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Contracts to keep staff on their toes

OECD calls for more teacher appraisal and warns of decline in the profession's appeal. John Walshe reports

Teachers should have to renew their teaching certificates every five to seven years, according to a draft proposal from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In place of jobs for life, all teachers should be given ongoing contracts, renewed on the basis of an "attestation" that the teacher is still meeting agreed standards.

Teachers could be sacked or moved to other jobs in the school system if they do not improve, the report suggests. "Underpinning this proposal is the view that the interests of students will be better served where teachers achieve employment security by continuing to do a good job, rather than by regulation that effectively guarantees their employment."

The report adds that there would have to be fair and transparent methods of evaluating teachers, and that staff should have the chance to renew their practice.

However, OECD sources say the proposal is likely to be toned down before publication of the final report, Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers, due out in June.

The report argues that if teachers have jobs for life they may not all be motivated to keep improving their skills and practice. Tenured employment can make it difficult to adjust numbers when enrolments decline or curricula change.

OECD sources say the published version may suggest that informal and existing procedures can continue to be used to ensure continuity of employment.

The report also recommends speedy mechanisms for dealing with "ineffective teachers". It says they should be given the opportunity to improve, but if this does not happen, it should be possible to move them into other roles or out of the school system.

It suggests a number of ways of preventing poor teachers from entering and remaining in the profession. These include tougher initial teacher training as well as more rigorous approaches to selection and probation.

The satisfactory completion of a probationary period of one to two years'

teaching should be considered mandatory before full teaching certification or a permanent teaching post is awarded.

It also proposes a transparent system of teacher evaluation involving peers, school leaders and external experts who are themselves evaluated on a regular basis.

Teacher evaluation should provide clear and constructive feedback to staff on their performance, and identify strategies for development.

The report adds that the over-arching priority is for countries to have in place a clear and concise statement of what teachers are expected to know and be able to do. A clear statement of objectives for student learning is also necessary, it says.

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