Teaching council support 'growing'

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
The chief executive of England's General Teaching Council has admitted on its fifth anniversary that the professional body started on the wrong foot with teachers.

Carol Adams said she was optimistic that teachers were warming to the organisation, despite an Audit Commission report last year which found that teachers treated the council with "apathy".

"To have expected the teaching profession to welcome the GTC with open arms was naive because it was seen by many as yet another initiative," she said.

Ms Adams said she felt the attitude of teachers towards the council had improved during its first five years but that more work was needed to explain to teachers how the organisation could help them.

The pound;16-million-a-year organisation has completed its register of more than 520,000 qualified teachers and has become financially independent from the Government.

Around 93 per cent of teachers paid their pound;30 annual fee to the council last year. The cost of the fee has been included in recent pay settlements.

So far, its highest-profile activities have been its misconduct hearings.

David Cameron, the Conservatives' education spokesman, is among those who have accused the council of leniency for banning just 22 teachers since it started the hearings in 2002.

Staff who have escaped full bans, instead receiving two-year suspensions, include teachers who have been jailed for possessing illegal guns, scarring a man in a pub brawl, and conspiring to defraud the European Union over agricultural subsidies.

But Ms Adams defended the rigour of the hearings. "It is easy to underestimate the impact that even a reprimand has on a teacher's career and their life. It is a huge disgrace."

Ms Adams said misconduct cases were only a fraction of the work of the council, which focuses on supporting teachers' professional development.

More than 1,000 teachers have piloted the council's innovative Teacher Learning Academy which grants academic credits towards masters'

qualifications for teachers learning on the job.

The GTC intends to enrol 10 times as many teachers in the scheme by next year. Over the same period the council aims to introduce free, provisional registration for all trainee teachers.

The NASUWT, Britain's second largest teachers' union, has repeatedly criticised the council accusing it of providing poor value for money. Some members dubbed it the Gullible Teachers' Club.

However, Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he had detected a change in teachers' attitudes towards the GTC.

"I think it is about half-way there," he said. "Teachers were very hostile when it started, and it still has some way to go to win the support of classroom teachers, but it has done good work on professional development and education policy. What it needs to do now is stop worrying about being liked by the Government."

The Welsh GTC is also marking its fifth anniversary this week. It has encountered less opposition than the English council, but it has also been strongly criticised by the NASUWT.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

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