While the General Social Care Council has had to work hard to win over the care profession, its counterpart for teachers has faced a much sterner challenge, writes Richard Willis
The General Social Care Council offers much inspiration to teachers’ watchdog the General Teaching Council for England.(1) Bereft of support, the GTCE, set up in 2000 (a year before the GSCC) has been a target for the media and many classroom teachers bemoan its existence. By contrast, the GSCC, now heralded as having created a national voice for social care and being a protector of standards and champion of a committed workforce, has achieved success. So why has the GSCC fared so well while its poorer relation in the teaching profession has trudged along with so many difficulties?
A comparative study of the two professional bodies raises some interesting issues. First, the GSCC and social care workers are less unionised than the teaching profession. Not only are the unions a powerful force among teachers but bodies such as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are heavily represented on the teachers’ council. When the GSCC was founded, there were 15 lay members on its council whereas the GTCE has a force of 64 members with a strong union representation and proportionally far fewer lay members.
The GSCC has more duties concerning training than the GTCE, as the Teaching Training Agency deals with that. On the other hand, both the GSCC and GTCE are responsible for their profession’s common professional development. The GTCE’s register contains information about 500,000 teachers whereas the GSCC regulates 1.4 million social care workers in England. The GTCE’s register does not include teaching assistants yet the GSCC will soon register other groups of care workers. The registration fee for both councils is £30 and both have powers to deregister practitioners for misconduct.
The GSCC and the GTCE were introduced when the professional councils in the medical and legal professions were being criticised for inadequate self-regulation. In the medical profession, the “consultant is king” culture predominated and there were many pleas for the General Medical Council (GMC) to be abolished. Also at the time, Harold Shipman, the UK’s worst serial killer, was found guilty yet the GMC failed to prevent mass murder from taking place.
The Law Society was also facing criticisms for the way in which it was operating, for being indecisive, unrepresentative and failing to express the views of lawyers. The founders of both the GSCC and the GTCE were determined to improve standards of practice and conduct but the teachers were always on a sticky wicket because of the low morale evident in the teaching profession and the unions’ efforts to thwart the actions and policies of the GTCE.
Not long after the GSCC and GTCE were set up, cases of misconduct were much in evidence. Special committees, including at least two registered teachers, consider cases once they reach the GTCE. It is through these cases that the GTCE is finding a role for itself. But what about the position of the GSCC in the wake of major crises in the social work profession such as the death of Victoria Climbie?
In this case staff shortages were seen as a major cause of poor child protection, and indeed in August 2003 the final annual report of the Social Services Inspectorate revealed that 34 councils had 408 unallocated child protection cases.(2) By then the government had begun to implement plans for national infrastructure developments to promote a common set of values and to support people working in the whole social care sector across the full range of service user groups (adults and children).
Four bodies – the GSCC, the then training organisation Topss, the Social Care Institute for Excellence and the Commission for Social Care Inspection – were to work with each other to provide a comprehensive structure for the development of the service and the people who work in care services. But structural change provides no guarantee that mistakes will not happen; as with teaching and medicine, the public will never be fully protected by a self-regulatory body.
The General Teaching Council for Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Wales have also been less mauled than the GTCE. This may be tied up with the fact that teachers in Scotland and Wales have tended to enjoy a higher status than their English counterparts. Also the Care Council for Wales and Scottish Social Services Council have operated largely without anguish.
So what can the GTCE do to learn from the relative success of the GSCC? The turf wars with the teacher unions will no doubt be unavoidable but the following recommendations, some of which are based on the framework of the GSCC, are suggested for the GTCE:
While the social work profession still has many areas where improvements can be made, the GTCE still seemingly faces more complex and diverse problems. However, teachers should realise that establishing the GTCE on a firmer footing offers the prospect of greater stability, higher standards, and status in society. Whatever shortcomings there are at the GTCE, the GSCC can serve as an important model for the way ahead.
Richard Willis is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Research in Educational Policy and Professionalism at Roehampton University. His major interest is the General Teaching Council movement and his book The Struggle for the GTC was published by RoutledgeFalmer in 2005.
Training and learning
The author has provided questions about this article to guide discussion in teams. These can be viewed at www.communitycare.co.uk/prtl and individuals’ learning from the discussion can be registered on a free, password-protected training log held on the site. This is a service from Community Care for all GSCC-registered professionals.
This article is a comparative study of the General Social Care Council and the General Teaching Council for England. It looks at the problems facing the General Medical Council and Law Society and at the roles, including those of policing and disciplining, of the GSCC and the GTCE. Important lessons can be learned from the work of the GSCC and certain recommendations for reform are suggested for the GTCE.
(1) R Willis, The Struggle for the General Teaching Council, RoutledgeFalmer, 2005
(2) The Twelfth and Final Annual Report of the Social Services Inspectorate, Modern Social Services A Commitment to the Future, SSI, 2003
General Social Care Council
General Teaching Council for England
R Willis, “Teachers Rule OK”, History Today, Vol 50 No 9, pp26-27, 2000