GTC hearings triple to 500 a year as record number face charges
The number of General Teaching Council for England (GTC) hearings will triple because of record amounts of people facing misconduct charges, The TES has learnt.
Bosses at the GTC say increasing the volume of cases heard is the only way to prevent a backlog of teachers waiting years to discover their fate.
Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to shut down the regulatory body, but civil servants have told him that the process will take at least a year, meaning it will run as normal until next summer.
The number of teachers waiting to have their cases heard is at a record high, with 136 outstanding. The number of complaints about teachers from members of the public alone has risen by more than 800 per cent in the past year.
"We are having to deal with a huge volume in referrals, and there was a need for us to look closely at how we dealt with this situation," said GTC registrar Alan Meyrick. "We want all the cases to be dealt with within an acceptable time frame.
"The important thing was to investigate as soon as possible, and for us to reduce the volume of people waiting.
"In the past there have been 170 hearings every year, now we want to hold three times that volume. There's a need for us to run something closer to 500 a year."
GTC council members will have to spend more time out of the classroom because of the extra hearings. Council chair Gail Mortimer will write to their headteachers to explain this change.
Gill Stainthorpe, chair of the registration and regulation committee, said the increased work for the GTC had already started.
Private law firms have been drafted in to help examine cases and investigation panels - held to decide whether a trial should go ahead - will take place in the summer holidays for the first time.
"We have already had to double the number of hearings held in the past few months to keep pace and there have been four times more investigating committees held," Ms Stainthorpe said.
"We will be working into August. All of this has implications for the GTC - it's going to make our work more expensive."
GTC cases are meant to be dealt with within 43 weeks but the average length of time for a case to finish is 60 weeks. Only 52 per cent of cases are dealt with in one year.
John Bangs, head of education at teaching union the NUT, said: "Increasing the number of panels doesn't resolve the greater problem of why this increase in referrals is happening. Should all of these cases be dealt with by the GTC, I fear the high numbers must mean some must be unnecessary or vexatious.
"It's vital that GTC cases are still heard by properly trained teachers, and the resources are there to make sure the proper judicial and due processes take place."
Meanwhile, GTC council members have again criticised Mr Gove's decision to close the body.
Speaking at a meeting in Manchester they described him as being "discourteous to the extreme".
Mr Gove has not yet met them, or replied to a letter from Mrs Mortimer asking for a detailed explanation of why he wants to axe the GTC.
"The length of time the secretary of state is taking to decide to sit down with our chair shows a lack of strength of character and shows contempt for her role, as well as GTC members and staff," said council member Colin Surrey.
Mrs Mortimer said: "Everyone I have spoken to says the manner in which Mr Gove acted was discourteous to the extreme. He didn't give us any prior notice of his decision."
CHARGES IN NUMBERS
- There are 128 teachers currently facing charges of misconduct - this compares with 118 in February 2009 and 113 in March 2010. Only around 25 of these teachers are scheduled to appear before a GTC panel.
- There are five teachers facing charges of incompetence. Two are scheduled to appear before a panel and three are waiting for a date.
- There are two teachers appealing about their induction process.