General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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 The Council notes with concern the recent decision on the part of the Secretary of State for Education in England to abolish the independent regulatory body for the teaching profession in England i.e. the General Teaching Council for England. 

Undoubtedly, the decision will impact on the work of GTCNI particularly in light of the significant number of teachers returning from England and seeking registration with GTCNI; it is noteworthy that in some years that cohort has outnumbered those teachers leaving Northern Ireland’s higher education institutions. The reality is that GTCNI will experience difficulties in facilitating would be registrants arriving from what in essence would be another unregulated system. The Council currently shares data re personnel who are barred from teaching and the removal of GTCE renders this safeguard potentially unavailable.
In essence, the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland whilst recognising that like all such regulatory bodies there will always be the potential for dissent in regard to actions or structures, has concerns that inadequate consideration has been given to the significance of the work of GTCE as part of the mechanisms of reassurance for both the teaching profession and indeed the general public.
The twin functions of Registration and Regulation play a significant role in ensuring:
            (a)       that only those appropriately skilled are granted a licence to teach
                        in our schools – and our young people deserve no less; and
            (b)       that those whose competence, conduct or commitment are found
                        wanting and as a result injurious to the well-being of young people
                        or to the profession are appropriately dealt with.
It is these twin functions developed in co-operation with all vested interests that secure for the profession the status and trust it so richly deserves.
For those of us in other jurisdictions the possession of a ‘professional licence’ to practice from sister GTCs offers a considerable measure of reassurance that such individuals have a sound professional standing and facilitates ease of registration within our own systems.
The issue of public confidence is of course important but it is but one aspect of the concerns felt by the Council. GTCNI have worked assiduously to promote teaching as a profession and has sought through both policies and literature to raise public awareness of the significance of the profession in the promotion of social cohesion, individual well being and as importantly economic development. However, it is equally important that society and government also recognise both the contribution of the profession and its right to be accorded a status equal to that of other professions complete with a comparable access to an independent, representative professional body.
We note that the Secretary of State’s announcement indicated that whilst GTCE as an organisation might go – no mention was made of its functions. If this is an indication that the intention is to retain these functions then it is imperative that consideration be given as a matter of urgency to a reconfiguration of an autonomous independent body for the teaching profession in England as a means of assuring the profession, the public and other regulatory bodies, such as GTCNI, that the high standards of competence commitment and conduct that characterise the vast majority of our teachers is recognised and as importantly safe-guarded.

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