pound;20 GTC fee upsets unions

16th July 1999 at 01:00
MINISTERS are being warned they could alienate teachers by imposing an arbitrary pound;20 subscription to their new professional body.

Unions, which raised concerns over the fee during talks with officials at the Department for Education and Employment this week, cite it as further evidence of the Government undermining the independence of the General Teaching Council.

The GTC will advise the Government on matters relating to the profession, conduct disciplinary hearings and keep a register of qualified state school teachers.

The National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers have been forced to accept the legality of the proposed charge, but predict it could cause a further loss of credibility to the proposed GTCs for England and Wales, due by September 2000.

The union says the fees should be calculated after an audit of the GTC's costs during its first year.

NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy said: "Our view is that it is not for the Government to set the pound;20. We want the Government to pay for the start-up costs for the second year as well as the first year. No audit has been conducted to arrive at the pound;20 figure.

"If members are coerced into paying the pound;20, we will seek to protect them but I don't want to get diverted by that at this early stage. The point is that teachers do not feel they own the GTC and imposing a fee in this way is not going to help change that."

The NASUWT says the fee further reduces the confidence of its members in a GTC which they already suspect is being formed into the equivalent of a Whitehall quango - with key appointments being made by the Government. This week the DFEE is drawing up a shortlist of candidates to be chief executive of the English GTC - Wales will handle the recruitment of its own chief executive.

NASUWT general secretary Nigel de Gruchy is urging the Government to think again about the proposed model.

In a letter to Education Secretary David Blunkett, he wrote: "The GTC is viewed as a creature of Government. Given the present climate, I believe it would help if you adopted a measured and realistic approach to the current GTC model being established."

Elections for the GTC's teacher-representatives are due to take place in February 2000.

It is proposed the GTC's board will have 55 members, with teachers' representatives forming the majority.

* Doctors pay pound;80 per year to be registered with the General Medical Council, while solicitors must pay pound;430 to the Law Society.

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