Promoting Quality in Teacher Education

DENI: Letter to UCETNIHELG members on GTCNI (January 2023)

11 January 2023

11 January 2023


Dear HELG Members,

As you are already aware, following a highly critical independent review of the
effectiveness of the Council/Board of GTCNI, the Minister announced in December
2021 that DE would bring forward legislation to dissolve and replace the organisation,
that in the interim GTCNI’s Council/Board would be immediately stood down until the
underpinning legislation could be changed, and that the organisation and its
employees would continue to operate under direct DE oversight, ensuring its statutory
functions would continue to be delivered as fully as possible.

The Minister also confirmed at that time that DE would bring forward a public
consultation on the functions delivered by GTCNI to determine which were regarded
as essential or helpful in supporting the teaching profession and to consider how these
could be protected and most effectively delivered in future. This consultation took
place between 13 June and 30 September 2022. Many of the Department’s delivery
partners provided responses to the consultation and the Department is grateful for the
insight and careful thought these responses contained. Nonetheless, the overall level
of responses was disappointing with only very limited input being received from the
teaching profession itself.

This may, at least in part, be reflective of the perceived failure of GTCNI to add any
value to the working lives of teachers ‘at the chalk-face’, however, as all of the options
for replacing GTCNI will impact directly on the circa 27,000 teachers registered to work
in our schools, and those who will be joining the profession in NI over the next few
years, we consider that starting to draft legislation without some greater insight into
the views of our current and future workforce is likely to prove counter-productive. Prior
to standing down on 28 October 2022, Minister McIlveen agreed with this assessment
and asked us to explore alternative mechanisms to engage with teachers, enabling us
to make more informed decisions on an optimal replacement for GTCNI.

There are naturally significant difficulties in engaging with the profession during a time
of ongoing industrial action and we are sensitive to the fact that many current teachers
will understandably wish to follow their Union’s guidance during this period of ‘Action
Short of Strike’ (ASoS), however, we firmly believe it is in best interests of the
profession that we continue to pursue progress in this matter rather than maintaining
the current interim position for what might be a protracted period.

We are therefore intending to undertake a further targeted survey of those teachers
currently working as Associates (such as ETI Associate Inspectors), as secondees
within our key delivery partners or those serving on existing advisory or policy
development working groups and fora (such as the EA’s Principals’ Forum). These
individuals are experienced teachers, well aware of the challenges of working in the
modern classroom but also possessing, by virtue of their additional service or
secondment, a broader understanding of the needs of the wider education system.
Additionally, we feel that a helpful and different perspective might be found by
surveying final year student teachers (BEd Year 4 or PGCE) whose views are perhaps
less influenced by the historical failures of GTCNI but are informed by the professional
mindset inculcated through their studies and their own (albeit more limited) practical
teaching experience. In seeking to build a solution fit for the future, their aspirations
for their chosen profession will undoubtedly be important considerations. Arguably, as
those whose entire careers could sit under the auspices of whatever replacement for
GTCNI is put in place, today’s students have an even stronger interest in making sure
the solution chosen is the right one.

We would hope to engage with these students via a short, targeted online survey
taking no more than 10-15 minutes to complete. Participation for students, as indeed
for all participants, would be entirely voluntary, however, we would hope that many of
those approached would see value in sharing their views and helping to shape the
future of the teaching profession in NI as we look to develop a GTCNI Bill.

Timing wise, we hope to issue the targeted survey towards the end of January 2023.
At present all I would ask is that you consider the proposed approach and confirm if
you would be willing/able to facilitate the distribution of a short explanatory email with
a link to the aforementioned survey to your students. It would also be helpful if you
could identify a designated contact within each of your organisations with whom we
could liaise as our plans are refined and finalised.

Should you feel unable to facilitate this process, we would greatly value any alternative
suggestions you might have for engaging with your students on this issue in the
immediate to short term.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could respond via email to the GTCNI Interim
Sponsorship Team ( by COP
on Friday 20 January 2023.

Yours sincerely
GTCNI Interim Sponsorship Team