When will GTC make itself heard?

30th January 2004 at 00:00
The fact that 45,000 teachers - equivalent to almost one in 10 of the number required to register - have not paid the General Teaching Council in England registration fee is a further indication of the GTC's failure to attract grassroots support. A TES survey of 500 teachers last month found that almost half (47 per cent) rated the council somewhere between "unsatisfactory" and "very poor", with one in six choosing "very poor".

Only one in 20 could name the council's chairman. The TES only found seven occasions to do so in 2003.

This newspaper has a long-standing record of support for a professional body for teachers. Our first issue in 1910 called for just that. So it is with the sadness of a friend rather than as an opponent that we conclude that the GTC in England has failed to establish its credibility.

The council is largely ignored by ministers - who privately say if teachers don't value it, why should we? And rarely does it make itself heard, on behalf of either professional or consumer interests, in the way teacher and headteacher unions manage daily to do. Surely there has to be more to report from the council than the disciplinary hearings against the unrepresentative minority who need their licence to teach revised or revoked?

Those hearings have now given rise to a vacuous "code of conduct". The forthcoming council elections - the second in its brief history - will provide a further test of relevance. Will they generate any interest among the professionals whose status the council is supposed to protect ?

The initial signs are not good. In one category of council members (secondary heads) there will be no contest because of the lack of candidates. A low turnout among the 483,000 required to register would be a sign of indifference hard to overlook. It would also weaken even further the council's claim to enjoy the confidence of the profession - let alone the world at large.

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