EIS warning shot at'gung-ho' directors

"Gung-ho" directors of education are jumping at the prospect of "fast and easy" hiring and firing of teachers, Ronnie Smith, the Educational Institute of Scotland's general secretary, says.

Mr Smith alleges directors will undermine teachers' professional confidence and status in their eagerness to back Government plans to remove incompetent teachers. Early responses give "little confidence that councils will use reasonably the powers which the Government is proposing for them", he says.

The EIS supports better ways of removing the small number of teachers who are unsuited to their career but wants national guidelines and a role for the General Teaching Council in ensuring "a fair and reasonable mechanism". Councils have dismissed any extended GTC influence but the union argues it should deal with all cases of alleged professional incompetence.

Mr Smith maintains: "Schools and local authorities would both have a role in preparing reports for submission to the GTC. It puts right the balance which the Government has got wrong. It does not remove the role of local authorities but does take from them the right to fire a teacher under the pretext of incompetence. Some councils are already interpreting Government intentions as a carte blanche to fire at will."

Mr Smith said the GTC approach guaranteed a teacher's case could be properly heard and a right of appeal protected. "It is a matter of natural justice. " The union criticises the Government for "a wholly disproportionate focus" on incompetence and calls for action on staff training and professional development. Cuts had reduced the amount available for training.

Councils had a duty to support teachers facing difficulties, which are often short-term and personal. "Teachers, as anyone else in these circumstances, deserve advice and support, not heavy-handed threats of disciplinary action and an enhanced likelihood of dismissal," Mr Smith said.

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