Heads to get tough on failing teachers

8th August 1997 at 01:00
Headteachers are to be asked to single out failing teachers to their governing bodies as part of the Government's campaign to raise standards.

David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary, has told the School Teachers' Review Body in its annual remit that he wants heads to take a tougher line in school management.

The move comes three weeks after ministers agreed a fast-track route to getting rid of poor teachers. Grossly incompetent staff could lose their jobs within four weeks.

In his letter to Tony Vineall, the review body's chairman, Mr Blunkett said: "We invite the STRB to consider strengthening the management role of headteachers by requiring them to report to the governors every year on whether they have evidence that any teacher's performance has fallen below an acceptable standard, so that appropriate action can be taken."

Jeff Holman, an official of the National Association of Head Teachers, viewed the idea with caution. He said heads would need to know the criteria for reporting staff.

The Government also wants the review body to consider changes to teachers' pay and conditions to help fulfil its plans to encourage more out-of-school activities. Lottery money is to be used to set up regular out-of-hours learning activities in half of all secondary schools and in a quarter of all primaries.

The review body has also been asked to create a new grade of "super teacher". Mr Blunkett said advanced skills teachers would help their colleagues by sharing their knowledge and expertise and acting as mentors to trainee and newly qualified teachers.

They could become associate fellows or professors in higher education institutions and support initial teacher training. They will also be expected to play a key role in education action zones.

The review body will be expected to decide the rate of pay and the numbers involved. The extra money will come from the overall teachers' pay bill. Mr Blunkett has already warned that the extra Pounds 1.3 billion for schools promised in the Chancellor's Budget must be used for schools and not for teachers' pay.

Reaction from the unions has been lukewarm. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said only a small number would benefit and this would cause differentials within the profession.

Jerry Bartlett, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "We support rewarding good teachers so that they stay in the classroom, but advanced skills teachers appear to be glorified wandering teacher advisers.

"Mr Blunkett must not expect the generality of teachers to welcome a scheme which sees most of them held back so that only a few get a good deal. It's a bit like him dangling the carrot of knighthoods for super heads. Classroom teachers would prefer the cash to a medal."

The Department for Education and Employment will submit its full recommendations to the review body in September, which will publish its pay and conditions report in February.

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