8-week ejection plan is fast route to injustice

22nd April 2011 at 01:00

As a teacher of 32 years' experience, and as a governor for the last six years, I read your 8 April front page story ("Make firing easier: teachers' verdict on underperformers") and editorial with a mixture of scepticism and concern.

It may be down to the way the question was phrased, but if the responses genuinely reflect the feelings of all teachers they ought to be careful what they wish for.

While it is fair to say that most senior managers I have worked with have been decent and reasonable people, I certainly can think of some who were not.

My involvement in my local union association and my attendance of last year's NUT conference informs me of increasing numbers of capability and disciplinary procedures, and a significant number of these seem to be a consequence of a vindictive and overbearing management style.

I have come across a few colleagues in my career whose incompetence or unsuitability qualified them for being eased out of the profession, but they could be counted on one hand.

I would judge that the teachers with whom I have worked, and those in the school of which I am a governor, overwhelmingly display the highest levels of professionalism and commitment.

Of course, unlike some who feel that they can speak for the whole of education on the basis of their experience in a few schools, I recognise that my experience may not be representative.

The worry for me is that heads already have plenty of scope for making life difficult for individual teachers if they are minded to, and the suggested "fast-track" capability will enhance this. The eight-week turnaround from initiation of procedures to dispatching those considered "incapable" is a completely inadequate period in which to ensure there has not been an injustice.

I note Gerard Kelly's enthusiastic support for the idea in his editorial, and would question that the initiation of capability proceedings always "represents the exhaustion of support".

Many, as I do, will look to the future in education with some trepidation. We face more schools becoming academies, leading to nationally recognised pay and conditions being undermined, the ability of the unions to represent and protect their members being greatly reduced, a cowed and submissive teaching workforce, and contributing to this the fast-track dismissal process suggested.

On the other hand, I am sure Mr Gove would find all of this most satisfactory.

Nigel A May, Waltham Abbey, Essex.

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