Scrap the GTC
More from the 'Scrap the GTC' blog-
‘Child porn sir gets school ban’, ‘Stressed Out Deputy Head Drank Vodka in the Boiler Room!’ ‘Willy row Miss fired’ and ‘PE Sir, 32 romped with pupil’ – are just a few of the tabloid headlines that the disciplinary cases heard by the General Teaching Council have generated. Set up in 2000 the GTC set itself the task of “Championing teachers and advocating change and improvements on their behalf.” Its primary function was to maintain a list of registered teachers and hear disciplinary cases.
The GTC didn’t exactly make an auspicious start billing itself as “the voice of teachers” it instantly ran into union hostility, was it trying to usurp their role? It hastily changed this to “the voice for teachers”.
The planners then erected an unwieldy, creaky edifice called the Council. This body was composed of four sections,
a) 13 people directly appointed by the Secretary of State.
b) 17 members from other quangoes, obviously working on that sound playground principle -'if we let you go on our quango, we can have a go on yours'
c) 25 teachers - elected in a turnout so low that the dullest parliamentary by-election would struggle to emulate it
d) 9 nominees from teacher unions
Even the elected members came from a national ballot and therefore had no identification with or responsibility to a particular area or constituency. This increased the impression of a remote, inaccessible and distant organisation.
After an attempt at “voluntary” contributions resulted in a derisory 14% return the government stepped in to bale them out. We had the surreal scenario of the government sending out a lump sum of money to teachers, and then telling them to send it to the GTC, who processed the cheques.
So the GTC has continued, disregarded by most teachers another unloved orphaned quango competing in the alphabet soup of education – TDA, QCA, OFSTED. The GTC has heard over 100 disciplinary cases at an average cost of £12,000. However, it hasn’t been able to expedite this core function, the average time for a first hearing after a case is referred is over a year.
Apart from the lurid tabloid headlines there have been ridiculous cases like the teacher arraigned before a GTC disciplinary panel for “making silly faces and derogatory remarks about other members of staff, mimicking silly walks and using foul language.” In October 2007 Keith Robinson, a teacher with an unblemished record of thirty three years, was cleared of ‘failing to return library books’ and calling a teenager who swore at him ‘a waste of space’. There but for the grace of God go most of the teaching profession…
Concern has also been expressed by serving members of the GTC about the new ‘suitability declaration’, will teachers have to declare any indiscretions, even those which happened in early adulthood, or personal matters on a GTC form? Would failure to reveal this information lead to sanctions from the GTC?
The statements that underpin the GTC code of conduct are also being reviewed, it currently reads, ‘Registered teachers may be found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct where they seriously demean [my emphasis] or undermine their pupils, their parents, carers or colleagues…’ Under a proposed review this would be changed to ‘cause upset or distress’, a statement so vague that almost any allegation would meet the test for a hearing.
Other concerns centre on the ‘suitability check’, which could be extended to any motoring offence, other than a 3 point fixed penalty, which would be considered as a relevant conviction in terms of ‘unprofessional conduct’.
If those proposals now ‘under review’ weren’t bad enough we have the plans to bring in ‘active registration’ whereby teachers would have to prove that they had undertaken continuing work-based learning. Despite reassurances that this would only apply to supply teachers or those who had taken a break from teaching, the GTC Wales are considering plans for all teachers to record the training they have undertaken on an online database.
Has the GTC won the trust of teachers? The elections for teacher representatives in 2004 saw a turn out of only 10%. The National Association of Schoolteachers carried out a survey, of the respondents 88% felt the GTC was ‘ineffective’, this later led to the GTC threatening them with legal action after they were accused of misusing funds.
To lift its profile the GTC has sent out a free magazine to teachers, now you might have expected a witty irreverent publication chock full of letters, comments and articles by … teachers. No such luck, look away now, another teacher-free zone. I wrote a piece for the GTC magazine only to be informed that they didn’t take material from teachers because,“objectivity isn’t achieved by a teacher who might be too close to his/her subject,” So the alternative is a bland, safe, ‘house style’ nothing that reflects teachers’ despair, cynicism, humour, hope and elation.
GTC representatives have warned that scrapping it would leave registration with the government. I really don’t ‘buy’ that argument. If you bought a second-hand car that leaked oil everywhere, the engine misfired and the gearbox jammed and you took it back to the dealer, only to be told, ‘our competitors are worse than us’, you wouldn’t be impressed.
Teachers deserve a fast, efficient, responsive regulatory body not this slow, bloated quango that has never won teachers’ trust or confidence. Scrapping the GTC isn’t the most important issue facing teachers; I don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking ‘We’ve got to scrap the GTC’. But in the spirit of ‘My Name is Earl’, let’s start with number 97 on the list. That’s why I want to stand in the GTC elections on a simple slogan – ‘Scrap the GTC’.