Editorial - Call of the wild in hunt for unfit teachers

10th July 2009 at 01:00
Is licensing intended to trigger a cull of the much-detected Great Spotted Incompetent?

Education land is a wondrous place, filled with all manner of fabulous beasts. Take the Great Spotted Incompetent Teacher, whose numbers have reportedly soared from 15,000 to 24,000 in recent years and whose ability to foul the nest without vacating a perch has caused much excited chatter and consternation. Obviously, no one much cares for these pests, but eradicating them is proving difficult.

For a start, many in the union movement claim that their numbers have been grossly exaggerated, or that they are so rare that their existence verges on the mythical. In any case, they argue that they should be a protected species and shielded from a far more fearsome beast - the Rogue Head. These untranquillised monsters career around causing chaos whenever they are fed the wrong management course. Left untamed by procedural red tape and endless appeals, Rogue Heads are apt to use their own initiative, go on a rampage and fire people.

Most observers believe, however, that Incompetent Teachers exist in embarrassing profusion. Indeed, some speculate that their numbers rival those of the perennial irritant of the 1980s, the flamboyant Trendy Teacher, whose ranks were tragically depleted by Margaret Thatcher, the demise of Marxism and the widespread availability of male toiletries. These observers are also perturbed by a sly, cunning animal that they believe is far more damaging than Rogue Heads - the Move-the-Problem Head. These crafty creatures indulge in the distasteful practice of passing lemons, which apparently hurts other people far more than it hurts them. They nudge incompetent staff towards the exit, enticing them out with a decent reference, thereby making them someone else's problem.

The impressive camouflage of Incompetent Teachers combined with the timorous instincts of Move-the-Problem Heads has left the trophy room at the General Teaching Council rather bare. It boasts a mere 46 scalps collected over eight years - their bloodthirsty neighbours at the General Medical Council bag greater numbers of the deadly Struck-Off Doctor in a single year. The quarry has gone to ground and the hunters have lost their appetite for the chase. What is a Whitehall gamekeeper to do?

A cull is obviously the answer. Except the word "cull" tends to send animal lovers in the unions into hysteria bordering on industrial action. "Licence" is far less threatening. All teachers, good and bad, will have their professional competence assessed by applying for a teaching licence every five years. Those who fail will be invited to improve, hence the expression "leading lambs to improvement".

Of course, the gamekeepers may be culled by the electorate before they get a chance to start on the wildlife. No matter, their big game rivals come armed with alternative plans - something to do with extending the open season and fumigating hatcheries. Whoever triumphs, the British public should rest assured that the traditional sport of hunting the Incompetent Teacher will continue until the last is as dead as a Dodo or as stuffed as a Norwegian Blue.

Gerard Kelly, Editor; E: gerard.kelly@tes.co.uk.

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