More support for the weakest links
Stephen Hillier, director of the Department for Education and Skills workforce unit, has revealed that one of the department's main aims for 20045 will be to see that weak teachers and struggling departments receive better support.
He said that schools and the Government had to be able to talk more openly about weak teachers, whether their failings were in dealing with bad behaviour in the classroom, poor subject knowledge or simply a lack of charisma.
Electronic systems such as the Pupil Achievement Tracker have made it increasingly easy for schools to calculate which departments and individual teachers are performing worse than others with similar pupils.
Mr Hillier told The TES that schools needed to look more closely at whether weaker teachers could be given mentoring or training to help them improve.
But care was needed to ensure that these teachers did not feel their jobs were under threat.
"This is not about capability procedures," he said. "Of course, those procedures have their place, but there are always teachers who have areas which need development.
"If you have a weak teacher, it could be weak subject knowledge, in which case they need training to improve their subject knowledge," he said. "Or it may be they have problems with behaviour management, or a lack of charisma."
Mr Hillier said schools continued to need capability procedures for staff who "can't or won't make the grade", but stressed that they should only be a last resort.
His comments to a fringe meeting at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference in Llandudno come almost a decade after Chris Woodhead, then chief schools inspector, announced that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers.
Mr Woodhead told The TES this week that he felt it was a shame that inspections were now placing a greater emphasis on self-evaluation because it meant it was impossible to judge if the number of incompetent staff had dropped or risen.