Mick Brookes: Incompetent staff work the system. Sacking them is hard

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When I was a headteacher, on several occasions new staff arrived at the school with glowing testaments only for us to discover before long that there were some errors of judgement in writing the references.

A headteacher needs a sense of moral purpose in tackling poor teachers. Challenging them carries great difficulties. In some cases, the person you tackle will go off sick. I can understand that – they will be under stress – but it means you can't deal with the problem immediately. Or the teacher could take out a grievance procedure against you for bullying or harassment, and that has to be heard by governors before you can proceed.

What's more, the statistics of only 18 bad teachers banned from the classroom in 40 years don't tell the whole story. There is also an element of self-selection in weeding out bad teachers. Something like 20 to 30 per cent of newly qualified teachers leave teaching by the end of their third year.

Many will be struggling. After all, is there anything worse than having to go back into a classroom and being ripped to shreds by pupils every day? Many of them will resign rather than face that.

There is a danger, though, with axing the General Teaching Council for England – as proposed by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove – that you're throwing the baby out with the bath water.You do need some kind of independent regulatory body that can monitor the profession, along the lines of the General Medical Council for doctors.

Mick Brookes is a former headteacher and the current general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers

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