have been cooked up by the neighbourhood busybody and you have a surefire recipe for turning disapproval into contempt.

The GTC did not play its hand well, but then it wasn't dealt a particularly good one. It was expected to raise the status of teaching as similar bodies had done for doctors and lawyers. Yet those expectations were never buttressed by a clearly defined remit. Confusingly, the GTC was supposed to police the profession and to give it a "voice". How it was meant to regulate and advocate was never clarified. A watchdog, after all, has responsibilities to the public as well as the professionals it polices.

Moreover, the GTC was born into a very crowded field. The unions felt that they spoke for their members and resented an interloper, the Training and Development Agency for Schools had the lion's share of professional development, while many head teachers believed they were best placed to handle disciplinary matters.

With such ill-starred prospects, was Mr Gove right to put the GTC out of its misery? No, he was not. As the sums saved will be negligible and the manner in which the council was dispatched so cursory, it is hard to escape the impression that this was a decision arrived at in haste and made to please the crowd rather than a considered attempt at reform. The absence of any detail on what comes next only strengthens that suspicion. Ridding teachers of the GTC does not rid the profession of the need to have a registrar and regulator of some kind. The vast majority of disciplinary cases can be dealt with by schools, but there will always be a few that have implications for the wider profession that need outside referral and that will not fall under the aegis of an employment tribunal.

Son-of-GTC should be at arm's length from Government and, in this post-Shipman era, should be informed by the profession but not in hock to it. It could be funded by a levy on the employer rather then the employee, it should certainly be less grand in its ambitions and more aware of its limitations, it could even be part of Ofsted. But whatever its shape, surely, given the unhappy history of its predecessor, it deserves to be the outcome of consultation and deliberation rather than ministerial whim?

Gerard Kelly

Editor E gerard.kelly@tes.co.uk.

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