Union forces conduct code overhaul

7th May 2010 at 01:00
`Flawed and demeaning' GTCW behaviour document is `softened' after outcry from teachers

The General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) has been forced to revise its professional code of conduct in the face of overwhelming opposition from teachers.

When the draft code was launched last October it prompted a major backlash from teaching unions, which branded it "flawed", "disturbing" and "demeaning".

Stung by the strength and scale of the outcry, the GTCW has softened the tone of the code and shortened the document so it is less prescriptive. Instead of directing teachers on how to conduct themselves, the code will "affirm and celebrate" behaviour expected of them.

The document no longer refers explicitly to the behaviour of teachers outside school, which was a major area of contention, but instead states that registered teachers are "mindful of their position as role models to pupils".

Gary Brace, chief executive of the GTCW, said: "We have listened carefully to what people said during the three-month consultation and responded to the issues raised.

"The wording has been re-written as an affirmation and, in some respects, a celebration of the behaviours demonstrated by members of the teaching profession.

"Teachers are rightly regarded as influential role models and, as such, behave in a manner appropriate to their place in society. The new code acknowledges this."

It has also been updated to include explicit reference to the "appropriate" use of social-networking websites for communications between teachers and pupils.

Mr Brace said this reflected the changing technological landscape of society and the increasing use of electronic communications in schools.

Most teaching unions welcomed the fact that the GTCW had listened to their concerns and acted on them.

Heledd Hayes, education officer with teaching union NUT Cymru, said: "The code should be a celebration of the professionalism of teachers rather than something to beat them around the head with. We are glad it is no longer a diktat. The vast majority of teachers do what the code wants them to do anyway."

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said: "We hope this marks a watershed in the relationship of the GTCW with the profession and a new era where it can become a more positive voice."

Teaching union the NASUWT, which has been a vocal critic of the GTCW for many years, said the revision had not changed its view that the code is unnecessary.

Rex Phillips, NASUWT's Wales organiser, said: "The overwhelming argument that came back from the consultation is that teachers do not want a code of conduct. The GTCW does not enjoy the respect of the profession and trying to spin this as something positive won't work."

The revised document is due to be published in July.

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