Watchdog turns down trip to Oz

Members of Wales's teaching watchdog have denied themselves a trip to Australia for fear of upsetting ordinary teachers.

The General Teaching Council for Wales has been invited to an international conference in Melbourne in March by its equivalent organisation in Australia.

But with only eight weeks to organise the trip, members have decided to forego the invitation. Instead, they will work on a policy on international visits so they are prepared for future invites.

Gary Brace, the GTCW's chief executive, told members at a meeting this week, in Abergavenny, that the first international conference of teaching councils - held last June in Edinburgh - had proved useful.

He speculated the cost of the three-day Australian conference could be around pound;2,000 each for two guests from the GTCW. But members felt that the costs could be much higher, and were reluctant to endorse the visit without a policy in place on international visits.

Geronwy Jones, head of Baden Powell primary, Cardiff, said: "This is an emotive issue when teachers are coping with workload and wondering what their GTCW fees are being used for. It is important this council is above reproach. We should agree a policy."

GTCW chairman Mal Davies, head of Willows high school, Cardiff, asked if there should be a budget line for international visits to avoid "junketing".

Suzanne Nantcurvis, a teacher at Ysgol Dinas Bran, Denbighshire, agreed there needed to be accountability for spending on oversea trips.

But she added: "I would give teachers credit - if they can see what we are going to gain out of it, they will support it."

And deputy chairman Jacquie Turnbull, an education and training consultant, said: "I wouldn't want to think that the GTCW is not being represented at an international level."

Members agreed to turn down the Australia invitation, and asked the council's executive committee to consider a policy on overseas conferences and trips.

Sir Alan Meyrick, GTC England's registrar, will be at the conference. His economy flight and conference hotel will cost pound;960.

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