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'Fear is good' says head of independent school


Heads should instil a “culture of fear” in their schools through the introduction of performance related pay for teachers, a conference was told on Tuesday.

“Poor teachers should be afraid - they should be very afraid,” said Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School - an independent boarding school in Rocester, Staffordshire.

He said performance management should introduce a “culture of fear” amongst poor teachers “which dominates their personal and professional lives”.

His comments provoked a furious reaction from teachers’ leaders Tuesday night with one claiming his comments were “appalling”.

Mr Fairclough was invited to address a national conference of heads and educationists in the wake of the Government’s decision to give all heads the power to determine their own teachers’ salaries - as a result of his own successful introduction of performance related pay.

He added that it was just not acceptable to have bad teachers “ruining the lives of children”.

“Fear is good,” he said. “Make them fear failure. Make them so scared if they don’t perform or if they don’t behave in a way you want them to, you’ll ask them to leave.

We don’t want poor performers in our schools or those that behave badly because they will detract from our school’s reputation.”

Mr Fairclough, whose school has been praised by inspectors for its inspiring leadership, said the introduction of performance related pay was “a mechanism for getting rid of bad teachers and keeping good ones in our great schools”.

It should not be about exam results but based “more on behaviour than results”. It should weed out those who are poor markers, poor teachers and “anyone who is being a pain or not being helpful to the school”. Schools should also consider linking pay to qualities like honesty, integrity and courage, he added.

He cited the example of a five per cent average pay rise for staff. “Outstanding teachers should get 10 per cent, bad teachers get nothing,” he said.

“To stop bad teachers, or almost all bad teachers, ruining the lives of children is my mission, is my passion.  And it’s hard to argue against, like any good theory,” he said.

However, he warned that it would be difficult to introduce such moves across the state sector unless there was a change of culture in schools - a “massive change in teachers’ ideals”.

At his school, the current pay scales have been abolished with the budget divvied up to decide what each individual member of staff could be paid based on “subjective and also objective appraisal”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said of his comments: “I think it is appalling that people feel they can stand on a public platform and make these sort of comments about working people .

“I just think it is appalling just to say you want to manage through a culture of fear.”

She added that the current accountability regime facing teachers and the management style of some heads had created a “climate of fear”, adding: “We have seen an enormous growth in stress related illnesses amongst our members and a growth in case work from intimidation and bullying.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Comments about creating a culture of fear show a distinct lack of understanding of what will work best to encourage all teachers to achieve their optimum for pupils and their school.

“Teachers need to be supported and encouraged to get on with their work, not terrified of a headteacher’s judgement.

“Performance related pay is about paying more teachers less, not so called good teachers more. Teaching is a collaborative profession which makes measuring teachers’ individual contributions next to impossible. Decisions will be unfair, subjective or even discriminatory.”