Outspoken head wins top GTC position

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Relations between England's teaching council and unions got off to a bad start - now 'eternal optimist' Liz Paver must persuade them it can be a valuable partner. Clare Dean reports

Liz Paver, the flamboyant former president of the National Association of Head Teachers, was this week elected vice-chair of England's General Teaching Council.

The 56-year-old head of Intake first school in Doncaster, who describes herself as an eternal optimist, was chosen following a vote of the council's 64 members.

She will have to think positive to avoid becoming disillusioned by the constant criticism of the GTC from the classroom unions. Indeed they have already complained about her appointment.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said Mrs Paver was very competent. But he added: "It's a shame that the unique opportunity to appoint a classroom practitioner to a position of prominence has been missed."

His preferred candidate for the post, which will take up around 40 days a year, was presumably Mick Carney, the NASUWT's treasurer.

Mr Carney was one of five unsuccessful candidates. The others were David Belfield, Hampshire secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; Andrew Connell, a history teacher at Appleby grammar school in Cumbria; Marilyn Harrop, national advisory committee member of the National Union of Teachers and Carole Regan, former NUT president.

Mrs Paver is no stranger to controversy. She has spoken frankly about the problem of drugs among primary pupils and about violent children and parents.

A few years ago Mrs Paver lost a front tooth after being dragged along the road by a car driven by a mother whose daughter had been injured in a playground accident.

A member of the Church of England General Synod, she is deeply religious yet believes the law requiring collective worship in schools is an ass. It is a subject on which she has clashed with Canon John Hall, general secretary of the C of E board of education and fellow teaching council board member.

Her forthright views have sometimes landed her in trouble. Her claim earlier this year that the GTC annual registration fee was merely "the cost of a modest meal" prompted accusations of arrogance.

TES readers were particularly angry at the inference that for the "price of a curry" the GTC was answerable to them, when many board members are not elected by teachers .

Mrs Paver succeeds John Tomlinson, a long-standing campaigner for the council, as vice-chair.

She said the GTC's independence would always be questioned while it is funded by the Government.

"An independent voice will come when we have financial independence. But at the moment the Government is funding us. He who pays the piper calls the tune."

She said she wanted all teachers to pay voluntarily the pound;23 registration fee, saying the only way to get them to do so was to treat them as professionals.

The GTC is confident that the teachers' pay review body will heed its request to add an extra pound;30 to salaries to cover the fee which only one in seven teachers has so far paid.

Mrs Paver said: "It is essential that we convince people in the profession that we should have a professional association that will be their advocate.

"There aren't going to be any hard concrete successes but the GTC can influence the whole machinery. Our remit is to advise the secretary of state. We have an open door."

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