NEIL TURNER TEACHER unions have come under fire for promoting favoured candidates for election to the new General Teaching Council.
The unions are already allowed to nominate nine representatives to sit on the new 64-member council. But they are also controversially "sponsoring" some of the candidates for the 25 seats which are directly elected by teachers.
Thirty-four of the 208 teachers standing for election to the council are being backed by their unions in poster campaigns and newsletters. Those candidates not sponsored by unions say their chances have been seriously reduced.
Terry Creissen, who does not have the support of a union and is one of six candidates in the secondary headteachers section, said: "I think this is outrageous - the unions are trying to undermine the democratic principle on which the GTC was founded.
"The council already has union representation. The rest should be elected on an open system, without union interference."
But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said that, without union guidance, teachers would find it almost impossible to make an informed choice.
A total of 134 candidates are standing for just 11 seats in the secondary teacher category. In the primary-teacher categoy, 47 will contest 11 seats. A total of 340,000 teachers have registered to vote.
Mr de Gruchy said: "This system claims to be democratic, but it's a pretty thin democracy. How can people make a sensible judgment on who to pick out of 130 people?
"This way, we are putting forward respected candidates who we think have the appropriate knowledge and experience to sit on the council."
Carol Adams, chief executive of the GTC, defended union sponsorship: "All of the unions are backing candidates for their professional expertise and the fact that they are good teachers. They are not backing them for political reasons."
The NASUWT, the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers are promoting a joint slate of 12 candidates in the secondary and primary teacher sections in a national poster campaign. The NUT is putting forward a further 12 of its own candidates.
And the Professional Association of Teachers, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads' Association are promoting their own candidates separately in newsletters. A similar slate system operates for Scotland's GTC.
Thirty-nine seats on the council are not elected but nominated by the teacher unions, other representative groups and Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett.
The election results will be announced on April 10.