UP TO 1,000 teachers could be sacked under proposals to root out classroom incompetency. Another 5,000 are said to be burnt out and having an equally damaging effect on pupils.
Ministers estimate 1-2 per cent of Scotland's 50,000 teachers are not up to the job but some headteachers and local authority chiefs believe the figure could be higher.
Addressing secondary heads in Crieff last week (page six), Bob McKay, director of education in Perth and Kinross and a key adviser to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, admitted there had been a "30-year collective cover-up" on attainment.
He warned: "Let's not kid ourselves. For years we have been covering up for bad teachers and the notion that we have only got
2 per cent who are not fully competent may just be a low level of expectation."
Mr McKay, who helped draft Cosla's Millennium Review reforms, added: "There are also many people who are extremely tired, burnt out and really finding it difficult to carry on. That is different from incompetence but it has the same impact on the kids."
The figure of 1,000 emerged following the surprise announcement last week by Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, that Acas, the arbitration service, is to be hauled in to help draw up standards of competency.
Acas will also investigate the new for new disciplinary procedures for teachers who do not shape up and spell out action on grievances and complaints.
Mr Galbraith told the secondary heads: "Schools cannot afford to carry anyone who cannot perform to full professional standards. The needs of our children cannot be sacrificed on the altar of the limited underperformance that goes on."
Mr McKay commented: "If we remove those who are incompetent and replace them with those who are, collectively we will raise performance. If you are a teacher who follows a class that was incompetently taught, you pay a price."
Authorities and schools did not know precisely how many incompetent teachers there were without matching abilities against agreed levels of competency. The new standards would allow schools to test assertions. Mr McKay believed there would be sliding scales of competency.
But he said the greater issue was the need for an early retirement scheme to replace the "tired, demoralised and stressed" who had once done a good job. It was important the McCrone inquiry into pay and conditions backed such a package.
Donald Matheson, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said staff incompetency had been a long-standing concern of the association, which welcomed the minister's proposals.
"There is no way we can escape our responsibility. We have got to be able to recognise incompetency and deal with it to protect children and other members of staff," Mr Matheson said.
Privately, many heads agree that in every secondary between three and five teachers are not up to the job and should be removed.
Teaching is no different from other professions, Ivor Sutherland, registrar of the General Teaching Council, said.
"There will be a small group who are in the wrong niche. Usually, it's a control or class management problem.
"It's not good for them, certainly not good for the children they teach and schools cannot afford to carry passengers."