Mystery of 'incompetent' thousands

14th June 1996 at 01:00
Let us try to be practical as far as teacher recruitment is concerned. Any potential recruit must be more than a little confused.

First, we were told that the job is so easy, anybody can do it (the "Mum's Army" argument). Now we are told there has to be increasing rigour, as 15,000 of the people who are doing this oh-so-easy job are incompetent and should be sacked forthwith.

Teachers are constantly blamed for every ill in society, with the possible exception of BSE. The job is so poorly thought of that not only are the best brains avoiding it when there are much better prospects elsewhere, but we are now facing a shortage of new entrants. Let us look more carefully at the calibre of entrants and of initial teacher training when newly-qualified people are not up to teaching the basic literacy skills.

Chris Woodhead seems to believe that it is "perfectly possible to get rid of these staff", it is just that "someone" lacks the will (TES, May 31). Perhaps the chief inspector would be kind enough tell us where we will get well-qualified, well-trained, committed, enthusiastic and reflective practitioners when we have sacked the 15,000.

I assume most of these incompetent teachers work in inner-city schools, as that is where most of the low standards are. Will we find ourselves having to recruit whoever is willing to work in the most difficult circumstances for no thanks and little professional esteem?

The comment made in the leading article (TES, May 31) - "The answer . . . is one the Government should understand; that of the market" - is one that applies to all in the profession. In order to attract the best people to come into teaching and stay in the job, it has to be made a much more attractive proposition.

While people who simply denigrate the profession hold centre stage, putting nothing of positive value back, it will remain a job that is seen as third best by those looking for a profession with integrity and a future.

DENNIS JORDAN (Headteacher, south-east London) 10 Vernham Road Plumstead London SE18

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