Watchdog faces uphill battle...

26th August 2011 at 01:00
. to increase registration fee

The teaching watchdog is set for clashes with classroom unions and the education minister over controversial plans to increase the registration fee to teachers, TES Cymru can reveal.

In its annual accounts report, the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) says it wants to charge teachers an additional pound;5 a year from 201213.

The current pound;45 annual fee was frozen by education minister Leighton Andrews for three years and the GTCW decided against increasing it when the cap was lifted at the start of this financial year because of the economic climate.

But now it says a pound;5 rise is needed from next April to restore planned activities that have been cancelled over the previous four years, such as a survey of newly qualified teachers. The watchdog will discuss the matter in the autumn.

However, the ultimate decision rests with Mr Andrews, who is currently reviewing the role and functions of the GTCW after its English equivalent was scrapped by the Westminster Government, and the outlook over the fee rise is not positive.

A Welsh Government spokesman warned: "The council will need to make a very convincing case to justify an increase in funding in the current economic climate."

Teachers in Wales already find the registration fee contentious, as they pay pound;12 more than their counterparts in England and do not have the difference refunded.

Several well-publicised disciplinary hearings have also led to accusations that the council is a body that seeks to prosecute rather than promote the profession - a situation that was not helped when the Government stopped the GTCW-run individual continuing professional development programme last year.

Teaching union the NASUWT, which has repeatedly called for the council to be scrapped, called the proposals "outrageous".

Its Wales organiser, Rex Phillips, said: "We would take a very dim view of any increase of the registration fee.

"The fee should only cover the council's regulatory functions and should not be used to subsidise other activities and projects.

"Teachers don't feel they get any value for the money they already pay. If the GTCW wants to get involved in other activities, it should seek money from elsewhere and not from the pockets of teachers."

GTCW chief executive Gary Brace told TES Cymru that its three-year financial projections indicated that a pound;5 fee increase was needed from 201213 onwards.

He said: "The GTCW has continued to make meaningful savings year on year (8 per cent in 201011 and 6 per cent 201112) despite annual erosion of income as a result of inflation.

"If the council proposes an increase in fees it will mean that a number of important activities - including repeating the survey of NQTs - can go ahead.

"Activities such as these, which inform the profession and training providers of NQT experiences in universities and the classroom, have unfortunately been cancelled in previous years."

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