Friday, October 27, 2006


Teachers at workI am surrounded by teachers. Everywhere I go, teachers, teachers, teachers. I absorb the language, the in-jokes, the culture and the ethos of modern teaching. I reckon, if I went to a teaching conference I could pretend to be one without anyone cottoning on.

The UK Labour government did several good things when it came to power in 1997, like making the admission to national museums free and erm, I can't think of any more at the moment. One of their bright ideas was to create a professional teaching body to promote teaching and to boost the teaching profession. It was named the General Teaching Council, the GTC, rather like the General Medical Council is for medicine. From the onset, this seemed like a totally crap idea. No-one seemed to want it, certainly no-one wanted to pay for it. To stop it going bust, the government created a new law in the Education Act 2002 to mandate teachers to be members of the GTC. If you were a teacher, you had to join the GTC. "But I'm a voluntary member of a union, I don't want to join this tin-pot organisation," a few were heard to say. But the Orwellian Act of Parliament said you had no choice. You had to pay £33 per year for the privilege and if you didn't, the GTC was able to take their £33 from the teachers' pay packets at source. Talk about a closed shop.

For your £33 the GTC sends you an expensive quarterly magazine, it maintains a register of teachers (a list of its members), it regulates the teaching profession (although everyone knows that it is almost impossible to get rid of a bad teacher) and they provide advice to government and other agencies about teaching.

Their magazine, Teaching, is the single most boring publication I've ever seen. I'm pretty used to reading trade journals and sector-specific blurb but this is a publication with nothing to say. Here's a thrilling paragraph from the latest edition. This is the first paragraph of a real barn-storming article:

Contemporary educational reform has resulted in a period of significant change for teachers. Consequently, we need to reflect on existing notions of teacher professionalism, writes Geoff Whitty, Director of the Institute of Education, University of London

Yawn. Still awake?
It's full of waffle, mangement-speak:

The children's agenda is creating both opportunities and challenges for teachers to work in partnership with everyone involved in securing the learning and well-being of young people

In English, this translates as "blah, blah, blah".

The GTC website proudly shows how its money is spent in their glossy Introducing the GTC [warning this links to a very boring PDF] document.
How the GTC spends its moneyIn this document is a nice pie chart giving a break-down of how a teacher's involuntary contribution of £33 is spent. 50% of their income is spent on keeping the GTC afloat (supporting Council, collecting fees, management and accommodation), 13% on deciding what to do (policy), 20% on telling everyone what they are doing (communications) and 11% actually doing something (casework).

It's laughable that they spend a fortune collecting their money from each teacher in the country, using the power of the law if they have to. It's even more laughable that the teacher can then claim the £33 back as a tax credit by making a claim to the Inland Revenue. Isn't this a bit bizarre? Why doesn't the governent give the GTC the £17.7m per year it needs to operate (53800 teachers all unwillingly giving up £33 each and then claiming it back).

But don't worry, the GTC, in its role of regulating the profession "struck off" a whopping ten teachers last year. So the nation is safe from rogue teachers. And it only cost the tax-payer £1.7m for each teacher removed from the profession.

It's gammon and spinach, that's what it is. I fully expect that the GTC will have no option but to close its doors for good on Monday morning after reading this article. I can't see how they could continue.



Blogger Neil said...

Ah, Mr Bird... Was wondering if you'd like to join me in ringing up Mr Powell today or perchance 'pobbing' some Refreshers onto the floor? At the very least we could listen to the 12" of 'Look Mama' together.
I await your reply with much trepidation.
Lord Gorringe of Gorringeville.

1:48 pm  
Blogger Glynn said...

Not the mega-mama mix?

1:57 pm  
Blogger Neil said...

The very same. I find it segues nicely into 'Mr Bad Guy' by Freddie Mercury.

2:00 pm  
Blogger Glynn said...

A wise choice. Now available again in the shops as "Lover of life, singer of songs - The best of Freddie Mercury".

Are you still into the House of Love, Gorringe?

2:03 pm  
Blogger Neil said...

I saw them live twice last year and bought the new Peel sessions CD on Monday. 'Your face is a foreign food' - whither such lyricists in these barren times?

2:05 pm  
Blogger Glynn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:12 pm  
Blogger Neil said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:22 pm  
Blogger Eugene Schlumberger said...

My new GTC membership card arrived at work today. @Keep in a safe place' it instructed me. It's in the staffroom wastebin if anyone wants to steal my identity.

7:55 pm  

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