Union says GTCW is not fit for purpose

30th October 2009 at 00:00
ATL Cymru parts company with profession's watchdog on policy, practice and presentation

Teachers are feeling alienated by the actions of their professional watchdog the General Teaching Council for Wales, a union has claimed.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru warned that urgent dialogue was needed to make sure the council and the profession do not "irrevocably part company".

The GTCW has found itself under repeated attack on a number of fronts in recent months, and last week its proposed code of conduct for teachers caused an outcry.

Until now, ATL Cymru has been one of the council's chief allies in the union world.

But writing in today's TES Cymru, Dr Philip Dixon, the union's director, said there must be wholesale reform of the GTCW's policy, practice and presentation if the two sides are to re-engage.

Dr Dixon called for the GTCW's high-profile and often controversial professional misconduct hearings to be reviewed, claiming their judgments are inconsistent and their methods "leave a lot to be desired".

"There has been no engagement with the profession about the `public interest' defence, the GTCW implying that it alone can decide what is in the public interest," he said.

Although the GTCW has staunchly defended the integrity of its hearings in the past, TES Cymru can reveal that the council has formed a caseworkers forum with trade unions to discuss issues such as public interest, privateprofessional life and consistency of judgments. The first meeting will be held in November.

ATL Cymru also claims that a number of teachers who have crossed the border from England have found themselves without pay while awaiting their GTCW registration, which requires a separate Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, despite the fact that they are already registered with the GTCE.

The union's incoming President, Gareth Lewis, assistant head of Ysgol Clywedog in Wrexham, said: "I came across two new teachers this term who were not being paid for their work in September as they were not registered with GTCW, although both were registered with GTCE.

"We have been assured that all will eventually be paid and it will be backdated. I wonder if their bank managers, mortgage lenders etc will be as accommodating? I find it scandalous that we can expect teachers to work unpaid for the work they have done at the appropriate rate."

But Gary Brace, chief executive of the GTCW, said teachers moving from England to Wales do not have to wait until they are in Wales to register, and encouraged them to start the process sooner.

Although the GTCW is not legally bound to require a separate CRB check, Mr Brace said it eliminates the danger that any pre-existing check has become out of date, and removes the risk of asking someone to `self-declare' which is the system used in England.

Dr Dixon also called for the council to elect more of its members; at present twelve of its 25 members are elected and the other 13 appointed in various different ways.

He said greater union representation was needed as significant voices from the profession are missing from the table.

But Mr Brace said that members do not represent their organisations, but act as individuals to do the council's business.

Appointments are made by the Welsh ministers and the GTCW does not have the power to review the system as it is set out in Assembly legislation, he said.

Mr Brace said it was important to remember that GTCW's role differs from the role of the unions which is to support their individual members.

"In relation to our regulatory role, we have a duty to act in the public interest in order to assure the public and parents of the high quality of our teaching profession in Wales," he said.

But David Healey, ATL Cymru's outgoing president and deputy head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, said that while the union has always been supportive of the GTCW, "recent stories, linked with the fee hike, problems of representation, and now the proposed code are all alienating the profession.

"Dialogue is now urgently needed to make sure that teachers and their Council do not irrevocably part company," he said.

Gareth Lewis, the union's incoming president and the assistant head of Ysgol Clywedog in Wrexham, said: "I came across two new teachers this term who were not being paid for their work in September as they were not registered with GTCW, although both were registered with GTCE.

"We have been assured all will eventually be paid and backdated. I wonder if their bank managers and mortgage lenders will be as accommodating? I find it scandalous that we can expect teachers to work unpaid for the work they have done at the appropriate rate."

But Gary Brace, the chief executive of the GTCW, said that teachers moving from England to Wales do not have to wait until they are in Wales to register, and encouraged them to start the process sooner.

Although the GTCW is not legally bound to require a separate CRB check, Mr Brace said it eliminates the danger that any pre-existing check has become out of date and removes the risk of asking someone to "self-declare", which is the system used in England.

Dr Dixon also called for the council to elect more of its members; at present, 12 of its 25 members are elected and the other 13 are appointed in different ways.

He said greater union representation was needed since significant voices from the profession are missing from the table.

But Mr Brace said members do not represent their organisations but act as individuals to do the council's business.

Appointments are made by the Welsh ministers, and the GTCW does not have the power to review the system as it is set out in Assembly legislation, he said.

Mr Brace said it was important to remember that the GTCW's role differs from the role of the unions, which is to support their individual members.

"In relation to our regulatory role, we have a duty to act in the public interest to assure the public and parents of the high quality of our teaching profession in Wales," he said.

But David Healey, ATL Cymru's outgoing president and the deputy head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, said that while the union has always been supportive of the GTCW, "recent stories, linked with the fee hike, problems of representation, and now the proposed code are all alienating the profession".

"Dialogue is urgently needed to make sure teachers and their council do not irrevocably part company," he said.

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