Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-58)



  40. In the long run, the Chairman of the GTC would have better access to the Secretary of State than the trade unions.
  (Lord Puttnam) Not necessarily. I think he or she would have as much access, but possibly a less highly promoted component. The important thing is this: if you are a Secretary of State, who would you talk to when you picked up the phone and needed an authoritative voice on a very tricky subject? If the GTC can become that, then it will have succeeded magnificently.

  41. Over the period that you have been in operation, how do you view the fact that this is a state sector organisation, a profession in the state sector? Are there people in the private sector that apply to join the GTC and become members, or get registered as members of the profession?
  (Lord Puttnam) There are two representatives on the Council from the independent sector, who have proved to be extremely effective and very valuable. They are very keen to create relationships with the state sector. Any member of the teaching profession, independent or state, can apply, provided they are teachers. There are no barriers apart from QTS to a teacher from the independent sector being a member of the GTC.

  42. If there was a poorly behaving teacher in the private sector, your remit does not run, does it?
  (Lord Puttnam) On competence? Yes.
  (Ms Adams) Yes, because if the teacher is registered with the Council and falls within its disciplinary procedures—we have about 8,000 teachers from the independent sector, who are voluntarily registered with the Council, and we are encouraging more to do so.

  43. You see yourself running into the independent sector more and more, do you? It is interesting, and I was reflecting before coming to this meeting that the one thing about English literature is the ghastly schools, the worst schools you could think of in Dickens—the awful school in Jane Eyre, and even Decline and Fall. All private sector organisations where these children experience such a horrendous time do not come under the GTC remit, do they?
  (Lord Puttnam) Can I turn the question round slightly? If you look ten years ahead, I predict there will have been two important changes. One is that there would be a single classroom teachers' union and probably a single heads' union. In my judgment, that would be wholly desirable for the profession. The other would be a situation in which, by definition, 90 per cent of private sector teachers would become members of the GTC. I will explain why. I do not think it has come home to parents and children in independent schools that their children are being taught by teachers who have not qualified, do not have QTS. If that ever does become a question that parents start asking, and it does become an issue, I have no doubt at all—and I have spoken at all the independent heads' conferences in the last two years—that there is a general desire to join the professional association. It is only a process of time, and I suspect it will be a lot quicker than ten years.

Mr Baron

  44. Can I tease out the relationship as you see it with regard to your relationship with the Government. Not so long ago you were quite critical of the Government and accused them of pretending to consult with teachers. Is that still your view?
  (Lord Puttnam) The language of consultation has improved quite dramatically in the last 12 months. I actually remember the very first report that came out, which made it very clear that it was a consultation document and that it meant it. It was a very important breakthrough. I believe quite sincerely—and this is not just true of education, that successive governments have not really meant it when offering consultation; I think it has been a hollow process . I think that in the last 12 months things have significantly changed. I do not know who to compliment, or where the change has come from, but I do think there is a different atmosphere. I, and others, have been pushing for a long time within the Department to get it to realise that it is there to facilitate the profession, not to order it around and tell it what to do. You facilitate it. When I first arrived five years ago—it sounds a bit dramatic, but I would say that the Department regarded the teaching profession as the enemy, as a difficult group of people who did not quite do what you told them to do, that nothing was done that you anticipated or hoped: it was a fractious, difficult relationship. I think that successive Permanent Secretaries have really set about trying to change that. I am told by people who know better than I that the quality of the relationship between the Department and those it serves—and I use that word quite advisedly—is better in the Department for Education and Skills than in any others. Massive cultural changes are taking place. It is not for me to say whether they are happening fast enough, but, God knows, they are desirable!

  45. I accept that lack of consultation is an old problem. What has made this change come about, do you think? How encouraged are you by it and do you think it can bring real rewards to the whole development of the educational policy chain?
  (Lord Puttnam) I am enormously encouraged by the change that has taken place. I wish it would happen more quickly, but that is probably because I am a film producer, not an educator by training. I do think it will pay tremendous dividends, if we can create a situation whereby the whole of Whitehall begins to see itself as facilitating what happens in the outside world, where things really happen—in regard to social security, for instance—where people delivering services feel empowered and trusted, and do not feel they are being ordered or bossed around. I think there are real dividends for democracy, as the work done by the public sector is colossal. I think it is what the Prime Minister is driving at, in his own way, and he is probably disappointed with the pace at which it is being delivered.

  46. I agree that it is very positive, but how much further have we got to go, in your eyes, to ideally reach the goal of a proper consultation? What part would the various bits play, i.e., the teaching profession and the unions, your body and the Government? What would be the ideal solution with regard to development of educational policy?
  (Lord Puttnam) It is a good question. Core to the answer is trust, creating an environment in which teachers feel trusted and empowered by government to do what they do best. If you achieve that, it will be teachers who will be the first to become very intolerant of those in the staffroom and workplace who are under-performing. We do not have that at present because while teachers feel embattled and under unreasonable levels of pressure, they will tend to protect the under-performers.

  47. Basically, it is a matter of trying to empower teachers as much as possible, and perhaps relieving some of the burden of paperwork and bureaucracy, but trying to get them to have more influence on the way educational policy is being developed. They can only do that when they have more time.
  (Lord Puttnam) Yes, they need more time. Coming back to Carol's quite correct analysis, the most important thing is that they need every single opportunity for professional development. Teaching, like any other profession, is going through tremendous changes in terms the implementation of new forms of technology, change that will create significant disruption in the classroom. They need every scrap of help to accommodate to that change. For the first time we are dealing with inter-generational change. The teacher who comes into the profession at 22 might well find themselves coming through a serious level of retraining at 34 and again at 46. That has never happened to any previous generation of teachers, or indeed in any profession.

Valerie Davey

  48. To put John's question in a slightly different way, the work of the Council you have described so far has been reactive. You react in disciplinary matters; and you react when the Secretary of State or anyone else phones you. What way forward is there within the Council itself to be proactive and to influence policy? How are you going to ensure that this body looks forward and determines some of the policy issues, if not the detail of them?
  (Ms Adams) I can perhaps give you an example that you will find interesting. We came forward very early in the life of the Council to advise government that professional development is essentially for all teachers if we are going to raise standards of achievement for children; teachers need to be able to learn throughout their career. We have advocated an entitlement to quality professional development for teachers, which is not just about going on courses but is about working with colleagues and looking at classroom teaching and improving on that, and also identifying what teachers find most motivating. We now are working with about a dozen local education authorities and we are exemplifying with them and in their schools what an entitlement to professional development can look like. We have some funding from the Department to do this. We have two seconded teachers working with us who have undertaken the work. In two years' time we hope to be able to say to Government and all local education authorities: "This is how you might use additional resources to support teachers' development; look imaginatively at the way you do things and do them differently in order to start to deliver to teacher an entitlement to professional learning". It will not be any surprise to you that the 12 authorities are doing this in slightly different ways because they are prioritising what is important for them in their local area. The lesson I derive from that work is that while the GTC cannot provide, we can, by working with our partners, LEAs, teachers and others, provide models of how government policy could become a reality. We can demonstrate that if you look at things on the ground, they cannot be formulated as a one-size, fits-all model; we need to learn what works from local circumstances and from the teachers working in those communities. I could give you other examples where we are seeking to model the practical implications of our advice on education policy.

  49. You said "we have advocated". It might be easy if the "we" was the chair and chief executive. How does "we" become the Council, and how does the Council formulate and take forward these things because I am sure you must have some diverse opinion within the Council itself? How do you take this forward? How does the "we" opinion emerge?
  (Ms Adams) On a technical level, the Council has a number of committees focusing on particular issues such as initial teacher training, teacher professional development and professional standards. The process whereby we formulate policy is that we first talk to teachers. We run teacher meetings in different parts of the country, and we sit at round tables and ask teachers questions, recording those debates. We keep in touch with those teachers afterwards so that we can get further input from them on particular issues such as what they need in order to do their job properly, what kind of time and what kind of professional development they need. We then use those soundings of the teachers to draw up draft policy, which is discussed within our committees. The staff then work very closely with Council Members who, two-thirds of them being teachers, have a considerable input to our policy development. A draft policy then goes to Council, and becomes formal GTC policy only once it has been agreed by the majority of the 64 members. Interestingly, although there is a wide variety of views and experiences on the Council, our major policies have had virtually unanimous backing, for example on professional development, on teacher retention and on the need to focus on teachers in the early years of their careers. When something is agreed as Council policy, the chair of Council and the chair of that committee go to meet the Secretary of State to present it. We arrange a meeting and then we have discussion, so that the Secretary of State can receive that advice and perhaps ask us to do some further work. That is how the process works.

Mr Holmes

  50. When I was still teaching, the majority of my colleagues in school could not see the point in the GTC and a registration fee. What would you say to them now, in terms of the two or three great successes you have that show it is worth signing up to the GTC?
  (Lord Puttnam) In terms of the successes we have had, or taking it beyond that?

  51. Successes that we have already had, or something that is imminent or where they have listened to you.
  (Lord Puttnam) In terms of CPD, we have had an enormous feedback which should not be underestimated. I have recently been to Australia, and there are areas where other parts of the world are much better at this than we are. We have tried to grab hold of good experiences from around the world. I certainly think we have had an impact there. As I said right at the beginning, it is quite ludicrous that the GTC spent 15 to 17 months trying to solve the fee collection issues. We have now solved them pretty satisfactorily. I would like to think we now have it on a sustainable basis. It is hard for me to overstate how much time and attention that has drawn away from what might have been achieved. A lot of what Carol and the policy team at GTC have done has necessarily had to be done on paper, not as it were, in terms of implementation. I would say to any teacher who has any doubts about the value of the GTC: "Come and look and listen to the Council in action." I said in my introductory remarks that I was knocked sideways by the quality of the 44 teachers/heads represented on the Council. It is likely that within a very few years, to be a member of the GTC will become the apotheosis of the career of any teacher. The best news is that as I step down, my place is being taken by an excellent deputy head and teacher from the West Country. Every single time we go to our teachers' meetings, it is fair to say we go into a room and meet a group of sceptics. We have never left those meetings without achieving an overwhelming sense of understanding and support. There are two ways of looking at this: either you say what a rotten job we have done of selling the GTC, or maybe it is just the fact that teachers as a profession need to hear it, see it and feel it before they are prepared to believe it.

  52. You said earlier that the Government had not really listened to teachers and that while it had pretended to consult, it had not. Why is this?
  (Lord Puttnam) There are two reasons. One is that, basically, the traditional relationship between the unions and government have been about pay and conditions. That necessarily sets up a fairly narrow area of debate. In the GTC, you have an organisation whose remit is in everything but pay and conditions. Therefore, the area of debate is about what is good for the profession, and the way the profession can take thought leadership for the thing it knows most about. I think we have something quite remarkable here, and that is the ability to be the creator of our own future, the architect of our own future. That has never been on offer before. I'll go further: I do not believe there has ever been any government structure that was prepared to even contemplate that kind of relationship with the profession. I think the profession would be absolutely crazy if it did not grab the opportunity with both hands. All the indications are that it is grabbing it with both hands.

  53. You may say that it is too early to know this, but I understand that teachers were supposed to have paid their money in as part of GTC by the end of May, and that after that point it would be deducted compulsorily from their salaries. Do you know what the figures are yet, and how many people have paid their money?
  (Lord Puttnam) That target is a reasonably prudent figure of 430,000 which we need to be self-sustaining—42 per cent of whom have paid up.

  54. They were supposed to have paid three or four weeks ago.
  (Lord Puttnam) Yes. The mandatory component clicks in pretty well now.

  55. So the majority of teachers are still resisting paying.
  (Lord Puttnam) Or a surprisingly high percentage of teachers have chosen to pay voluntarily. This glass is half empty or half full!

Jeff Ennis

  56. Given all the teething troubles in terms of registration fees and collection, do you not think it would be better if the Government directly funded the GTC, and that members could just become members of the GTC free?
  (Lord Puttnam) It goes right back to the very first question about legislation. Had I any influence and anybody had bothered to ask me, I would have advised the Government to look very closely at what happened in Scotland. What ought to have happened is that the GTC should have been given a five-year run. I think that the government of the day should have paid for the first two years, probably should have paid 40-50 per cent of the fees in the following two years and maybe 20 per cent for the fifth year. In that way, the GTC would have had a much better glide path into being. There are two reasons for this. It would have given teachers a chance to become comfortable with the organisation and understand what they were getting in terms of value for money. Second, we had to stick our finger up in the air and guess what sort of resources we needed and what sort of income we needed. That is a very tricky thing to do. My last plea as Chair would be for the creation of a world-class database on behalf of the profession. It would be an invaluable tool for both the profession and indeed the Government—the ability to talk to teachers, and for teachers to talk to each other and the GTC. That would be a tremendous asset. At present it is very doubtful, out of the fees we collect from teachers, that you would reach that point, certainly in the foreseeable future at which such a database would be affordable. A really smart government, I would say, should make a one-time significant grant to GTC to make absolutely sure that its hardware and software were state of the art, to enable it to be a truly 21st century organisation.


  57. Thank you for your full and frank answers that you and Carol Adams have given. It is really a progress report, and we are grateful for it. When you say it was a poor piece of legislation, would it have been better if you had had more consistency of ministerial presence over the period of time that this was all happening? For example, we have just had two ministers move on, with only eleven and a half months in office. Do you think that helps the process when they are introducing guiding legislation? It certainly makes it difficult for us. Does it worry you?
  (Lord Puttnam) Chairman, I come from another world, where consistency of relationship and knowledge is important. On the other hand, five years ago I started functioning at the Department for Education at the same time as a young minister named Estelle Morris. I think she has represented a remarkable level of consistency, and it has been a huge pleasure for me to be working with her. I am relieved and delighted to be stepping down from the GTC without ever having had any personal or professional conflict of interest. I think you should know that Carol Adams has been a tremendous ally to the whole profession. I think that she does represent continuity and in a way which is particularly valuable

  58. Carol Adams, is the continuity okay? Will the GTC survive without Lord Puttnam in the Chair?
  (Ms Adams) I think we have to, Chair. The Council is absolutely determined to do so, and to build on the very excellent start Lord Puttnam has given us.


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