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IN our inspection a year ago we had some frank comments (for the second time) on the very poor teaching quality by two members of staff. There isn't a parent in the community who doesn't know who they are, and in a one-form entry primary this means every child has to have two years' poor experience, which I know is serious.

Everything possible is being done to counsel, support and develop these teachers but so far there has been little improvement. We have had a stable staff for years and I suspect those concerned have become inflexible.

I have a sinking feeling that we shall soon have to decide whether to begin competency

procedures. But given the recruitment crisis, what hope for replacements? Isn't it better to have less-than-perfect teachers than none, or even worse ones?

I could just say "No, it isn't better." In a situation as bad as you foresee the influence of the staff concerned spreads far beyond the classes they teach and puts the quality of muc that goes on in the school in peril.

But aren't you jumping rather a lot of fences? I take it no formal procedures have been initiated, and I am all for giving teachers every reasonable opportunity for support and self-improvement. If this brings no joy, your local education authority will help you through the process, and a small committee of your governors will, I'm sure, conduct it with the utmost discretion and fairness. At least the staff concerned will know that it's real this time and will be given precise targets and deadlines for improvement.

As for replacements, it sounds as though your school might benefit from a shake-up, and in such a pleasant situation you should get good candidates if it turns out to be necessary.

It is true that there are recruitment problems in some locations, but it is certainly not as dire as you suggest.

What you must not do is to entertain for a moment the thought that poor teachers are better than nothing.

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