Incoming chair of teacher regulator warns on privacy

29th May 2009 at 01:00
There must be no place for prying in redefined GTC remit, she vows

The General Teaching Council needs to be "very careful" not to pry excessively into the private lives of school staff, the new chair of the body has warned.

A revised code of conduct for teachers, due to be published later this year, must respond to teachers' concerns that the council risks straying too far into their personal lives, according to Gail Mortimer.

The issue is due to be debated at a council meeting in July.

Mrs Mortimer, an English teacher for the past 33 years, will also consider overhauling the work of the council to tighten its focus on registering and regulating teachers.

The GTC has attracted criticism for spending money on activities, including teacher training, which are already undertaken by other organisations.

Mrs Mortimer, who takes up her position in September, said: "Teachers are role models to young people and it is right they adhere to certain standards. But I hope that points colleagues have raised about the new code moving into teachers' private lives are taken on board.

"We have to be very careful that whatever we agree does take into account that teachers have a right to a private life. The code should focus on professional performance."

Mrs Mortimer succeeded Judy Moorhouse, chair of the GTC for the past five years, after promising to re-examine the council's role amid criticism that its remit is too wide-ranging. She won election by a ratio of more than 2:1 votes.

Independent research commissioned by the GTC reported earlier this year that its remit is "too large and unwieldy" and might need to be fundamentally changed.

Mrs Mortimer said the council needed to decide what its focus should be.

"We have an extremely broad remit and it is something I would like to look at," she said.

"The perception of teachers is that we try to be involved in too much, to be all things to all people. I have sympathy with that."

Mrs Mortimer will work for two days a week as the council's chair and for the rest of the time will continue with her job as an advanced skills teacher.

She works in Kent with a number of schools included in the National Challenge programme where fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths.

Before starting in Kent last September, Mrs Mortimer worked in Rochdale schools for 32 years, including as head of English at St Cuthbert's High School. She was elected a teacher representative on the GTC when it was set up in 2000.

Mrs Mortimer, who describes teaching as "a damn good profession", admits the teaching council went through "choppy waters" in its early years and still has to communicate better with teachers to boost its popularity.

"Teachers are very busy and have other things to occupy themselves apart from the GTC," she said.

"Younger teachers are au fait with what we are doing, but there has been a communication problem in establishing that relationship with older teachers."

Mick Lyons, who represents the NASUWT teachers' union on the council, welcomed Mrs Mortimer's appointment.

"The council needs to focus on its prime function of registering teachers, not going off on tangents into other areas," he said. "Doing that would free up money which could be spent helping to clear the backlog of cases and getting things sorted."


The General Teaching Council was set up in 2000 as a professional body to register and regulate teachers.

All state school teachers have to register with the council, although it is voluntary for staff in private schools.

As well as registering teachers and hearing cases of misconduct and incompetence, the GTC also aims to maintain standards in the profession and gives advice to government.

It has 64 council members, including elected teachers, union representatives and other appointees.

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