Should children really help to decide the future of the profession?

2nd April 2010 at 01:00
As the GTC governing council is swept away, and union and teaching representatives lose their domination, opponents ask .

Children and parents will play a part in policing the teaching profession as part of a radical shake-up in the way the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) is run.

School staff and union officials will no longer control the GTC after the Government ordered changes to make the body more democratic.

The body's large governing council, consisting mainly of teachers and union representatives, will be scrapped. Instead, it will be split into a small board and an assembly.

The assembly will have pupil and parent representatives, who will provide input on the future of the profession. But it is as yet unclear how they will be chosen.

GTC bosses were told to reorganise the body five years ago after an Audit Commission report said it needed to be streamlined and better represent the public interest.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) demanded the process must be completed by 2012.

Board members will be elected by the assembly, which will be made up of teachers and individuals, together with children and parents, appointed by the DCSF. It is hoped that this will speed up decision-making as the smaller and more streamlined body will be in charge this process.

Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union the NASUWT, has criticised the changes, which come after a recent rise in registration fees.

"Just as we thought, the GTC couldn't get any worse, it plummets to new depths," she said.

"Having made the recent decision to impose a tax on teachers, it is now moving to marginalise them from decision-making. This decision will seal the fate of the GTC in the eyes of teachers, who already hold it in very low esteem."

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said teaching unions had been "downgraded" by the move.

"Whatever the size of the GTC board, it's absolutely essential unions have a stake in decision-making," he said.

The DCSF told the teaching council's chief executive Keith Bartley to create a "small sovereign board" which would allow the views of parents and children to be represented.

In a recent letter Marcus Bell, director of the DCSF's workforce group, said the legitimacy of the GTC would be questioned if teachers continued to "dominate" their own regulation.

"It has been fair that governance reform has been slow and, while I understand why, there is, nonetheless, a compelling argument for reform," he said.

Mike Herlihy, secretary of the GTC council, and Francesca Chittenden, governance and project co-ordinator, told members at a meeting last week that the current structure was no longer "appropriate".

Further details of the creation of the board and assembly will be decided at the GTC council meeting in July.


GTC chief executive Keith Bartley has criticised the Department for Children, Schools and Families for not agreeing the teaching council's increased fee rate earlier.

Money was supposed to be taken out of teachers' bank accounts from February 12, but Schools Secretary Ed Balls only made a decision on March 5. Cash will now be taken in mid-April.

The GTC wanted to charge teachers #163;39, but Mr Balls refused this increase and set fees at #163;36.50 instead.

Mr Bartley said the lower fee increase and delays in fee collection "both have the potential to cause considerable reputational damage to the GTC".

The fact that the fee is not a round sum will also have a "real impact" on processing times, he said.

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