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GTC “Code Of Conduct” Infringes On Teachers’ Civil Liberties

The Times Educational Supplement carries a report detailing the National Union Of Teachers’ response to a proposed Code Of Conduct for teachers.  Briefly put, the proposed “Code Of Conduct” intends to give the General Teaching Council and school heads previously unimagined powers of interference in the private lives of teachers and other school staff.

The GTC’s proposals are detailed on their website and there is a consultation page.  Which naturally I visited, wanting to read in full these Orwellian sounding proposals.  I was not impressed.  It seems that someone else has decided that 1984 is an instruction manual rather than a warning.  The NUT’s response was  similar to mine in many respects, if a little less verbose.

On December 19th 2008 I responded fully to the document via the consultation page.  The questions asked on the consultation page were the expected generic questions with multiple choice answers, making a challenge to the proposals difficult.  However, given a free text field and, of course, this weblog, I am able to make my challenges to the GTC clear for all to read.

They are provided here in full.  I will be interested to see what responses are forthcoming from the GTC.

“Where is the detail about schools providing the necessary support for teachers?  Too often I have seen and heard of poor leadership and support from schools who insist the teacher does not need support when, if the school fronted up and provided the support the teacher needs, everyone would be better served.

Again I see references to the pupil’s rights.  With rights come responsibilities.  If a child does not behave appropriately in class he/she should be disciplined and removed.  You are seeking to impose double standard here by saying “if we think a teacher behaves in WHAT WE DEEM TO BE an inappropriate manner they will be disciplined” yet YOU CANNOT OR WILL NOT level the same approach to children.

Point 4 – “seeking clarification where necessary” – often does not happen because of poor leadership and lack of support leaving the poor teacher worried they are doing the wrong thing.  You need to emphasise the school’s role in this.

“A teacher’s professional duty to support their school and their Head is of vital importance, and integral to the functioning of a school.  If teachers can’t be relied on to support decisions and communicate change positively to pupils, then everything will fall apart.” – this fatuous comment deserves a response.  The Head’s professional duty is to support his/her staff and provide an example of decisive leadership to staff and pupils.  If a Head fails to do this then the school’s morale and performance will suffer.  The old adage about when a fish goes rotten it starts from the head comes to mind.

“The worst and most damaging attitude a teacher can possibly have is the attitude that they ‘know it all’ and therefore won’t reach out for help from other professionals when they need it. (Governor)”.  The worst and most damaging attitude a teacher can face from a school and its Head is “sorry, we haven’t got enough staff and we haven’t got time to deal with your issues.  You’ll have to deal with them yourself.”  THIS ATTITUDE EXISTS – I know people who deal with it every day.

Point 8 I have a real problem with.  No employer has the right to claim dominion over the right to a UK citizen to have a private life.  There are already contract clauses and legislation in place to deal with employees who break the law.  These are sufficient.

“Uphold the law and maintain standards of behaviour both inside and outside school that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession.”

When someone leaves the workplace to go home their job is done, unless they choose to take work home.  I don’t walk around with a big sign saying “I’M A TECHIE! I FIX COMPUTERS FOR [company name]”.  I am not defined by my profession.  Teachers should not be judged against that yardstick either.  The law is the law and applies to everyone.  To suggest that you agree with teachers not having the right to a private life is deeply offensive.

No employer has a right to say “You cannot go to this place, you cannot associate with these people, you cannot speak for yourself to defend your rights”.  When I speak for myself outside of work, I do so in a private capacity, which I am allowed to do by UK and EU law.

Perhaps you have forgotten that one malicious allegation from a pupil can ruin lives and careers.  This will widen the scope of malicious allegations.

Who decides what goes into this list of inappropriate behaviour?  Who will ensure that it is fairly applied?  What if your Head is a Christian fundamentalist who thinks that gay people, bisexual people, transgendered people, Muslims, Pagans and single parents are all Hellbound scum who deserve nothing but condemnation?   I have met such people. “Please Sir (or Please Miss), I saw Mr Harris going into a gay club” will be all that Head needs to hear.  Judge, jury and executioner all in one, career ruined.

Teachers are already subject to extensive background checks.  Do you now seek to turn them into automatons who exist purely to serve the teaching purpose?  There is a comment that “One size fits all does not work for teaching”.  I contend that the Scientific Management approach does not work for teachers either.

Teachers are individuals who, like all of us, are entitled to a private life free from interference.”

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