Memorandum by Lord Puttnam of Queensgate
CBE, Chair of the General Teaching Council for England (PAP 37)
(writing with his personal views)
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
The GTC model therefore is a mixture of elected,
nominated and appointed Members, no single group dominating. Fuller
details are provided in the appendix.
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.
|Ethnic minority Members||1
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.
My response to your consultation paper is concerned with
the appointment process for the 13 Members appointed by the Secretary
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.
2. What problems might arise if elections were held
for membership of some public bodies, instead of the current system
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.
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.
13. Is there evidence to suggest that the current
system is not attracting applications from the widest pool of
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
17. What improvements, if any, should be made in
the way in which advertising or publicising public appointments
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.
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.
(1) The Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998
(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
(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,
(g) commerce and industry, and
(2) Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1726
The General Teaching Council for England (Constitution) Regulations
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.
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.
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;
(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
(n) one member by the Universities Council for the Education
9. (1) 13 members shall be appointed by the Secretary
(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.