What keeps me awake at night - Why should failing teachers get a free ride?

3rd May 2013 at 01:00

Even when we know that a teacher is failing their students, we keep quiet and say nothing. Because reporting that teacher would break a universal, yet unspoken, code of ethics: you don't speak out against your own.

It's a source of constant frustration for me that I know of at least three teachers in my high-achieving 11-18 school who are not pulling their weight. Yet there is nothing I can do about it. While the rest of us strive to improve our teaching, putting in extra hours and seeking out extra opportunities, these teachers do the bare minimum. They do little planning, show little creativity and demonstrate little care for their students. The children suffer and the rest of the teachers pick up the slack. It seems that it is very easy for bad teachers to hide in schools unchecked.

Therefore, when it was announced that performance-related pay was to be introduced in the UK, I was very welcoming of the initiative. I don't believe that current methods of target-setting have had any impact on rooting out poor teachers.

Linking pay more closely to performance is a good way of shaking poor teachers out of their comfort zone. Some of them may simply need a kick to re-engage with the profession, and this may well be that kick. And those who continue to underperform will now be punished for it, rather than being allowed to continue unchecked.

That's not to say that I have no sympathy for arguments on the other side. It's possible that the approach may lead to a narrowing of the curriculum to what can be properly tested, but the system should ensure that does not occur. Other arguments, though, have less value. To say that a teacher will not be sufficiently motivated to improve standards by the promise of more money - or the threat of less - seems a naive view. We are all slaves to our mortgages and bills, and anything that would help would be welcomed and sought after.

Obviously, more fights about performance-related pay are to come, but I hope it will help us to weed out the teachers who give the rest of us a bad name.

The writer is a teacher at a school in southeast England.

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