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Panorama slams 'incompetent' staff

Teaching unions have reacted angrily to a documentary claiming that there are thousands of unsackable and incompetent teachers in Britain's schools.

Teaching unions have reacted angrily to a documentary claiming that there are thousands of unsackable and incompetent teachers in Britain's schools.

A BBC Panorama programme claimed this week that the country was failing to face up to the problem of around 15,000 teachers who could be "ruining" children's lives.

It alleged that headteachers were too afraid to admit they had a problem with poor staff, and that competency proceedings were too complex to have teachers sacked.

The General Teaching Councils in the UK were also failing to strike off underperforming staff, it said. The programme produced figures revealing that only 18 teachers have been barred from schools for incompetence in Britain in the past 40 years, including two in Scotland.

The figure of 15,000 is based on a guesstimate which dates from the period when Chris Woodhead was the chief inspector of schools in England from 1994-2000. He suggested it was "realistic" to assume that 3 per cent of Britain's 500,000 teachers were not fit to do their job.

The Teacher Support Network, which runs a hotline for teachers facing problems, has said weak teachers should not be attacked, but supported to do a better job.

A spokesperson for the Educational Institute of Scotland said there were procedures for dealing with incompetent teachers. "If headteachers are saying there are a certain number of such teachers in their schools, it is up to them to do something about it."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said there were now "few places to hide" poor performance.

She said the figure of 15,000 incompetent teachers was "dubious".

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said claims of thousands of incompetent teachers were "unfounded and irresponsible".

Leader, page 22

Neil Munro neil.munro@tes.co.uk.

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