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.