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Time to checkseating plan

The Government's review of the General Teaching Council will concentrate on how to make it more robust, with a role in staff development and competence. But the elections for the next council (page three) suggest that the composition of the council also deserves another look.

From the outset in the 1960s the unions have sought to dominate the 22 teacher places. The Educational Institute of Scotland spectacularly does so, although some years ago its majority in the secondary sector was strongly challenged by candidates from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association. On a low poll the EIS clearly persuades enough of its members to fill in their ballots to win almost all of the seats. Even Mary Rose Caden, convener of the council and well known as a former EIS president, could not resist the tide when the union's "coupon" was withdrawn.

Democracy leads to party organisation, as everyone from Disraeli to Mandelson would testify. So in one sense good luck to the EIS. But is the GTC representative of the teaching profession? Fewer than one in three members voted. They may not think their participation matters, but if the council's powers are to extend to serving teachers as opposed (almost wholly) to students and probationers, they will find it does. Further, does the Government (especially this Government?) want to be in thrall to a union-mandated body?

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