RIDDING THE SYSTEM OF POOR TEACHERS
Gove begins to tackle long standing problem
The Department for Education, on 24 May, announced plans for significant reductions in the bureaucracy that controls how schools manage teacher performance and deal with poorly performing teachers. So the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is now consulting on rules that will make it far easier to fire bad teachers. The intention is to introduce simpler performance management regulations, which set a few basic requirements, remove many restrictions (including the so-called “three hour observation rule”), and leave other decisions to schools; introduce an optional new model policy for schools that deals with both performance and capability/disciplinary issues; allow poorly performing teachers to be removed in about a term, a process that now often takes a year or more; clarify that staff illness need not bring disciplinary processes to a halt; scrap about 60 pages of unnecessary guidance. What has happened until now is that poor teachers are rarely sacked, simply recycled around the system with the collusion of (some) Heads, Unions and Local authorities. The GTC was criticised for failing to get rid of poor teachers but complained, and with some justification, that it could only act if teachers were referred to it. This was simply not happening. Heads have been known to give poor teachers excellent references simply to ease their passage to another school. This is unacceptable particularly given the evidence we now have on the effects of poor teaching on outcomes. The Gove proposals give heads much more control and enable them to get rid of a poor teacher in a term; at the moment it takes at least a year and is a bureaucratic minefield which is why so many schools shy away from taking action against those who aren’t up to the job. Currently too many schools don’t even identify struggling teachers let alone support them. Performance management, if used effectively and correctly, can identify areas of under- performance relatively early. Good quality personalised support and Continuing Professional Development (again it must be high quality) can make a real difference, as Professor Dylan Wiliam has shown. Weak teachers should be identified, and given support to improve, but if they fail to improve they should be sacked. The system should self-evidently be driven by learners not producers perceived interests.