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 176.

    Right i'm a student at a Grammar School and i have had countless poor teachers before. At the end of the day keeping a teacher for a year could be the difference between getting a good grade or not. Yes students have to work hard but if they aren't taught well and can't understand the material that seems highly unfair to the student that does work hard. Some people just aren't made for teaching!

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    The tuition fee for the PGCE has gone up almost 3 times .

    The inflation is up by almost 4%

    I want to become a teacher as my salary is very very appealing

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Have we forgotten: Isn't the object of education, learning?..
    Haven't we learnt that the carrot is more powerful than the stick?

    The best way to improve teaching is to encourage good teaching. Not continually critisise the poor.

    How much time is devoted to encouragement versus lambasting teachers?
    Just watch super nanny a few times. You'll get the idea. Deal with it, but get the ballance right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    If this was going on in France they would be out on the streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Gove should ensure that the whole system works, LA, Heads, Teachers and also put in place systems to remove and manage unruly students. All Gove is interested in doing is distancing Goverment responsibility and accountability. Heads take on increasing responsibilty for increasing amounts of money but have little accountabilty and it is more difficult to remove a Head.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Could this be part of a larger plan to stop having career teachers of 35 years or more service (with all of the pension liabilities)? Most new academies seem to be staffed by 25 year olds or younger who burn out after a couple of years. Students do deserve good teachers but everyone needs to learn on the job. Is it right to destroy an NQT just for one poor lesson observation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    If you are interested in improving the education system,the teachers should
    be given to teach only one subject that they have specialisation
    in and to teach only 2 different years. The quality of teaching goes down as you expect the teachers to teach KS3.KS4 and KS5.You also expect a teacher to teach Physics eventough your specialisation is in Biology.
    You also expect to be cover teacher

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Typical political nonsense. The solution to a problem is more law.
    This can be handled using present legislation. The problem is management failure. Heads are paid as lot of money to manage schools. Poor teachers can be removed by using the correct performance management techniques applied in most of UK industry.
    If Gove had said “I’m scrapping OFSTED” now that would be radical!

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    There are good teachers and there are poor teachers, this was the case when I was at school nearly 40 years ago and is still the case with my child now.

    The biggest problem in schools is politics as they lurch from one dictat to another. Yes performance may need to be improved but this is not the way to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Surely this criteria should apply to govt. ministers FIRST no?
    Until it does I consider them unfit for purpose with zero credence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    If we are bringing the teaching professional to the same level of rigour in terms of performance management I don't see a problem. I believe there is also a push to allow schools to have more power in disciplining disruptive pupils as well as being more strict with poor performers. I think together these policies make sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Teachers struggle because they are inexperienced and school management have failed to create significant support strucutures in terms of behaviour, training and mentoring. Interestingly a teacher would be expected to give a full terms notice before terminating a contract. I find it fascinating that this Government views those at the bottom of the heirarchy as the ones accountable for failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    I think unruly pupils and parents are as much to blame in many situations. It's all very well blaming the teacher, but if the pupil makes no attempt to learn and the teacher is not allowed to discipline them properly then what are they supposed to do?

    ++Good point. Make it easier for teachers to 'get rid' of recalcitrant pupils. Give them authority as well as responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    there are no delaying tatics that an employee can try, if a manager has applied the systems properly then there will be no way a person can avoid dismissal for failures. The problem comes from a head believing they have total power and unquestionable trust. they then act regardless of the right policy and procedure and cause a long winded situation and legal action

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    It depends how you define a poor teacher. Gove's plans are totally wrong because they are far too subjective. Putting someone on capability for just one 'inadequate' lesson is just bullying. There are some really dedicated teachers in 'failing' inner city schools. The job is hard enough already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    to whom this idea was created i see that any budding new teachers fresh with new learning techniques ,learning outlooks those that feel they can improve the system with new eyes have just promply changed career path and who can blame them

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I am not a teacher but surely a teachers biggest problem these days is the fact that everything hangs on how the children do but most children as far as I can see do not want to learn or try hard to make the teaching of them difficult. Somehow we have to get children to learn to behave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Take my hat off to anyone who works as or wants to be a teacher. I wouldn't do it and part of my job is Prison Mental Health!

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Are unions saying that children should tolerate under performing teachers just so that they can retain their jobs

    ++ It's life. Many children suffer from under-performing parents too. Besides, what's a performing or over-performing teacher? How is performance scored? Strikes me that most teachers unenviably have responsibility without authority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    There are far fewer failing teachers and head teachers than the spin would have you believe. However, when having to deal with a failing teacher the school is faced with a whole range of delaying tactics orchestrated by the professional bodies, Often it is better for the children to pay off rather than carry on. These new regs may well end this awful practice.


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