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Competence proceedings scrutinised

PUPIL complaints about poor teaching prompt three times as many disciplinary cases against incompetent teachers as inspections, according to new research.

Although several incidents could spark any one case, inspections by the Office for Standards in Education were a factor in only 15 per cent - well behind complaints by pupils (49 per cent of cases), parents (60 per cent), colleagues (66 per cent), and monitoring by heads (61 per cent).

The Teaching Competence Project at Exeter University examined 684 cases and interviewed heads, union officers, governors, council officials, parents, and 70 teachers who had gone through competence proceedings.

It found that teachers' chances of surviving proceedings were much higher if they admitted a problem with their teaching. Only a quarter stayed in their own school (a further one in five got teaching jobs elsewhere).

By coincidence, only a quarter accepted they were struggling. The rest rejected allegations of incompetence and and blamed conspiracies, bullying and victimisation, racial discrimination, clashes of philosophy, unjustified complaints by parents or incompetent heads.

The study, led by Professor Ted Wragg, who writes in detail about the findings in today's TES, found widespread unease about the new four-week fast-track process - although most heads felt proceedings at present took too long.

Two-thirds of cases took more than a year to complete. One in five took longer than three. Just over half the 650 heads surveyed believed the ideal length of time was six months or two terms but felt four weeks was too short.

The study also revealed the stress felt by teachers who went through the process and heads who carried it out.

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