GTC friction over pound;10 fee rise

7th October 2005 at 01:00
"Dig deeper for professionalism" is set to be the latest plea from the General Teaching Council for Scotland. Teachers are being asked to cough up more to defend standards over the next two years, taking the annual registration fee from pound;30 to pound;40.

Council members last week dismissed an appeal against the fee rise from James Forbes, a Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association representative.

Teachers had only 51 per cent of seats on the GTC, "but we pay 100 per cent of the costs", Mr Forbes protested.

Margaret Smith, another SSTA member, said that teachers had "a lot of negative feelings and attitudes to the existence of the council" and would have to be convinced they were getting value for money with such limited representation.

But Bruce Heil, the finance convener and a college assistant principal, said that fees had to rise to keep pace with developments. The last increase, of pound;5, was in 2001-2002 and subsequent rises had been deferred. Extra burdens from the council's role in continuing professional development, the chartered teacher programme and probationary teachers had stretched its resources. This was creating a deficit of pound;270,000 in the current year.

"Without fee increases, the deficit will rise to half a million pounds," Mr Heil warned.

Patrick Boyle, a primary head and Educational Institute of Scotland member, said the fees were used "extremely wisely".

On a wider front, Ephraim Borowski, a university lecturer and First Minister appointment, said he understood concerns among teachers about "paying for a stick to beat themselves over the head with". But doctors, dentists and lawyers paid far more to their self-regulatory bodies.

"Stop-go" policies on fees were not effective.

Mr Borowski warned: "Self-regulating bodies are no longer flavour of the month, for example, the British Medical Association. Perhaps lay membership has to be increased to assure the public. You cannot police yourself in the way you have for 40 years."

* Teachers who break GTC codes of conduct are to be publicly named before they appear in front of the disciplinary committee.

The GTC is creeping towards a more open regime but has yet to emulate England where hearings are in public. Freedom of information legislation is the driving force.

A spokesman said: "From now on, information about disciplinary hearings will be posted on the GTC Scotland website. Information will be posted in advance, as well as following the final determination. This will give the individual's name and the nature of the allegation and, finally, the finding of the hearing.

"In the fullness of time, hearings will be in public but we are awaiting legal confirmation of this."

John Anderson, professional officer, said: "There is an expectation that if we are working in the public's interest, then we should be more open about what we are doing." It was also in the interests of teachers.

Mr Anderson defended the GTC's conduct of hearings as "fair, robust and vigorous".

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