Education Quandary: An incompetent teacher at our primary school is being 'encouraged' to move on. Why can't she just be sacked?

Hilary's advice

There are a lot of no-good teachers in schools – and that's all schools, independent as well as maintained. Most children come across at least a couple of them in the course of their school careers. But teaching is an art, standards vary between schools, and it is much harder than you think to benchmark competence and prove people are failing to achieve it. On top of that, the profession's disciplinary body, the General Teaching Council, is criticised by some of those it is meant to serve, and there are complaints that it takes forever to process cases referred to it.

But perhaps the real reason that it is so rare for teachers to be gotten rid of is that educational leaders are reluctant to pull the plug on someone's career – and, in the process, antagonise other staff in the school. They are happier coaxing and encouraging than wielding a big axe.

So, because of all these things, head teachers often choose to weasel their way out of a bad situation by easing people out of their jobs and sending them on their way – often with a glowing reference – to continue their poor work at another school.

Of course there needs to be a better system of dealing with incompetent teachers, catching them early and insisting they leave if they can't improve, but sadly it does not yet exist.

Readers' advice

At our school parents complained for years about one teacher.

The school moved her down from Year Five to Year Three, then said they were supporting her in the classroom, but everyone knew she was never going to be any good.

It dragged on and on, she got another job and moved. No one cared where she had gone. We were so glad to see the back of her. Encouraging your bad teacher to move on is not a good solution, but it is probably the best thing your school can do.

Jean Pavey, Kent

Heads don't get rid of bad teachers because they know there would not be enough teachers to go round if all of them left. Good teachers are leaving the profession in droves because of the endless bureaucratic box-ticking they have to do.

They hate the feeling that the Government is always peering over their shoulders. If schools were left alone to teach as they think best, teaching standards would rise overnight.

Barry O'Neil, London SE16

The reason your school does not get rid of a bad teacher is that there is no good way to do this unless they are involved in inappropriate relationships with pupils, child porn, or being drunk and disorderly in school.

We have no procedures worth anything when it comes to dealing with all teachers who are in the wrong job and should not be standing up in front of children every day.

Gill Hare, London W14

Next Week's Quandary

My children's school teaches reading by doing loads of phonics. My first two children did well and were quickly reading, but my third is struggling and not making progress. I thought phonics was supposed to be the best reading system for every child. Is there something else we can try?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

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