GTC register's demise creates fraud risk, top mandarin admits

25th February 2011 at 00:00
School leaders' unions join forces to protest against decision

The decision to axe records used by thousands of heads to check teachers' credentials could lead to fraud, a top Department for Education official has admitted.

Dugald Sandeman, director of the workforce group at the Department for Education (DfE), warned that the decision to pull the plug on the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) and its register - containing details of all teachers, their qualifications and any unresolved disciplinary orders - would lead to risks in recruitment.

His comments were echoed by heads' leaders, who said it was a "retrograde" step that would "seriously undermine" the work of schools.

The GTC register is used 655,000 times a year by school leaders to vet new or potential employees. After the GTC is dissolved, DfE officials plan to keep a limited database, including only the names of those barred from teaching.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the NAHT, which have joined forces to protest against the decision, say the "vast majority of headteachers in the country" are "convinced" about the need for the GTC register.

Mr Sandeman told members of the GTC council at their recent meeting that the register would not be maintained in the same way, and that he was trying to "mitigate and deal with" the risks this would cause.

"We are looking very carefully at what data should be collected," he said. "We are aware this could open the whole system up to fraud, but the Government's view is that we don't need the same level of registration and regulation that we have."

ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman and NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby wrote a joint letter on the subject to education secretary Michael Gove this week.

"As (Education Bill) reforms lead to a wider range of initial teacher training providers and a larger number of employers, the benefits of this kind of 'one-stop shop' become all the more convincing to us.

"This would enable us to check qualifications, whether a teacher had successfully completed induction, etc. Such a database would also provide essential management data about the qualifications of teachers and teacher deployment and supply.

"The absence of such a tool would create an unnecessary burden for schools of the kind you are committed to removing and would seriously undermine system-wide planning."

GTC chair Gail Mortimer said: "The fact this register will go is a considerable problem and concern. Without it, schools have no single source of data on which they can rely on to check teacher standards."

A DfE spokeswoman said that apart from the GTC, workforce data was also held by the Department and by the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

"The department is considering what workforce data should continue to be held and in what form," he added. "Ministers are clear that they wish to retain an efficient and effective regulatory process for teachers and are looking at ways that the current system can be streamlined."

NO OBJECTIONS - Independents welcome regulation

Independent school heads say they have no objections to staff being subject to Government regulation for misconduct.

The new disciplinary system will include private school teachers, who did not come under the jurisdiction of the GTC.

Andrew Grant, head of St Albans School in Hertfordshire, said: "This is very much a rolling back of the years, to a situation which worked perfectly well before the GTC began. I think it's perfectly reasonable to report a teacher if they have broken the law; we don't see this change as a challenge or imposition.

"We don't feel the GTC brought much to our sector and I don't encourage my teachers to register. This is a restoration of the status quo."

Judith Fenn, head of schools services for the Independent Schools Council, said private schools were happy to be involved.

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