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The school governor - Roar emotion v weasel words

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, recently caused a stir by sympathising with headteachers who had difficulty dismissing staff. But no dismissal of a teacher can happen without governor involvement, so what is the procedure?

Certainly it's true that heads cannot play the angry lion and dismiss someone on their personal initiative. There are two causes for dismissal, for both of which procedures must be established by governing bodies. The one that probably concerned Ms Gilbert is dismissal on grounds of incompetence.

A teacher who is thought deficient should have their situation discussed with their line manager, their weaknesses detailed and an action plan agreed. This could involve training, or mentoring by a senior colleague. The guiding principle is fairness - both to the individual concerned and the children they teach, who deserve good quality education.

Only if the teacher has failed to improve over a reasonable period and been given warnings should the head dismiss them. Governors only become involved at this point: it is important they aren't informed earlier because the teacher has the right to appeal to a panel of governors, who must not be prejudiced. If a teacher does appeal, governors should consider whether the school has followed set procedures.

The second grounds for dismissal are much quicker. They are for gross misconduct, such as theft or child abuse. Usually the individual is suspended while an investigation takes place.

What sometimes happens with incompetent teachers is that a broad hint is given that they are not up to scratch and a good reference promised if they apply for other jobs. This just passes the buck and does the teacher no favours. Far from acting the angry lion, it is playing the part of the weedy weasel.

Stephen Adamson, Vice-chair of the National Governors' Association.

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