02/10/2009 - Oppose new GTC code

THE General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) is the professional body for teaching in England. The GTC was established by the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 which set two aims:

"to contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, in the interests of the public".

To implement these aims the GTCE wants is introducing a new Code of Conduct and Practice for Registered Teachers. 

Whilst the statements that form the basis of the Code of Conduct may appear quite reasonable, many teachers are very unhappy with its deeper implications. They want it withdrawn because they feel that:

  • a) it intrudes into teachers’ personal lives,
  • b) it is an affront to teachers’ basic human rights
  • c) it unreasonably extends the GTCE’s responsibilities
  • d) it is riddled with vague statements that are open to wide interpretation and abuse and therefore puts teachers at risk
  • e) it was developed on the basis of a fundamentally flawed consultation process
  • f) it represents a monumental waste of money.

Solidarity Trade Union supports this view. General Secretary Pat Harrington has dubbed the Code of Conductand Practice as the “new Enabling Act”. It is full of vague statements. These are open to wide interpretation and abuse. This can put teachers’ jobs and careers at risk. 

Many teachers are worried at the range of what constitutesserious professional misconduct’.
They claim that the Code states that –

"Serious professional incompetence has been found where there is a serious and persistent pattern of failure in terms of:

Subject knowledge,
The ability to establish learning objectives and set appropriate activities,  
The ability to operate effective assessment procedures and to mark student work, 
The ability to manage pupil behaviour and thereby to ensurethe safety and welfare of pupils, 
The ability to follow policies and procedures and to work effectively with teacher colleagues,
The ability to adequately lead and manage a curriculum area”.

and by

"Bringing the profession into serious disrepute”.

This latter ‘crime’ seems to be of the ‘catch-all’ variety:

“Conduct in this category would include behaviour which was seriously detrimental to the standing of the profession but where no criminal offence was committed”.

Teachers have asked, who - in all honesty - hasn't been found wanting in at least some of these areas at some point in their career?  They are only human after all! 

Solidarity would also question what would constitute 'serious', 'persistent' or 'detrimental'?  How would the GTCE to make these determinations in a fair, consistent and equitable manner?

Solidarity General Secretary Pat Harrington was particularly critical of the vagueness of the Code. What constitutes bringing teaching “into serious disrepute”?

He said that the new Code of Conductand Practice reminded him of the infamous Enabling Act of 1933.  
“The irony of the GTCEs new Enabling Act would not be lost on history teachers in particular. The Enabling Act gave Adolf Hitler complete power in Germany. It was legally obtained. It was a key factor in establishing his dictatorship. 
His powers became wide and all-encompassing. This will also happen with the GTCE. It could be argued that through the Enabling Act, Hitler was able to change the law at will – political parties and various activities that were once legal were made illegal!
Similarly, a teacher could be engaged in an activity that is perfectly legal. However, the GTCE can declare this ‘unacceptable’ as it brought teaching “into serious disrepute”. But there’s no guide-lines as to what’s ‘acceptablel’ or what’s ‘unacceptable' in the eyes of the GTCE. It’s outrageous that such an important document such as this Code of Conduct should be so vague. It is just too subjective and will simply reflect the  prejudices  of panel members This Code has to go!”

Mr. Harrington said that it’s still not too late for the GTCE to step back from the brink.
“Although it has regrettably adopted the Code of Conduct and Practice, teachers should register their concern with the GTCE. They should call for it to be withdrawn and redrafted after proper consultation”. 

 He also called upon teachers consider staging a payment strike by withholding their membership payments to the GTCE.