'We must have more of these meetings'

15th April 2011 at 01:00
Anger over conduct hearings and registration fee dominates UCAC conference

The General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) must get better at putting its message across to teachers, a senior member of the organisation has admitted in response to a barrage of criticism from angry school staff.

Dr Elwyn Davies, deputy chairman of the council, faced a hostile audience at Welsh-medium teaching union UCAC's annual conference in Llandrindod Wells last weekend.

Dr Davies, a former secondary school head, defended the GTCW over its controversial conduct hearings and teacher registration fee, but admitted there was room for improvement and said he would welcome more accountability.

He told teachers: "It is important for us to know what the problems are in the work we do. I think we need to have more of these meetings. I welcome more accountability.

"We feel we work on your behalf through persuading the Assembly what is best for the profession. That work goes on continually.

"We feel the recent work we have done on leadership and headship is positive. We have to put the message over better about the work that we do."

But despite the conciliatory tone, many of UCAC's members felt the speech was a missed opportunity.

There is genuine anger among many teachers over the GTCW's conduct hearings, which are often seen as punishing teachers, and the pound;45 registration fee, which is pound;12 higher than that paid by teachers in England.

One teacher, who did not want to be named, said: "There's been a major breakdown in communication between the council and the people it represents over a whole series of issues.

"I think Dr Davies could have gone a lot further in admitting to some of the weaknesses of the GTCW."

Dr Davies said it was "unfortunate" that "sensationalism" in the press draws attention to the small number of "bad" teachers, but said the vast majority of teachers are well behaved and set a good example.

The council's conduct hearings are not meant to punish teachers but to uphold the status of the profession in the eyes of the public, he said.

"There's nothing we can do as a council about what the press does.

"If a case is likely to bring the reputation of the profession down it's important to be seen to be handling it totally fairly for the teacher and the public.

"I don't want to see these sensational things being written but unfortunately there's nothing we can do about it."

He warned that it would be a "very dangerous step" to follow Westminster's lead and abolish the GTCW, as some critics have called for, claiming it would damage the status of the profession in Wales.

"In England the activities of (education secretary) Michael Gove suggest teaching is not a profession," he said.

"There, teachers will be at the mercy of heads and governing bodies and you will have hundreds of different ways of dealing with these problems, and a lack of consistency and fair treatment."

He told teachers that the GTCW's role was different from that of teaching unions and that there would often be disagreements as a result.

"We are a teaching council - not a teachers' council. That is why you as a union do your work. We have to work together because we are both on the same path of teaching, but you are looking at it one way and we are looking at it in another."

UCAC policy officer Rebecca Williams said: "When teachers feel that their professional body is there to prosecute, rather than to protect and promote the profession, there is a problem. A large part of that problem is communication. It seems that the GTCW needs to re-engage with the profession."

Original headline: `We must have more of these meetings': GTCW response to union fury

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