'Mediocre teachers must not be tolerated', says Scottish education boss

23rd February 2016 at 17:30
Councils should ask: would I want that teacher educating my child
Council officials tell MSPs that protection for teacher numbers should be lifted, as headteachers need a 'blended workforce'

Zero tolerance of mediocre teachers and headteachers is the key to driving up standards in schools, an education chief today told MSPs.

The key to successful schools is good quality leadership and good quality learning and teaching, said Ian Robertson, Glasgow’s assistant director of education.

“Those schools not performing as well as they should be by any measure need to be challenged to improve," he added. “My test is always one as a parent: would I want that teacher there educating my child? If not they should not be there.”

Mr Robertson made his comments to the Scottish parliament’s education committee. The committee was taking evidence from councils on school spending and the attainment gap.

The MSPs heard that it was becoming increasingly difficult for local government to protect education in the face of swingeing budget cuts.

Councils have just signed up to a settlement from the Scottish government that they say will see them £350 million worse off in the coming financial year.

Teacher numbers were protected but the cuts would have “a real impact” in other areas, including instrumental music tuition and support staff, said council officials and leaders.

Thousands face losing their jobs

Thousands of non-teaching staff face losing their jobs, said council umbrella body Cosla.

The cuts meant teachers would increasingly be burdened by administrative tasks, and would end up standing at the photocopier, not in the classroom, warned Malcolm Cunning, chair of Glasgow’s children and families committee.

Councils called for the protection on teacher numbers to be lifted, claiming most headteachers would prefer a “blended workforce”.

Mr Robertson continued: “Teachers are about 50 per cent [of the education service]; it’s more than teachers that make an impact and make a difference. And if you asked headteachers, ‘Would you resolutely protect teachers at all costs?’ the vast majority would say no.”

Primary heads would prefer more support staff able to work one-on-one with pupils, and secondary heads were being forced to put teachers into roles that would be done better – and for less – by someone from a different background, he added.

Mr Robertson said: “Teachers are going to be absolutely critical to closing the [attainment] gap but there needs to be more focus on that blended workforce.”

Responding to the comments from councils, education secretary Angela Constance said that she could not see how cutting teacher numbers would help close the attainment gap.

She said: “I quite simply fail to see how cutting the number of high quality teachers in our schools would help us at this time when we are galvanising our efforts to tackle the attainment gap.”

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