So is Lord Puttnam a good thing?;News;News and opinion

10th December 1999 at 00:00
Steve Hook canvassed opinion on the appointment of the man from showbiz as chair of teaching's professional body.

The controversial appointment of film producer David Puttnam as chairman of the General Teaching Council has found favour with the profession - but he does have his detractors.

While Lord Puttnam is widely-regarded as a genuine champion of the profession, some point to his lack of experience in education, suggesting a teacher or an educationist should have filled the post.

Lord Puttnam will act as the teachers' cheerleader until the GTC appoints its first elected chairman, in a ballot of members of its ruling council. He could be in the job for up to 18 months.

Carol Adams, former chief education officer and government adviser, has already been appointed chief executive.

The job of Lord Puttnam's deputy has gone to Professor John Tomlinson, former director of the Institute of Education at Warwick University and long-standing council champion.

Professor Tomlinson was also chair of the Schools Council from 1978 to 1982 when it was abolished by the Tories.

* Kay Driver, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, said: "Lord Puttnam is a highly-respected and capable individual who has done sterling work with the teaching awards and other organisations. However, he is not the right person for this job. PAT was looking for the first chair to be a successful teacher or headteacher."

* John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Lord Puttnam has become a strong and powerful advocate of the profession and the GTC has the opportunity to become a strong voice.

"He will complement the professional expertise which exists in the GTC by adding the sort of street cred which he already has with the general public and the media."

* Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of School-

masters Union of Women Teachers, greeted the appointment with unqualified enthusiasm: "I warmly welcome the appointment. It is a very imaginative one. Although he is better-known as a film-maker, I have come to know him over the past couple of years and found him to be a real friend of teachers.

"I congratulate David and look forward to working with him in his new role."

* Sandie Nott, of Albion junior school, West Bromwich, said: "I hope that David Puttnam will use his experience of working in the media to help to promote a better image for the teaching profession which has worked valiantly over recent years to come to cope with the mountain of changes wrought upon it."

* Professor Ray Page, chief executive officer of the College of Teachers, said:

"We welcome the appointment because it removes uncertainty and they will be able to get up and running, and forward-looking.

"Lord Puttnam is a strong supporter of the professionalism of teachers. Having someone who is recognised in the outside world is very important at this particular time.

"We would have appointed someone with a longer track record but I think that would have been rather introspective."

* Mary Smol, teacher at Luddenden Foot junior and infant school, west Yorkshire, said: "I don't think it really matters who it is. I don't think it will make much difference to us. But, personally, I wonder whether a film director is a good choice. I would rather have had someone who had been a teacher: perhaps a politician who had been a teacher and who was respected.

"If he is going to do anything, the issue is to try and build respect for people who work with children. It seems that today all the respect goes to people who work with money. I think a lot of teachers think money would be nice, but respect is what I think is really important to them."

* Leslie Ward, a teacher at Intake primary school, Doncaster, south Yorkshire, said: "I think it is quite positive because he is on the side of the teacher.

"I know people who have spoken to him and they say how impressed they are with the things he is saying about the teaching profession.

"He is trying to promote a positive image of teaching, which isn't something which happens as much as it should in the press.

"At first some people were concerned that he is not from education but it is good to have someone who has something to say and is high-profile. I'm just pleased they didn't pick Mr Woodhead."

* David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "In an ideal world it would be nice to have an educationist.

"However Lord Puttnam has a profile of someone who supports the teaching profession and we mustn't forget the role of Carol Adams who, as chief executive, brings with her the sort of expertise which is needed."

* Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We have a lot of time for David Puttnam, and the job he did with the teaching awards, but that is not the point. There is no provision for a chair and a vice-chair of the GTC and there is no reason to appoint a chair until one is elected by the council when it is formed.

"If they want someone to fill the gap until we have an elected chair then Carol Adams is more than capable of doing so."

* Jim Hudson, president of the new Primary Plus teachers' union, said: "He has a high profile and has proved to be very supportive of teachers.

"Lord Puttnam's lack of background in education should not be a problem if he is a good listener and sees his role as bringing people together.

"There is an issue of morale in the teaching profession and it is good to have someone like him who speaks well about the profession and the work that teachers do.

"We should all give him a chance."

* Frankie Birchwood, of Albion junior school, West Bromwich, said: "I'm pleased with the appointment. He's a high-profile celebrity, well-respected in his field. And he's had plenty of contact with education, for example in his role as Chancellor of Sunderland University."

* Theresa May, the shadow education secretary,said: "The General Teaching Council should be the voice of teachers, not of the Government. This is yet another example of how the Government refuses to trust the teachers.

"Appointing Lord Puttnam to chair the council may give it a high profile but it will have little impact on standards in the teaching profession."

* Fred Naylor, chairman of the Parental Alliance for Choice and Education, said:

"This is a surprising appointment because, as far as I know, he has got very little knowledge of education.

"I have always been sceptical about the GTC because, unlike medicine, this is a profession which is riven with politics and I am not sure about David Puttnam being involved in that.

"Glamour, if that is what he brings, is not what is needed.

"I think they should have gone for an educationist."

Platform, 13

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