Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE, Chair of the General Teaching Council for England (PAP 37)

 (writing with his personal views)

INTRODUCTION

  The General Teaching Council for England was established by the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 and formally started work in September 2000. Both in its constitution and remit, it does not fit neatly into the categories of public bodies that the Committee has identified in its Issues and Questions Paper. The Council's, in the interests of the public, are to:

    —  contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and

    —  maintain and improve standards of professional conduct amongst teachers

  Its functions are:

    —  to provide advice to government and others on a range of teaching-related issues, including the supply, recruitment and retention of teachers; standards of teaching; standards of conduct for teachers, etc

    —  to establish and maintain a register of qualified teachers; and

    —  to regulate the teaching profession by upholding standards of conduct and competence

  Although currently in receipt of start-up funding from the DfES, its status is as an independent professional body.

  The Government formally consulted on the composition and constitution of the Council in a paper published in April 1998. The constitution was confirmed in regulations which came into force in 1999. The Council's membership is made up of:

    —  25 Members, directly elected by teachers [11 secondary school teachers, 11 primary school teachers, one secondary head teacher, one primary head teacher, one teacher at a special school]

    —  9 Members appointed by teaching unions and associations [two from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), two from the National Union Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), two from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), one from the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT), one from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); and one from the Secondary Heads Association (SHA)]

    —  17 Members appointed to the GTC by other stakeholder organisations [three from the Local Government Association (LGA), one each from the Association of Chief Education Officers, the Association of Colleges, the Catholic Education Service, the Church of England Board of Education, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Disability Rights Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the National Governors' Council, the Standing Conference of Principals Ltd and the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers]

    —  13 Members appointed by the Secretary of State.

  The GTC model therefore is a mixture of elected, nominated and appointed Members, no single group dominating. Fuller details are provided in the appendix.

SECRETARY OF STATE'S APPOINTEES

  The GTC's first Vice-Chair, John Tomlinson, and I were appointed by the Secretary of State to help oversee the establishment of the Council in 1999. The process of appointing the remaining 11 places did not start until other sections of the Council were in place, so that the additional appointments could secure a balance of interests and perspectives on the Council. Once the other Council members had been confirmed, an analysis was undertaken of sectors, interests, skills and experience to ascertain whether there was any absence of representation or under-representation. The DfEE (as it then was) targeted a number of representative bodies inviting them to find nominees who would apply. The regulations governing the composition of the Council also specified three areas where representation had to be addressed by the Secretary of State in making appointments: parents of pupils, experience of teaching persons with special educational needs and the interests of the general public.

  I participated in the panel, along with a senior DfEE official and an independent assessor. The panel reached decisions on the appointees on their merit, taking into account equal opportunities, and with regard to the overall balance of skills and experience that were needed in the composition of an effective Council.

  The appointees increased the representation of women on the Council and increased the number of members from ethnic minority groups from two to six. Members from the nursery, sixth form and independent school sectors were also brought onto the Council through this process.
Elected teacher
members

Nominated
Secretary of
State Appointed

Total
Women1315 937
Men1211 427
Ethnic minority Members1 146

  Having overseen the establishment of the General Teaching Council during its period of direct funding, the term of office for John Tomlinson and I comes to an end in September. The appointments process for our successors has started, with advertisements placed in the main broadsheet newspapers, The Times Educational Supplement and in the ethnic minority press. Again we have looked closely at the experiences and skills on the Council and are seeking applicants who will bring additional and complementary strengths to the Council.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE ISSUES AND QUESTIONS PAPER

  My response to your consultation paper is concerned with the appointment process for the 13 Members appointed by the Secretary of State.

  I will not attempt to answer all of the questions outlined by the Committee, but will comment on those on which my experience as Chair of the GTC has provided some insights.

GENERAL

  2.   What problems might arise if elections were held for membership of some public bodies, instead of the current system of appointments?

  As explained in my introduction, the GTC is partly elected, partly nominated by other bodies and only partly appointed. The next GTC elections are due in 2004 and the Council has not yet concluded discussions on the most appropriate electoral process.

  5.   Government departments publicise public appointments, assess applications and draw up shortlists for interview. Independent assessors take part in the process and appointments are made on merit. Is this a sensible devolution of power to departments or does it cause problems and create unfairness?

  From the experience of my involvement in the public appointments for the GTC, I would say that giving the relevant department an integral role in the appointments process is vital to ensure that the department's skills, policy knowledge and networks can be drawn upon. The presence of independent assessors working with the Code of Practice of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments gives the process itself greater rigour. The Code should provide reassurance to the public that appointments are made on merit, although there clearly remains some difficulty with public appreciation of this.

POLITICAL INFLUENCE ON APPOINTMENTS

  7.   Is There any evidence to suggest that politicians sometimes play an improper role in the current public appointments system? What are your main concerns, if any?

  My personal experience across the past 25 years rather indicates the contrary. The involvement of Ministers normally adds an ingredient of common sense to the procedure.

  12.   Do you believe that an independent appointments commission should be introduced instead of ministerial appointments?

  Despite an active campaign for a general teaching council over many decades by the teaching unions and associations and a wide range of educational organisations, there has been some resistance among teachers to the introduction of the GTC. It is seen in some quarters as another "imposition" upon teachers, rather than a supportive body that will work to enhance their status and uphold the high standards of the profession. Opponents of the GTC have felt it advantageous to both exaggerate the proportion of the Secretary of State appointments and misrepresent their role on Council. The appointees were dismissed at a recent teaching union conference as "Blair's cronies". In reality, of the 13 appointments, I am the only one with an affiliation to a political party.

  The Secretary of State's appointees may have been better received had they been typified from the outset as independently appointed. In this way, they may then have escaped their unfair characterisation as political appointees.

  I firmly believe that the departmental appointment process that was followed was successful in securing a good balance of talents, perspectives, knowledge and independence on the GTC. I very much doubt if taking the process outside the Department could have improved on the outcome. However, perception is important and if the appointees had been identified as having been appointed independently of government (as was in effect the case), then their acceptance by the teaching profession may have been greater. In other words, it is their description as "Secretary of State appointees" that has been the problem.

DIVERSITY IN PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS

  13.   Is there evidence to suggest that the current system is not attracting applications from the widest pool of candidates?

  As the GTC experience showed, it is possible to encourage applications from a wide pool. This does, however, require imagination and a willingness to look beyond the usual suspects. The DfEE recognised that increasing the diversity of membership on the GTC was a challenge and that approaching their traditional contacts among LEAs and head teachers would be inadequate. Having analysed the Council's existing membership to identify gaps in the sectors, interests, skills and experience represented, the Department accepted advice on which other organisations to target to ensure applications were received from candidates who were likely to fit the Council's requirements, particularly the need to reflect the interests of the general public.

  With the Catholic and Church of England education bodies already represented on the Council, a number of religious organisations, including the Network of Sikh Organisations, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Teachers' Association were approached. The Department also wrote to Education Action Zones and LEAs involved in the Excellence in Cities pilot scheme to encourage applications from inner city areas.

  I believe this process had some significant success in ensuring a wide choice from whom the final appointments were made.

  14.   How can greater diversity best be combined with reassurance that the principle of merit in public appointments is being upheld?

  I agree with Dame Rennie Fritchie (and I believe that the process described above demonstrates this) that diversity can be achieved without, as she put it in her evidence to the Select Committee, "trading down" [Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence, 7 March 2002, paragraph 2]. It is possible to increase diversity while at the same time appointing on merit if you are clear what strengths and balances you are aiming to achieve on the council or organisational body you are appointing, and if sufficient efforts are made to get a wide field of candidates to apply who fit the criteria.

  15.   Would a more consistent use of remuneration for members of public bodies help to increase diversity in their membership? Are there any possible drawbacks to an increase in the number of remunerated members?

  The position of the GTC is that no direct remuneration should be provided to members of the Council. The schools of our teacher Members who attend meetings and events during school time are reimbursed for the costs of any supply teacher cover that is needed. The Members themselves are not personally remunerated. It is the policy of the GTC that part of the support offered to the Council by the other stakeholder organisations represented on it comes in the contribution of Members' time.

  16.   Is the public appointments process understood by members of the public and seen to be fair, open, transparent and easy to travel through?

  In my view, the current appointments process for the GTC, adhering strictly to the Nolan principles, has been poorly understood by teachers. A lack of awareness of how public appointments are now made ensures that there is still considerable suspicion of political interference. Sadly the dominant reaction to public appointments would appear to be a prejudice in favour of mistrust. Again, this runs directly counter to my own experience of the process.

  17.   What improvements, if any, should be made in the way in which advertising or publicising public appointments are made?

  It would seem obvious that as well as the major broadsheets, specialist media outlets should also be targeted depending on the criteria identified as a basis for the appointments. In addition, in line with the criteria set down for appointments, strenuous efforts must be made to approach directly organisations, which could encourage applicants from under-represented backgrounds.

  18.   What is your understanding of the role of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Dame Rennie Fritchie?

  The Commissioner regulates the system of making public appointments by producing a Code of Practice for Departments to follow, appoints independent assessors who participate in the appointments process and monitors the outcomes.

OTHER ISSUES

  25.   Should every candidate, even important people for high level appointments, be asked to complete application forms and attend interviews in the normal way?

  For public reassurance, it is essential that all candidates for public positions go through the application and interview procedures. I applied and was interviewed for the position of Chair of the GTC in 1999.

APPENDIX

LEGISLATION GOVERNING THE COMPOSITION OF THE GENERAL TEACHING COUNCIL FOR ENGLAND

  (1)  The Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998

Section 1

  (5)  The Council shall be constituted in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State; and regulations under this subsection may authorise the Council to make rules with respect to such matters relating to their constitution as may be specified in the regulations.

  (6)  In exercising his power to make regulations under subsection (5), the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of the Council's membership reflecting the interests of—

    (a)  teachers,

    (b)  employers of teachers,

    (c)  providers of teacher training,

    (d)  persons concerned with the teaching of persons with special educational needs,

    (e)  religious bodies involved in the provision of education,

    (f)  parents of pupils,

    (g)  commerce and industry, and

    (h)  the general public.

  (2)  Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1726

The General Teaching Council for England (Constitution) Regulations 1999

Membership

  3.  The Council shall consist of 63* members comprising elected members elected in accordance with regulations 4 and 6 and appointed members appointed in accordance with regulations seven to nine.

Elected members

  4.  The elected members shall comprise—

    (a)  eleven teachers of senior pupils;

    (b)  eleven teachers of junior pupils;

    (c)  one head teacher of a secondary school;

    (d)  one head teacher of a primary school; and

    (e)  one teacher at a special school.

Appointed members

  7.  Nine members shall be appointed as follows—

    (a)  two members by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers;

    (b)  two members by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers;

    (c)  two members by the National Union of Teachers;

    (d)  one member by the National Association of Head Teachers;

    (e)  one member by the Professional Association of Teachers; and

    (f)  one member by the Secondary Heads Association.

  8.  16* members shall be appointed as follows—

    (a)  three members by the Local Government Association;

    (b)  one member by the Association of Chief Education Officers;

    (c)  one member by the Association of Colleges;

    (d)  one member by the Catholic Education Service;

    (e)  one member by the Church of England Board of Education;

    (f)  one member by the Commission for Racial Equality;

    (g)  one member by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom;

    (h)  one member by the Confederation of British Industry;

    (i)  one member by the Equal Opportunities Commission;

    (j)  one member by the Independent Schools Council;

    (k)  one member by the National Children's Bureau;

    (l)  one member by the National Governors' Council;

    (m)  one member by the Standing Conference of Principals Ltd.; and

    (n)  one member by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers.

  9.  (1)  13 members shall be appointed by the Secretary of State.

  (2)  In making appointments under paragraph (1) the Secretary of State shall ensure that two or more of those members represent the interests of parents of pupils.

  (3)  In making appointments under paragraph (1) the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of the Council's membership including persons who have experience in relation to teaching persons with special educational needs.

  (4)  In making appointments under paragraph (1) the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of the Council's membership reflecting the interests of the general public.

  * a member of the Disability Rights Commission was added when the DRC was established to make up the Council to 64 Members.

May 2002


 
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