Tom Bennett

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How to dismantle the GTC: a head shot, probably.

…although I’ve seen a few zombie films where a good spading does the trick. And like every good zombie, the GTC has been reanimated for another year as it shuffles along, dragging its leg in a limp like…well, like some of my sixth formers, actually. The difference is that I actually look forward to seeing them.

You could actually feel sorry for the GTC. Nobody likes it. It is the definitive pariah, unlovely, unloved, and unnecessary. It makes OfSTED look like Nelson Mandela. It is the Louis Walsh of the teaching industry. I bet OfSTED love it when they go to parties with the GTC, when they can point at them and call them losers. I’m lying of course. Nobody could feel sorry for the GTC; it is a logical impossibility, known a priori of experience. May I remind everyone why?

1. It appears to exist only to kick teachers in the pipes. How easy is it to feel any love for an institution that has one power, and one only- the punishment and deregistration of teachers who fall foul of the Green Cross Code? Of course, this is an essential part of any regulatory body; there has to be someone who tells trigger-happy potato heads who hanker for the days of the cane, or Chris Woodhead style ‘educative friendships’ to say cheerio to the classroom. But the decisions of the GTC have come increasingly under scrutiny after some bizzaro decisions: like the BNP teacher Adam Walker in March of this year who was cleared of racial and religious intolerance after describing immigarnts as ‘savage animals’ while using a school laptop. This is the same GTC that in March 2009 struck off Alex Dolan from the teaching register for daring to blow the whistle on behaviour in contemporary schools in the Channel 4 Dispatches series.

2. It doesn’t actually do what its supposed to. Technically it’s supposed to do a lot more than just, you know, register teachers and strike the odd one off for going postal; it’s just that it doesn’t actually do anything else. It’s mission statement says that it was created “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.”

If anyone can point out how the GTC has contributed to the benefit of the teaching profession, I’ll be hugging myself with excitement to hear it. Seriously. I’m all ears.

3. It isn’t needed as a registration body. Want to know why? Because it’s not only teachers who teach. Your children are now likely to be taught by Teaching Assistants, HLTAs, Cover Supervisors and GTP trainees. None of these have to be registered with the GTC. That’s because someone, somewhere decided that teaching isn’t a job that requires a high benchmark of candidate expertise. That’s not to villify any number of great people in those posts, but it’s important that we note the demise of the professional teacher with gravity and solemnity. Anyone can have a crack! And yes, technically Cover Supervisors don’t teach. But the number of CSs on long term supply tells me otherwise. The number of TAs taking lessons up and down the country lends weight to this. You don’t have to be a teacher to teach, not anymore.

4. It could have been so much more. By being so comically incompetent, it commits the worst crime: it exists. It pretends to be a regulatory body that supports the profession, and like a weed it strangles the possibility for something healthy to take root.

Make no mistake: teaching needs a professional body. Why? Because we have been systematically de-professionalised for the past thirty years by a procession of Ministerial conmen who have rubbed their hands together with childish glee as they devolved power out of the classroom and into the hands of people who have never taught in their lives.

With the National Curriculum we saw the nationalisation of the syllabus; even when I entered the profession there were’best practise’ guidelines about everything from how to structure a lesson to how to encourage emotional learning (sticks finger down throat, heaves). And of course, by guidance I mean ‘bloody do it.’ The OfSTED inspection standards have chased any teacher credibility out into the long grass. The message is clear; we’re not to be trusted in the classroom. We need to be told exactly what to teach, exactly how to teach, exactly what the children’s’ targets are, and when they have or haven’t met them. No wonder we’re being replaced by HLTAs and cover supervisors. Our job isn’t a profession any more. Anyone can do it. Increasingly, anyone is.

We have never needed a body more that represents us in the DfE, the public, the media and to other professions; that certifies (or otherwise) research, and stands up to quackery; that recognises that teaching is an art and a craft, and therefore encompasses diversity of teaching styles without actively propagating the myth that there is only one right way to get kids learning.

The replacement (and there will be one, there will…) has tiny, tiny shoes to fill. It could do so much. There is an opportunity here that won’t happen again for a decade or more.

Until then, I want my bloody money back. You charlatans.