Union threatens strike vote as poor teachers given final warning

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The Independent Online
An education authority yesterday threatened at least nine teachers with the sack if they do not improve their performance by Christmas. Labour- controlled Croydon disclosed its action against teachers at Ingram High School, one of the failing schools named by the Government last month.

The National Union of Teachers accused the council of tearing up procedures and warned that it would ballot members in the borough on industrial action if the authority did not follow them. Ministers are consulting local authorities and teaching unions about how to speed up dismissal of incompetent teachers, which may take as long as 18 months.

The Department for Education and Employment said Croydon's action was "wholly appropriate". A spokesman said: "Unacceptable performance by teachers cannot be accepted. Children only have one chance of a decent education and that cannot be put at risk."

Hugh Malyan, Croydon's education chairman, said that they had taken robust action in the interests of the children.

Inspectors said the school was failing two years ago. They returned in February and said the quality of teaching was still unsatisfactory in 50 per cent of lessons.

Mr Malyan said two teachers had been moved to other schools and competence procedures against nine more would be accelerated.

They would be interviewed next week and told they would be monitored and supported throughout next term. If 90 per cent of their lessons were not satisfactory or better by Christmas they would be dismissed.

An NUT spokeswoman said: "There is an existing agreement on how incompetence procedures should be carried out. The authority has unilaterally reneged on it. This isn't a question of individual teachers. It affects every teacher throughout Croydon." The union has declared a dispute with the authority. If it failed to reach agreement there would be an "indicative" ballot on action.

Mr Malyan said: "We believe we are following these procedures to the letter. They include a clause which talks about reducing the time-scale of the procedures if circumstances warrant it. We have to balance the fair needs of the teachers concerned against the needs of the children."

Local authorities have told Stephen Byers, school standards minister, that proceedings against incompetent teachers should take no more than two terms and those found to be grossly incompetent should be dismissed within a month.