Give jaded teachers a dignified way out

27th January 2006 at 00:00
The headline "One million pupils in failing schools" (TES, January 13) should make us face up to the shocking truth that at least one cause of their failure is the high proportion of unacceptable teaching; the latter includes what Ofsted euphemistically calls "satisfactory", but which is still often pretty dull.

As a former HMI, now specialising in evaluating and supporting secondary schools in challenging circumstances, I have inspected several hundred lessons since last September and a very interesting pattern has emerged.

An analysis of lesson grades using the 4-point scale (1 being the highest), when linked to the age of staff showed that recently qualified teachers scored an average of 1.6 compared with the significantly lower 3.3 for those aged 50-60.

I am of non-recent vintage myself and fight against ageism and yes, exceptions did exist, but surely this finding comes as no surprise.

For several years now we have been celebrating the outstanding qualities of NQTs, most of whom are exceptionally talented, committed, energetic, computer-literate and, above all, love teaching and convey their passion and enjoyment to a generation of pupils they are in tune with.

By contrast, too many teachers nearing the end of their careers are, at best, battle weary and, at worst, downright cynical even when schools provide optimum conditions and support.

Central government's biggest mistake was to block the dignified exit route from the profession through the implementation of over-strict occupational health rules and the introduction of heavy financial penalties for early retirement.

The bureaucracy surrounding the removal of incompetent staff is a further obstacle; governors are reluctant to embark on such tortuous and uncertain procedure which means that many poor teachers are still in our schools.

Ironically and shamefully, we have large numbers of last year's trainees without permanent jobs who would happily fill the places of teachers who, in turn, would be pleased to leave their schools tomorrow.

The facilitation of such a process is not the only or major solution to the problem, but at least it would be a first step to alleviating the plight of the suffering million.

David Scott OFSOL Casares del Mar Marbella Spain

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