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Poorest teachers to be rooted out by inspectors

Head teachers will be given the names of incompetent staff by schools inspectors under a new code of conduct published yesterday. But very good teachers will be picked out for commendation, and there are plans to grade teachers on a seven-point scale.

Although the identification of weak teachers will not automatically lead to sackings, the chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, said he did not believe they should be in the profession.

Figures published by Ofsted, the school inspection body, suggested that 15,000 of Britain's 400,000 teachers were seriously underperforming. Plans to identify them were unveiled by John Major in a speech to head teachers last autumn.

Under the new code for inspectors, all teachers given grades six or seven on a seven-point scale will be reported to the head. Those achieving grades one or two will also be mentioned as having performed particularly well. Inspectors used to judge each school department but did not pass on the grades of individual teachers.

Mr Woodhead said the criteria used to identify poor teachers were "pretty damning", though the inspectors' report on its own would not be sufficient to justify dismissal.

"On the evidence of the inspection this is not a satisfactory professional performance. I would be deeply unhappy as a parent, let alone as chief inspector, if my child were to be exposed to such teaching," he said.

A teacher given grade six or seven would give badly planned lessons with little purpose or discipline, in which expectations were low and in which pupils learnt little, Mr Woodhead said. In some cases the teacher might not even have the appropriate knowledge or skills.

Conversely a good teacher, graded one or two, would have a sound subject knowledge, high expectations, good classroom discipline and effective planning. He or she would use homework to reinforce what had been learned in lessons.

Mr Woodhead said that very poor teachers should be given six or nine months to improve. If inspectors returned to the school to find them still underperforming, the head's judgement would be called into question, he said.

There was little chance that the best teachers would be rewarded with a pay rise, as few schools had embraced the idea of performance-related pay.

Few head teachers welcomed the move. John Dunford, head of Durham Johnston School in Co Durham and president of the Secondary Heads' Association, said it might actually prevent some bad teachers from being sacked.

"It is perfectly possible for them to escape the inspectors' notice and then to use that as a reason why they should not be subject to competence procedures. This is a thoroughly bad measure," he said.

Michael Russell, head of Malmesbury Junior School in Tower Hamlets, east London, said heads should already know how teachers were performing.

Mr Russell has taken informal competence proceedings twice against members of his own staff. However, both left for other jobs. "If Ofsted came to me and said a teacher was performing at grade six or seven I would already know," he said.

Labour has already put forward similar proposals which would allow inspectors to report on weak teachers.