GTCW wants non-teachers, too

13th August 2010 at 01:00
Council faces accusations of empire building as it moves to add 30,000 TAs and lecturers

The General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) wants to carry out a rapid expansion of its teaching register to cover tens of thousands of college lecturers and classroom assistants.

In a move criticised as "empire building", council members are due to meet with education minister Leighton Andrews next month where they will press for the registration of almost 30,000 extra staff who come into regular contact with pupils.

Compulsory registration currently covers only teachers in maintained schools.

Growing numbers of learning-support assistants are working with pupils in early-years settings as part of the play-led foundation phase, while college lecturers are teaching school pupils as part of vocational 14-19 courses.

Mal Davies, outgoing chairman of the GTCW, said the matter of unregistered staff coming into contact with pupils must be addressed soon before it becomes a bigger issue.

"If people are being put in full charge of a group of youngsters in an educational setting then they should be registered," he said.

"I'm sure that parents would like to be assured that those people looking after their children adhere to a professional code of conduct."

But Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, accused the GTCW of "empire building".

He said: "There does need to be registration of lecturers and classroom assistants, but we don't need the GTCW to do it. Once again this is the GTCW trying to expand its role. This is not about concern for pupils; it's about how it can increase its income base."

In March 2010 there were 38,896 registered teachers in Wales, each of whom pays a pound;45 annual registration fee; pound;33 is refunded through their pay.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, which represents more than 400 FE lecturers in Wales, said there was "merit" in the proposals to expand registration.

"It would give college lecturers the same professional status as teachers and see teaching assistants viewed as more professional than they have been in the past," he said.

In 200708, the last year for which figures are available, there were 9,305 teaching staff in Welsh colleges. Figures released in January this year show there are 20,410 full-time equivalent support staff in Welsh schools.

The Assembly government pledged to "explore" the idea of establishing a professional body to safeguard professional standards for further education lecturers back in 2006, but no action has been taken.

Jessica Cromie, regional organiser for Unison, said it would promote the benefits of having a "wider support team" to teaching assistants. But she added: "It must be recognised that school support staff are not as well paid as teaching staff and so would find it more difficult to sustain the additional costs that registration may require."

An Assembly government spokesman said: "The minister will be seeking the devolution of powers to decide the future of the GTCW and will consider his approach to registration for the wider workforce alongside these proposals."

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