Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Guardians of Teaching Standards Slink Away: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Guardians of Teaching Standards Slink Away: News

Article excerpt

GTC closes after 10 years and just 89 incompetency cases.

The General Teaching Council for England - which tomorrow will officially cease to exist - was formed a decade ago with major ambitions. It would, we were told, drive up teaching standards while simultaneously maintaining public confidence in the profession.

However, in the 10 years that it has been in existence, just 231 teachers have been reported to England's General Teaching Council because of incompetence, new figures show.

The GTC has long been a target of derision for many in the sector, especially the classroom unions. And when the last staffer leaves its headquarters in central London tomorrow, the organisation will become education's highest-profile contribution to the government's "bonfire of the quangos".

Announcing the decision to close the council not long after the formation of the coalition in 2010, education secretary Michael Gove said it gave teachers "almost nothing".

School leaders would in future take charge of tackling incompetence among their staff, he said, while only the most serious cases of professional misconduct would be dealt with by the GTC's successor, the Teaching Agency.

Figures released in the last weeks of the GTC's life show that in total 6,832 teachers were investigated for conduct, competency and other offences between 2001 and the end of February 2012.

However, just 89 teachers ended up facing disciplinary hearings because of incompetence during that time.

The reasons for this low number are open to debate, but research carried out by the National Centre for Social Research for the GTC in 2010 found that many heads didn't refer incompetent staff because they felt it was "pointless" and the range of punishments inappropriate.

Indeed, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that most headteachers had preferred to deal with issues of incompetence internally rather than involve the GTC.

"It's not always the case that they should be prohibited from teaching; often they are in the wrong job or can improve with extra training," he said.

Gill Stainthorpe, chair of the GTC's registration and regulation committee, said many competency cases referred to the council collapsed because of lack of evidence.

"Often the teacher is referred because they are not performing at the standard they should be, but that is not evidence and headteachers give us nothing to back up these claims," said Ms Stainthorpe, who is a representative of the ATL education union on the GTC's council. …

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