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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  • Comment number 156.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    If teachers had a professional body driving excellence in teaching and encouraging members with their own personal development schemes, then it would become a highly respected profession beyond government meddling. But the reality is that it is highly unionised and used as a political football. What holds teachers back is the unions. I think it is tragic for teachers and our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I don't disagree with your point but you also failed to point out that the teacher needs to be well organised, hard working and good at his/her job as well.

    It is no good having everything else in place but the teacher then fails to cover the right syllabus (as one did for my yougest). He was sacked in the end but it stopped my son from doing maths at 'A' level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    First of all we are not finding teachers to teach Physics and Maths.
    Since there is a need and a terrible demand to teach these subjects we are selecting anyone who applies. The assignments at the PGCE course for these 2 subjects are marked very liniently against all other subjects.
    If we are going to sack poor performers, we are left with the heads and the politicians to teach these subjects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Two points concern me.
    1.Some of the poorest classroom performers I have known have gone on to be headteachers.
    The government needs to recognise that the quality of the transmitter is irrelevant when most of the receivers are switched off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    i would like your performance to be reviewed after one year and see how you fair

  • Comment number 150.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    How easy will it be to get rid of bad head teachers, yes poor teachers need to be addressed but the whole school network needs to be looked at. Worked in a school where children were at risk from many areas due to the governors, heads and LA lack of action and fraud. Who will check and sack them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    This is partly a divide and rule move, following on from the situation the government faced last November when it became clear that head teachers were largely supportive of their staff over on-going pensions negotiations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Teachers have an impossible and often thankless job, and their profession is being undermined by the worst Education Secretary in living memory. As other posters have stated - giving more power to governors to manage head teachers would be far better than picking on classroom teachers and instituting a regime of fear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The government picking on the poor again. Lets be fair and give the rich teachers a tougher system as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    how about a system where workers can get rid of incompetant ministers like gove.it wont take a term or a year,unfortunately at the moment it,s 5 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Yes there are poor teachers out there. But a lot of issues in the classroom come from badly behaved children. Speaking as someone who has been a teaching assistant in several schools, how these teachers do not lose their patjience is beyond me. It is very difficult to maintain a high standard of teaching when you are being verbally, mentally and often physically abused. It disrupts the classroom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    There can be no doubt that really incompetent teachers do exist and that they can hide "under the radar" in some schools for several years before the Head finally decides to get rid but this can simply be to move the teacher on to another school. By the same token a personality clash with the Head can lead to unfair dismissal of a good teacher. This needs a careful approach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I think Mr Gove needs to spend 6 months trying to teach in an inner city school

    ++ He's like many of these naive young ministers, has no experience of the field he "rules", of jobs, of hardship and I doubt he's ever been through, let alone to, an inner city. Put anyone in his position and they'd do no worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    51. ReraPops

    Highly paid? Get your facts right before spouting off. Teaching is the lowest paid graduate profession in the UK.

    I don't begrudge teachers their salary but to say that it is the lowest paid graduate profession is equally untrue. I work as an econometrician in an ad agency and it took me 2 years to reach a London teacher's starting salary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Problem here is that Unions believe that state education is all about the teachers. State education is about the making sure our children are educated for their future life. Are unions saying that children should tolerate under performing teachers just so that they can retain their jobs? In the private sector you would be given a few months to turn your performance around, or you are out!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Rather than Michael Gove making it easier for heads to sack 'bad teachers', he should let teachers sack bad heads. Many heads allow pupils to swear at their teachers, but won't suspend them. I'm speaking from experience. Heads do worse things, too. I tried to explain this in my last post, but the BBC censored it. Biased?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    I am so pleased to see that teachers will be judged on their performance , just as other people in the private job market . I see that the teachers on this site say they need support ,support of what ! You go to teachers training college or university , either you can teach or you cannot ,if you cannot Leave or be judged as a failure

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.


    I cannot agree more.

    My parents were brought into school to discuss my failure at year 6 maths. I then 4 months later, topped the school in the SATS.

    I wasn’t a bad student, but he was a bad teacher, and he's still there over 15 years later.

    The teaching profession will be a lot more creditable if it supported the weeding out of dead wood.


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