Failing teachers will be sacked within a term

20th January 2012 at 00:00
The proposals will also allow heads to share details of disciplinary action

The Westminster Government has announced a major - and controversial - reform of how it tackles the problem of failing teachers.

Among the structural changes proposed, it will take a term instead of more than a year to sack weak teachers.

Ministers are also consulting on whether senior leaders should have to tell prospective employers, on request, whether a teacher is, or has been, subject to capability procedures.

It is hoped that these changes will stop teachers being "recycled" within the education system - a process known as "passing lemons".

Michael Gove, the Wesminster education secretary, has also confirmed that he will remove the three-hour limit on heads formally observing teachers, something he first mooted in 2009.

"These reforms will make it easier for schools to identify and address the training and professional development teachers need to fulfil their potential and to help their pupils to do the same," he said. "For far too long, schools have been tangled up in complex red tape when dealing with teachers who are struggling. That is why these reforms focus on giving schools the responsibility to deal with this issue fairly and quickly.

"Schools need to be able to dismiss more quickly those teachers who, despite best efforts, do not perform to the expected standard. Future employers also need to know more about the strengths and weaknesses of teachers they are potentially employing."

The current 16 pages of regulations and 52 pages of guidance on performance management and capability proceedings will be replaced with new, streamlined regulations and a 13-page "model" policy that covers both appraisal and capability issues.

The new arrangements are due to come into effect from September 2012.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the new system had "clarity".

"We have long argued that the process needed to be streamlined. When the process starts, teachers should be provided with the support they need to be successful and then proceedings should move on swiftly," he said. "The previous system was too drawn out. Children get only one chance and problems need to be resolved, hopefully by the teacher improving their performance."

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union ATL, said increases in lesson observation did not help to improve teacher performance.

"It's important to remember why that limit is in place. You need good observations with focus and outcomes. At the moment, teachers have masses of informal observations with very little feedback," she said. "It puts them under enormous stress and has no effect on their performance. Less is more. You need a carefully focused observation where people can talk in depth and detail and set action plans."

Dr Bousted added that teachers needed time to improve during capability proceedings or the process would become a "vindictive exercise".

The Department for Education had previously consulted on plans to require schools to pass copies of teachers' annual appraisal reports to prospective employers. These have now been scrapped after a negative reaction from unions and others.

The new consultation will ask what information about disciplinary hearings should be shared.

"We now have a straightforward approach. This information is something employers genuinely need to know," Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said. "The next thing to do is to think about whether there should be a time limit - if someone has come out of capability and succeeded, is it right to include that information?"

Making a difference

Sutton Trust researchers found that there is a strong link between "effective" teaching and pupil performance.

A study from the charity last year said that, during one year with a very effective maths teacher, pupils gain 40 per cent more in their learning than they would with a poorly-performing maths teacher.

The impact on children from disadvantaged backgrounds is even more significant. Over a school year, these pupils gain 1.5 years' worth of learning with highly effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years when they have poorly performing teachers.

Researchers said that bringing the lowest-performing 10 per cent of teachers in the UK up to the average would greatly boost attainment.

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