Bad teachers to get sack quickly in new regime25 November 2010
The length of time that it takes head teachers to sack a failing teacher is to be cut by two thirds as part of the Government's plans to raise standards.
The process for removing a weak teacher, which can take a year and a half, will be shortened to a few months to encourage heads to act more often against members of staff who consistently underperform.
A group of heads will draft a clearer set of standards against which teachers can be judged, to encourage higher rewards for the best and swift action against those who do not come up to scratch.
A White Paper on school reforms, published yesterday, said that the School Teachers Review Body would be asked early next year to recommend changes to the pay and conditions of teachers. This will include allowing heads to introduce more flexible salary structures after a two-year pay freeze from 2011-13, and simpler rules for removing weak teachers.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, refused to put a figure on the number of underperforming teachers in English schools, saying this was a judgment for heads, and said that in most cases teachers would improve with more support.
"It may be that there are teachers who have been poorly supported, people going through a difficult time, people who need the inspiration that a strong member of a leadership team can provide," he said. "But there will be some teachers who are underperforming and they need to be moved on.
"Good heads will know how to turn around poor teachers and they will also know sometimes when to take someone, put an arm around their shoulder and say you are a fantastic person but teaching isn't for you."
Under the present system for removing poor teachers, known as capability proceedings, some staff can resign at the outset and find work at another school, while others delay the process by going on sick leave or mounting multiple appeals, critics point out.
A report this month by the right-of-centre think-tank Reform criticised training for heads, via the mandatory National Professional Qualification for Headship. It said it failed to prepare school leaders for navigating the process of removing weak teachers, and for other personnel challenges.
Ministers believe that, in addition to the forthcoming review of teachers' pay and conditions, the greater freedoms enjoyed by academies will allow their principals to lead a cultural change by introducing new employment practices into schools.
Mr Gove said his reforms were the result of listening to heads and teachers and emulated successful systems such as those in Singapore, Finland, Hong Kong, New York and Alberta, all of which emphasised teacher quality, autonomy, collaboration, a modern curriculum and accountability.
Although head teachers will be given greater autonomy to exclude disruptive pupils, Mr Gove has dropped plans to scrap the appeals process - but he will limit the powers of independent appeals panels to fine schools rather than reinstate excluded pupils.
A new process will be introduced, on a trial basis, under which schools that exclude pupils remain responsible for finding and paying for their continuing education, whether at another school, college or local authority unit, and the pupil's examination results will be included in those of the original school.
The independent exams watchdog, Ofqual, will be asked to limit the number of times a pupil can re-sit GCSEs or A levels. Ofqual, which is responsible for ensuring that exam standards are maintained, will also have to ensure that England's qualifications keep pace with high-performing education systems across the world.
Although the Government has backed away from funding all schools directly from Whitehall, as academies are now, it will consult on plans for a national formula for allocating money to schools. This would replace the system under which each local authority decides how to allocate its schools grant, which ministers say produces too many variations.
Local authorities will be expected to "step back" from school management and adopt a strategic role to challenge under-performance in local schools, intervene in weak schools and commission successful schools, academies or free school groups to take over or start new schools. Schools will be encouraged to collaborate with one another and set improvement priorities, and local authorities will no longer appoint improvement partners to challenge and support head teachers.
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Education Secretary, accused Mr Gove of devaluing vocational learning and applied GCSEs such as those in information technology.
Teachers' unions attacked Mr Gove's plans. Chris Keates, the general secretary of the Nasuwt, called his comments "a disgraceful denigration and misrepresentation" of teachers.
Mr Gove was embarrassed, however, as MPs highlighted a series of errors in a statement outlining his reforms that was distributed in the Commons. His plans include restoring marks in all GCSEs for spelling, punctuation and grammar. MPs pointed out that "coalition" and "bureaucracy" were misspelt and that there were only 16 full stops in the ten-page statement. One sentence was 300 words long.