Editor's comment

9th July 2010 at 01:00
Can I Sack Teacher?, this week's BBC Panorama programme on incompetent teachers (p3), must rank as one of the most misleading and threadbare documentaries ever made. Yet, even though it is easy to ridicule, it matters.

It matters because there are real questions over capability and incompetence that can easily be dismissed in a silly programme - and should not be. It matters also because some Panorama viewers would have gone to bed on Monday believing that children were failing because teachers cared more about their own than they did about their pupils.

It would take skin as thick as a rhino and scant regard for one's own mental health to hang around in teaching when you were not just bad, but incompetent. Even if a teacher slipped by school managers, pupils are unlikely to hide their contempt for a teacher who has not earned their respect. Teachers themselves are among the fiercest critics of incompetent colleagues who make their lives difficult and let their pupils down.

The programme clearly had an agenda, based on the hoary old guesstimate by Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools in England, that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers in the UK, "ruining lives", as Panorama even-handedly put it. When the programme-makers attempted to get evidence, surveying 3,000 headteachers in England and receiving fewer than 40 replies, they were only too ready to believe that this represented a "conspiracy of silence protecting poor teachers". The case of the Scottish parents appalled by the sub-standard supply teacher in their child's school hardly constitutes compelling proof.

This was an alarmist programme which purported to deal with what is undoubtedly a real issue, but descended into tendentious assertions from "evidence" largely provided by Chris Woodhead and a handful of parents. It was not the BBC's finest hour.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now