Easter looks set to be sacking season

The first incompetent teachers to lose their jobs under planned new fast-track sacking procedures could be gone by next Easter.

Graham Lane, chair of the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers, said he intends to deliver a six-month dismissal procedure to ministers next month. He believes this could affect approximately 2,000 teachers.

At present, he said, such dismissals regularly take between 18 months and three years.

A working party set up by ACAS, the arbitration service, including representatives of the employers, local education authorities, churches, unions and governors has been asked by the employers' organisation to look at ways procedures can be speedier but still fair.

It must report to Stephen Byers, school standards minister, by October 7 because the new measures may require legislation and would have to be drafted into this autumn's Education Bill.

Mr Lane accused the National Union of Teachers of delaying tactics, but said the headteacher unions and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers were co-operating.

"I am not going to be railroaded by the unions," he said. "The new procedures will be on the minister's desk in time for the deadline."

He believes the changes could be brought about by secondary legislation. Governing bodies would be issued with a circular and could have their budgets removed if they do not follow the procedures.

If primary legislation is required this would put back the implementation considerably.

The aim is to frame a new offence:gross incompetence.

But despite his confident mood, Mr Lane admitted he was no nearer to finding an acceptable definition.

Kay Jenkins, the NUT's representative on the working party, said: "We are very serious about participating, but we are concerned that the three-week timetable to decide a very important change to teachers' employment conditions is not enough.

"We want to be able to concentrate on preventive measures, such as professional support and in-service training. We also want to make sure the assessment of a teacher's performance is fairly made."

Mr Lane said the next stage would be to work out another set of procedures whereby local education authorities can be involved in dismissing poorly performing headteachers. The headteacher unions are less keen on this development.

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