Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

If the teaching unions are unhappy you know you’ve hit home

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Michael Gove, who is probably one of only two true Tories in Cabinet – the other being Iain Duncan Smith – announced last week he was going to make it easier to sack bad teachers. As Education Secretary, Mr Gove has persistently pushed ahead with the Government’s Free Schools policy, which sets schools free from Local Education Authority control and allows parents and teachers to set up and run a school. Under Labour, Academies were introduced: schools funded by central government but freed of LEA control. There is no real difference between an academy and a free school apart from parents and teachers can initiate the creation of a brand new school if they deem their local state school is not doing a good enough job.

Michael Gove showed his Tory credentials again on Friday by announcing he was going to make it easier for headteachers to get rid of incompetent teachers. Instead of it taking a year to sack a poor performing teacher, the disciplinary process will be streamlined so the teacher who is damaging our children’s future by every word they utter and every action they take can be shown the door within eight to nine weeks, the length of a school term.

Cue howls of protest from the teaching unions: “You’re bullying us”; “It’s unfair to the vast majority of ‘hard working’ teachers”; “The children will suffer”. I think they protest too much M’lud. Most right-minded people know a sizeable number of our schools are riddled with poor performing teachers whom headteachers can’t sack, so great is the power of the teaching unions.

For many who enter the profession, becoming a teacher has been seen as a job for life because, with the heavily-unionised schools and a disciplinary process which is not worth the candle, it has been almost impossible to sack a failing teacher once they get on the payroll. This is more of a State-controlled school problem because the academies and free schools can set their own Terms & Conditions for the teaching staff rather than follow the national State T&Cs –  i.e. they can actually say to their employee they must be able to effectively teach their subject and must control their class whilst doing so, or we will dismiss you. Sounds fair enough but this is why bad teachers kick up such a fuss when their school looks likely to convert into an academy. When you hear them bleating on about how the children will suffer should the change take place, remember they don’t actually care about the children but rather their own skin.

Michael Gove said in an interview for the Daily Mail:

“You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or a underperforming midwife at your child’s birth.
Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom? Teachers themselves know if there’s a colleague who can’t keep control or keep the interest of their class, it affects the whole school.
Children themselves know they are being cheated. Ultimately we owe it to our children. They are in school for 190 days a year. Every moment they spend learning is precious. If a year goes by and they are not being stretched and excited, that blights their life.
We have got to think of what’s in the children’s interests first.”

Even former prime minister Tony Blair in an interview in Friday’s Times newspaper said he should have done more to remove teachers who weren’t up to the job and admitted the quality of teaching was a concern throughout his premiership. But as with most difficult domestic issues during his time in office, Blair talked a good fight but could never bring himself to pull the trigger.

Only 18 teachers have been struck off for incompetence by the General Teaching Council in the last 40 years, which proves the point that preventing bad teachers from blighting the future of our children has been almost impossible. There are undoubtedly some very good teachers in our schools but they are being dreadfully let down by some of their colleagues. Let’s hope Michael Gove’s rhetoric turns into reality so we can prevent more British children being condemned to the scrap heap.


Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

One thought on “If the teaching unions are unhappy you know you’ve hit home

  1. Incompetent teachers? How about focussing on incompetent headteacher and middle management who has no idea of running an organisation? Who is incompetent? A teacher who delivers the grades but unpopular, or the ones who are celebrities but could only make a child produce a C grade? What about the social dichotomy of the issue? Those staff who spin webs that tangles them to management's pharaoic scratch-my-back-vice-versa style of management? The analogy of a surgeon used above does not quite fit. There is a stark difference in that, when you undergo operation, your trust and respect go hand in hand. With teachers it is different. Children have preferences and they are good at articulating it.Bully is on three levels, from children who has the right to express their preferences, of parents who believe malicious allegations their children narrate over family dinners, of management's knee-jerk response fearful of compromising the school's name. These are three forces against the teacher. Headteachers must upheld what is morally right. Values and acceptable behaviour are universal. If we do not inculcate in our young charges the above, we abysmally fail as educators. So, when do we start? Dissolve Ofsted! All these sugar coated new policies bear no difference to the old stale strategies shoved at teachers to swallow in years past.LEGISLATE FOR PUPILS TO REPEAT THE YEAR OR SUBJECT IF THEY DO NOT PASS END OF YEAR TESTS. This is done in other countries if their academic performance is not up to scratch, so why cant we? Focussing on teachers alone witll not solve the problem. Repeaters will then have a reason to do well for fear of being left out by their peers. Unless of course Children's Rights, statistical data and political correctness become the overarching agenda again.

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