Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Capability Process Used to 'Target' Costly Staff: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Capability Process Used to 'Target' Costly Staff: News

Article excerpt

NASUWT claims new proceedings have created a 'climate of fear'.

Headteachers are using new rules for managing teacher performance to "intimidate" and unfairly discipline experienced and highly paid members of staff, one of the main classroom unions has claimed.

Changes to capability proceedings - which are designed to deal with underperforming staff - have led to a "climate of fear in too many schools", with women and long-serving teachers particularly affected by the reforms, delegates at the NASUWT conference heard.

The way teachers are appraised each year was overhauled last September in a bid to speed up the process under which weak teachers can be forced out of the classroom. Capability proceedings, which previously lasted around 20 weeks, are now supposed to be completed in four to 10 weeks. The limit of three hours of formal classroom observation a year was scrapped as part of the reforms, while a new set of standards was introduced against which teachers are appraised.

But concerns have been raised that the system is being abused, with Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, saying that heads are taking advantage of it "just because a teacher's face doesn't fit".

"There is a climate of fear in too many schools, with capability procedures being used to intimidate staff," she said in response to the debate at the union's annual conference in Bournemouth.

Kathy Wallis, a union executive member, said casework on the issue had increased by 22 per cent in Cornwall between 2010 and 2012, as teachers fought against what they saw as unfair judgements on their performance. In Torbay, the number of cases of teachers involved in capability proceedings who had also suffered from health problems had increased from three to 17 during the same period, she said.

Ms Wallis said the situation was "ruining" the lives of teachers and their families, with experienced staff being hit as schools attempted to save money. "Those who are expensive to pay are being targeted," she said.

Richard Featherstone, from Middlesbrough, said older members who were in their mid-fifties, women and those who worked in primary schools were particularly affected by the changes and were being put through capability proceedings "with very little evidence". …

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