Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up

Teacher and pupil Ofsted's annual report complained teaching standards in England's schools were too variable

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Plans to make it easier for head teachers in England to sack underperforming staff are to go ahead from September, the government says.

It says poor teachers could be removed within a term instead of a year, which can be the case at present.

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, says schools have been "tangled in red tape" for too long when dealing with struggling staff.

Teachers' unions say the changes are draconian and a bully's charter.

The government proposed the changes in May last year.

It has now confirmed that the procedure for dealing with underperforming teachers will be "simplified" and given a shorter minimum timeframe.

It says in straightforward cases, the process could be completed in nine weeks.

There will also be a requirement for teachers to be assessed every year on whether they meet new standards, which cover teaching and "personal and professional conduct".

Head Amanda Phillips said ''good and outstanding'' teachers were needed to help young people

And a current three-hour limit on the time a head can observe in a teacher's classroom in a year has been lifted.

The government is also consulting on proposals that it says would deal with the problem of poor teachers being moved on from school to school.

This would mean that if a school made inquiries about a teacher it was thinking of hiring, previous employers would have to say, if asked, whether he or she had been through what are known as "capability procedures".

Mr Gove said there were many excellent teachers and heads - and that the changes would improve schools by helping them identify extra training needs.

"For far too long, schools have been tangled up in complex red tape when dealing with teachers who are struggling," he said.

"That is why these reforms focus on giving schools the responsibility to deal with this issue fairly and quickly.

"Schools need to be able to dismiss more quickly those teachers who, despite best efforts, do not perform to the expected standard. Future employers also need to know more about the strengths and weaknesses of teachers they are potentially employing.

"Nobody benefits when poor teaching is tolerated. It puts pressure on other teachers and undermines children's education."

Start Quote

The changes will rightly be seen by teachers as an attack on their professionalism and will anger and depress them ”

End Quote Christine Blower National Union of Teachers

Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast that the planned process "only kicks in when it's clear that there are problems".

He added: "And that term is an opportunity for a teacher who has resisted every encouragement so far to improve what they do, to finally focus on getting their act together, or acknowledge that perhaps, whatever their talents, they should move on to another profession."

The annual report of England's schools inspectors Ofsted in November highlighted variable teaching standards as a cause for concern.

It said: "Although teaching has been judged to be inadequate this year in just 3% of schools, it is a serious concern that teaching in over 40% of primary and secondary schools is no better than satisfactory and is only outstanding in around 4%."

However, the inspectors said the quality of teaching in schools had improved.

Michael Gove: ''This process only kicks in when it's clear that there are problems''

The changes come as the government disbands the General Teaching Council for England - the teachers' professional body which took decisions on whether teachers should be barred.

It is being replaced by the new Teaching Agency which will hear the most serious cases involving misconduct.

Decisions about whether to sack teachers are taken at school level.

Head teachers had asked for changes to the present system.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The simplest way to protect teachers is to be seen to be taking responsibility for our own performance.

"Everyone deserves to know how they are doing and how they can develop, and this needs to be done out in the open. The revised procedures reflect a large proportion of NAHT's hopes. They are simple and flexible, firm but fair.

"A streamlined approach to capability will, on the rare occasions that it is needed, help schools act more decisively in pupils' interests and reduce the conflict that these actions can generate."

'Improve teachers'

But unions representing classroom teachers have criticised the changes.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The changes to the appraisal and capability policies will rightly be seen by teachers as an attack on their professionalism and will anger and depress them in equal measure.

"What the government proposes is potentially a bully's charter.

General secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, Chris Keates, said the announcement was ''hugely demoralising''

"If schools are serious about addressing the issue of teacher competence should it arise, they must do it in a fair fashion and not be constrained by a one-term time limit. It is far better to improve teachers than to seek measures to sack them."

Ms Blower also told BBC Breakfast that there were teachers who, for a variety of reasons, "may go through a period when they're not absolutely performing as well as everyone would want.

"But with help and support they can do. So let's make sure that every teacher is supported so they can do the best job they can."

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said the changes were draconian and based on "manipulated evidence".

"There is no evidence the current system is not working," she said.

"The powers used for disputes are exactly the same processes that responsible employers are using.

"This is hugely demoralising for all those hard-working teachers."

UK picture

Education is devolved around the UK.

In Scotland, decisions on whether to sack teachers are taken by the local authority employers rather than schools.

If someone is dismissed, the case can then be referred to the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which could take a decision to bar a teacher.

The GTCS is consulting on processes for dealing with incompetent teachers.

In Wales, there has been a consultation on the system for appraising teachers.

A spokesman for the Welsh government said: "It is important that poor performance in schools is dealt with effectively and fairly to ensure that standards across the board are not affected.

"Although we currently have no plans to change the current system relating to capability of teachers, we are working on comprehensive guidance to ensure the procedures we do have in place work effectively."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Please when making comparisons about teacher's pay with private sector jobs remember they get 12 weeks paid holiday a year plus a final salary pension.
    Private sector gets 4 weeks paid holiday and a money purchase pension worth around half a final salary scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    "Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up!"

    What about the rich teachers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Too many decent teachers are forced out of the profession due to, frankly, the lack of protection for them in the classroom. Seeing those who, in the old days, would have been sent to an "Approved School" for delinquents only, swagger back into the classroom after a few days suspension for yet another episode of violence or vandalism must be soul-destroying

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    As this BBC piece points out - education standards, and checking these standards, are devolved around the UK with:

    1) Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own Education Ministers who must be accountable - as they earn a very handsome salary. Examine what these Ministers are doing on standards?

    2) This debate is only about education in England. Therefore Michael Gove is accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.


    OFSTED wouldn't know a good teacher from a repoussee umbrella stand.

    ++ Quite as many Ofsted inspectors are failed teachers. Well, at least that provides a career avenue for those displaced from schools as incompetent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Who would be a teacher!
    My advice to anybody thinking about it is go and find a job doing something else...anything.
    Can we sack politicians who dont perform....oh dear there wouldn't be any left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The problem for teachers is that you are judged on things that are not under your control alone. Student behaviour and exam results depend on good teaching AND on hard working students. This creates enormous stress for teachers. I went into teaching as a mature student with a first class degree in maths, but I left soon after. If we want good teachers we need to be supportive, not critical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    'Let's get rid of the bad teachers.' It sounds good, doesn't it? But the mechanism to do it has always been in place and involves few teachers.This is just a way of making teachers compliant and in fear for their livelihoods.
    Neil Kinnock was right when he said, of Thatcher's govt., 'You will obey.' Now Cameron and Co just want control, as can be seen in so many of their policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Teachers should be on a yearly contract. If they fail the contract should not be renewed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Nietzschean_Acolyte. Why do you say this? Who has bashed teachers for not being able to teach the unteachable? He is simply saying to make sure the poor teachers are removed easily. You cannot deny there are some bad ones. I had some myself , many years ago,and have come across several whilst my own children have been at school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    As an individual currently waiting to complete a PGCE and become a primary school teacher, Mr Gove's comments do not exactly fill me with confidence. Everyone has to find their feet within a new working environment, who is to say that new teachers are not going to be given the chance to develop within teaching roles under the new plans and add to the list of unemployed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Why should it take 12 months to remove a poor teacher? In primary school that is 12 months lost general education for approximately 30 children. In a secondary school environment it could be 12 months loss of a core subject for over 200 children.
    With the safeguard of the board of governors I do not believe that “coasting” older teachers will be targeted for financial reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Fair cop. People in glass houses...

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Teaching will never be a profession whilst it is unionised. If the teaching trade ditched unions and had a professional body like accountants and lawyers then it would attract top people. If national pay bargaining were scrapped and shortage subjects like Maths paid more, then wage drift would increase overall teaching salaries. It is trade unions that prevent teachers earning more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    This can't come soon enough. Most of my teachers were great, to be fair, but I had an abysmal Mathis teacher who, to cover his ineptitude, I assume, said there was little or no chance I'd succeed in maths as I had a poor level of natural ability.

    15 years on, and partly thanks to another maths teacher, I have a physics & maths degree, and work as a research scientist... First teacher still there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    If the teaching is so good - how come my child has progressed from potentially having a dyslexic LD with educational psychologists to a fabulous level 4C student in less than 3 month with the help of a private tution club. We are luck we can do this, but what about those who can not - if the teacher can not teacher move them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    #71 Ten years ago (with a BSc Hons & MSc) I started work as a university research scientist on £12,135. That job required a degree so was a graduate post. THAT is about half what a teacher starts on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Who is going to assess and pronounce on incompetent heads? I reckon assessment should always be two way; teachers should be able to rate their assessor and the results set before the governors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Love post 62 from 'single no kids'.
    Would it be churlish to point out that 'Last' doesn't need a capital L, the word 'out' between 'churning' and 'illiterate' would clarify meaning and finishing with three exclamation marks is probably overkill?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    That's it, go ahead and blame the teachers for their perceived inability to teach unteachable pupils.


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