More than 3,000 teachers have faced incompetence proceedings in the past five years but few have been sacked, it was reported today.
Data obtained by the Times Educational Supplement (TES) reveals huge discrepancies in the approaches taken by local councils in dealing with school staff who are thought to be under-performing.
It is likely to raise fresh concerns that sub-standard staff are being allowed to remain in the classroom.
More than 3,200 teachers have been subject to investigation in the past five years, the TES found.
But of these just 273 were fired or accepted severance pay and left.
In 72 councils there are no records of any teachers being removed from their posts.
A further 550 resigned and 357 showed improvement after being subject to an investigation.
The outcomes for the rest are not clear.
The data, obtained from 123 councils in England through Freedom of Information requests, shows that some authorities began many more investigations than others.
West Sussex launched 385 cases in the past five years, and Oldham recorded 211.
In comparison, Somerset, Rotherham, Middlesbrough, Telford and Hampshire had just one case each.
Teachers also received more than £2.3 million in severance payouts and compromise agreements during the same five year period, the TES claimed.
Darlington had the highest figure, paying out £196,400, while Warrington, Suffolk, Cumbria, Cornwall, Manchester and Worcestershire each paid out more than £100,000, it said.
Local councils usually begin competency proceedings when regular attempts to improve teaching performance fail.
Serious cases of incompetence are expected to be reported to the General Teaching Council for England.
The GTCE, which investigates teacher misconduct, has struck off just 14 teachers for incompetence since 2001.
The Department for Education has announced plans to abolish the GTCE, and plans to overhaul rules on regulating teachers.
A DfE spokesman said: "The vast majority of teachers in our schools are highly competent professionals who are committed to providing a good education for our children.
"But where teachers do not meet the standards expected, it is important that headteachers have the freedoms they need to tackle underperformance."