Tories serve notice on poor teachers

Gove pledges new powers for heads to monitor and dismiss their staff

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Saturday 09 January 2010 01:00

The tories have promised to crack down on weak and incompetent teachers if they win the next election.

Sweeping new powers to allow headteachers to carry out more random checks on teachers' performance in the classroom were pledged by the shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove, yesterday.

In addition, he said the Conservatives would be urging Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, to spend more time observing teaching standards in inspections.

He made the promise at a conference in York yesterday in response to demands from a senior head. Tracey Ralph, a headteacher from York who has turned round three failing schools, called for swifter action to "eliminate" weak teachers and remove them from schools.

At present, regulations governing teachers' annual assessments put a three-hour limit on the amount of time that can be spent on a formal assessment of teachers every year.

"I don't think there should be any limit," Mr Gove told the North of England education conference. "There shouldn't be any arbitrary restriction.

"Headteachers and their senior management team should be able to observe what's going on in the classroom as and when they want to and work with teachers to raise standards.

"We would also like to have much more observation of teaching quality in school inspections. They tend to concentrate too much on data and not enough on observation."

Questioning Mr Gove, Mrs Ralph said swifter measures were needed to remove weak and ineffectual teachers from the classroom.

At present, it can take months to go through the necessary procedures – with heads having to draw up a list of teachers' faults and give them time to improve before they can sack them.

"I feel personally that in industry they have far better measures for moving on or sacking people who aren't performing in the private sector," she said. "They're quick and efficient.

"You have to think about the children. Why should they have to put up with ineffective teaching for so long?"

Mr Gove told her: "I feel your pain." He promised to consider any measures heads came up with to improve procedures in any future Tory legislation.

Figures show that – in its first nine years – the General Teaching Council dismissed only 12 teachers for incompetence despite estimates that the number of weak teachers in the profession could be as high as 24,000.

Mr Gove's comments were welcomed last night by John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

"It is in the interest of neither pupils nor teachers themselves if an incompetent teacher is allowed to continue in post or to move to another," he said.

"Heads need clear and rapid capability procedures and support from local authorities in putting them into action and this does not currently happen in all parts of the country."

However, Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "I would strongly caution Michael Gove from being seduced by the fallacious argument of a tiny number of headteachers who are lobbying for no restrictions on sacking teachers.

"The Tories would do well to resist going down a path which would in effect license and endorse management bullying in schools."

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