THE General Teaching Council celebrated its first official day of business today but teachers are complaining already that they are still in the dark about the registration fee.
While the long-awaited body was hailed as the best opportunity in a lifetime to improve the profession's image, the important question of what it will cost teachers remains unanswered. This will not be decided until next February.
Schools minister Estelle Morris said the new council would change the way England's 480,000 teachers were represented for the better.
She said: "When we legislated to introduce the GTC, there were some who thought we were taking a risk in creating an organisation that had the potential to unite the profession - one which might sometimes be critical of the Government."
"But the arguments in favour are overwhelming. By promoting and regulating the teaching profession, being a true professional voice, I am confident that the GTC can also raise the public status andesteem of teachers."
But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, warned the council against raising false expectations.
He said: "Our advice is to proceed with caution. Carry out the basics like registration and discipline competently before making claims about being able to influence the lives of teachers for the better. Especially when the question of what the fee will be is still in the air."
The cost of registration, expected to be about pound;20, will be set by the 64-member council in spring and teachers will start paying in October 2001.
In the meantime, the GTC is to apply to the Inland Revenue for tax relief for teachers on the fee - Scottish teachers are eligible for it for the pound;20 fee for their council.
The General Teaching Council for Wales also starts operation today.
The 25-member body will celebrate with a press launch on
Monday at the council offices in Cardiff.