Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

More from the Ofsted School of Hard Knocks: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

More from the Ofsted School of Hard Knocks: News

Article excerpt

'Brutal' improvement advice tells heads to dismiss poor teachers.

A heads' leader has described it as "brutal", "extreme" and "negative": Ofsted's latest school improvement advice certainly does not pull its punches.

The watchdog's new guide for heads on how to "achieve success" contains no fewer than five separate references to getting rid of poor teachers, three of them in the first two pages.

Good heads "are not afraid to hold challenging conversations which often lead to staff leaving schools", according to the study, which looks at schools that have progressed from "satisfactory" to "good" and "outstanding". Elsewhere, it talks about how "eradicating" poor teaching is often accompanied by the "weakest teachers leaving". And it says it is not just classroom teachers who need to be moved on: in order to establish strong leadership teams, senior staff may need to be replaced.

The hard-hitting report comes in the same week that Sir Michael Wilshaw has again been generating headlines with his tough talk for the teaching profession. Teachers should expect to work long hours and "go the extra mile" if they are to justify pay rises, the chief inspector said - a message also touched on in this report.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said Ofsted had got the balance wrong. "I thought it was a pretty brutal vision of school improvement if you add in all the euphemisms for sacking people," he said.

"I think this is at the extreme end of the negative continuum. Sometimes that is necessary, but only in certain school environments. If it is genuinely bad and people won't step up to the mark, then yes, you are going to lose some. But there will be other schools that are satisfactory where all the staff are just crying out for improvement and want to be developed."

The report also notes that in all 12 schools visited for the study, "there were teachers whose practice had previously been weak who had risen to the challenge and were now teaching good or better lessons".

But Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of education union the ATL, said there was a contradiction between Ofsted's emphasis on good continuing professional development and its endorsement of heads "acting like football managers". …

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