'Shape up or ship out': but six in 10 governors say it's too hard to shift bad apples

15th July 2011 at 01:00

Six out of 10 school governors believe it is too difficult to sack failing heads and teachers, according to a new study.

A joint survey carried out by The TES and the National Governors' Association (NGA) revealed that governors are becoming increasingly frustrated with the complex and lengthy capability procedures.

Out of more than 900 governors who completed the survey, 59 per cent said they agreed or strongly agreed that it was too difficult to sack failing heads and teachers - up a third from the last TESNGA survey in 2009.

Just 13 per cent of governors who took part in the latest survey said they did not think it was too difficult for schools to remove underperforming employees.

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of education union the ATL, said this reflected the growth of a "shape up or shift out" policy in some schools, rather than helping teachers improve their performance.

NGA chief executive Emma Knights said: "Definitely the view has hardened. In just two years there has been a significant shift.

"Some of our members have complained it takes an incredibly long time if they want to get rid of someone on competence issues.

"There seems to be a caution among some school leaders to really grasp that nettle."

In the 2009 survey, just 44 per cent of respondents said it was too difficult to remove failing teaching staff.

In May, education secretary Michael Gove announced a consultation on teacher performance-management procedures, in order to free schools from "complex red tape".

"We must deal with this problem in order to protect the interests of children who suffer when struggling teachers are neither helped nor removed. Schools must be given the responsibility to deal with this fairly and quickly," he said.

But Mr Johnson said most cases of substandard teacher performance were "rarely cut and dried".

"Competency is a much more complex issue than that. A teacher may not be able to perform well in one setting, but could do well in a different setting," he said.

"There has been a sharp increase in the number of disputes in schools that (conciliation service) Acas is having to intervene in.

"This suggests the growth of a trend of some school leaders taking a harder line to managing, a `shape up or shift out' attitude.

"A teacher's positives and negatives should be discussed frankly in a professional dialogue.

Areas for improvements should be set out, and the resources made available to ensure these improvements are managed; capability is a sign of the failure of the management," Mr Johnson added.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "For far too long schools have been trapped in complex red tape when dealing with struggling teachers.

"That's why we are currently consulting on a new, simpler and faster system which will help schools deal with poor performance in a fair way."

Insight, pages 22-23


Governors' view

- 48 per cent of governors said their school had already altered its curriculum as a result of the introduction of the English Baccalaureate.

- 68 per cent of governors said they would need to reduce spending on school staff over the next two years due to financial constraints.

- Training should be mandatory for governors, according to 90 per cent of respondents.

- 42 per cent of respondents said they disagreed or strongly disagreed that the amount of bureaucracy had been reduced since the Coalition came to power.

- 51 per cent of governors do not think that more schools converting to academy status would drive up overall standards. Just 25 per cent thought this would improve the quality of education.

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