The most important consultation exercise the profession has been involved in within the last twenty years is to be undertaken this year. It does not relate to the curriculum, to conditions or to faculty arrangements: it relates to the structure and operation of the GTC (or GTCS as it has become).
There must be no mistaking the intent: what is proposed is a radical change,
intended to reduce the influence of teachers on the GTC.
The Government did undertake a pre-consultation exercise on the future of the GTC. The Association was consulted. The questions asked did no more than reinforce our feelings of alarm.
The consultation document is available via the Scottish Government website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations and can be answered online.
THE CLOSING DATE FOR THE CONSULTATION IS
26 JUNE 2009
IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT MEMBERS DO RESPOND:
THERE IS A CLEAR THREAT TO THE PROFESSION
The paragraph references below are the relevant paragraphs in the consultation document.
Background and status of the GTC
The Government alleges that the GTC is "classified" as a "Non-Departmental Public Body" (NDPB). The GTC is (as everyone knows) a Professional Regulatory Body (PRB). The consultation document admits this in annex A where the GTC is compared with "other regulatory bodies".
This deliberate misclassification of the GTC alone should be enough to cause teachers to mistrust the purpose of the whole consultation.
The "independence" of the Council
The Government attempts to justify its action by claiming that it wants an independent GTC. The SSTA has never seen the GTC's "independence" as an issue. The Government has already indicated that it will discontinue the use of the six members of the Council nominated by Scottish Ministers as long as "the public interest would be properly represented on the new independent (sic) GTCS". (See paragraph 51.) The Government then goes on to try to ensure this "public interest" by deciding on who should be represented on the new Council.
If the Government remains adamant that public interests must continue to be represented, the Government should safeguard those interests by giving places to representatives of those interests in an open manner. The Association is happy that the Ministers decide which interests should be represented.
Composition of the Council
The Government makes much of this issue, asking what size the Council should be. The answer is clear: it needs to be whatever size is needed in order to ensure that all
entitled groups are represented and large enough to allow the Council to carry out its
The question should be "who should be represented on the Council and in what numbers?" The current representation is shown below. The numbers should help clarify why the GTC might be seen as too large. Certain groups are significantly over-represented (particularly headteachers) and certain groups need not be represented at all.
The Association suggests that the Ministers' six appointees should remain, ensuring the "public interest" representation and that the other membership be amended as indicated. The Association's suggestions would reduce the size of the Council from 50 to 46. This reduction would still permit the Council to undertake its core functions.
|Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
|Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
|Further Education Colleges
|Scottish Council of Independent Schools
|Universities other than Relevant Institutions
|Church of Scotland
|Roman Catholic Church
|Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland
Use of non-Council Members
The Government recognises that if it reduces the number of Council members, it will be more difficult for the GTC to undertake its core functions and in particular with regard to the Council's disciplinary function. The suggested solution is that external appointees should be co-opted to the Council to fulfil these functions. This approach is best summarised as "We have created one problem and will solve it by the introduction of another problem".
Extension to the role of the GTC
While admitting that the GTC is having difficulties in completing its current core functions, the consultation includes reference to a possible expansion of the GTC role. One of the suggested roles is that the GTC approves programmes of CPD and takes on a greater role with regard to the general professional development of teachers. The Association rejects such attempts: the GTC does not have the resources.
Alternative models for the composition of the Council
The most outlandish aspect of the consultation is the suggestion that it might be possible that all Council members are appointed. It is, quite amazingly, suggested that such an arrangement would ensure that the "method by which the Council is appointed is open and accountable".
Again, the inclusion of this option should be sufficient to cause all teachers to mistrust the purpose of the whole exercise.
Use of non-Council members
A system of "retained ex-members" is fundamentally wrong. All members who are not appointed must be currently elected. A system using Government appointees is totally unacceptable.
The consultation questions
Members may wish to consider the following:
Q1. Clearly "yes".
Q2. Most definitely "yes". The minimum standard has to be maintained at all costs. It should never be possible for an unsuitable candidate to gain entry simply to ensure University numbers are maintained.
Q3. The GTC is already responsible for accrediting these courses. Responsibility for them would be an appropriate method of maintaining standards.
Q4. The GTC does not have the resources to undertake this additional function.
Q5. It is wholly appropriate that teachers should be in the majority. Other interests should also be represented but on a reduced basis. The number of teacher
members should be correspondingly increased leaving the Council the same size as it is currently.
Q6. By the Ministers continuing to nominate six members for this purpose.
Q7. The only acceptable option is the status quo.
Q8. There are no groups missing from interests which should be represented.
Q9. The GTC should continue to issue an annual report as approved by the GTC Council.
Q10. There must be no attempt to restrict the number of terms an elected member may serve on the Council.
The concept that a "Management Board" will be able to undertake the current
functions of the GTC is totally untenable. It will concentrate far too much power in too few hands.
Members of the GTC must not be paid. Such an arrangement, especially in current circumstances, is bound to lead to doubts as to the GTC's credibility and impartiality. It would also increase costs.