HUNDREDS of teachers have been sacked and thousands warned about the standard of their work in the past year, according to figures collected for the first time by local authorities.
Schools and local authorities are taking a tougher line with bad teachers, the survey by the National Employers' Organisation for School Teachers suggests.
However, only 30 staff have been got rid of under the new fast-track system for sacking teachers who are so bad that they are jeopardising children's education.
More than 3,000 teachers were warned that the standard of their work was to be investigated. A total of 600 were sacked, retired or redeployed. Another 400 cases have yet to be resolved.
More than half of the cases were dealt with informally and it is not known how many of those 1,800 eventually left teaching.
Until now, information on sackings in schools has not been collected, but the figures are likely to re-open controversy about the number of incompetent teachers.
According to Graham Lane, chair of the employers' organisation, the survey suggests that more than 4,000 teachers might lose their jobs as a result of schools making greater use of the "capability review" - monitoring staff judged not to be up to scratch.
"Up to 1 per cent of teachers could face dismissal in the next couple of years, but that is far less than the 15,000 incompetent teachers talked about by chief inspector Chris Woodhead," he said.
The figures produced by the Office for Standards in Education in its last annual report are based on the number of teachers who consistently teach lessons graded from unsatisfactory to poor.
Mr Lane believes the number of incompetent staff will decline because the Government is now requiring teachers to complete a successful probationary year.
Nearly all schools have adopted the capability procedures for dealing with poor teachers, according to the employers.
Monitored staff have to improve within 12 months or face dismissal. Under the fast track, introduced last September, teachers who are putting children's education at risk can be sacked in four weeks.
The teacher unions interpret the survey as finally setting out the scale of the problem. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, says: "This blows out of the water Mr Woodhead's figures. We have had a whole year of the new fast track and there has been no huge leap in the numbers sacked."
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says the survey reflects the determination of heads to root out incompetence.
"It also demonstrates that while you can fire teachers, all employees deserve to be treated with justice and fairness."
Local authorities stress the aim of the capability procedures is to identify and help struggling teachers early on. The survey shows that of the 1,200 teachers who faced formal procedures, 200 were recorded as improving.
The survey covered 116 out of 172 local education authorities in England and Wales.