An Easy Way for Heads to Sack Teachers: Raise the Bar: News

By Stewart, William | Times Educational Supplement, March 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

An Easy Way for Heads to Sack Teachers: Raise the Bar: News


Stewart, William, Times Educational Supplement


Unions warn of 'mayhem' as schools set their own standards.

New teaching standards being introduced from September will allow heads to dramatically raise the bar on minimum levels of performance, TES has learned, making it easier for them to sack teachers.

Schools will, for the first time, have the freedom to set their own expectations of what teachers should be achieving at different stages of their careers, under changes that unions claim will create "mayhem".

Heads will be expected to use the new standards as a basic framework for devising progressively tougher minimum performance levels. Any teacher failing to achieve the relevant level for their length of service or pay grade could face capability procedures (the formal process leading to dismissal) and ultimately lose their job.

The NUT and ATL teaching unions both believe that the new regime could let heads judge teachers they want to fire against much higher minimum expectations than they can at the moment.

"Schools will say, 'This is what we expect you to be doing at this stage of your career,'" said Amanda Brown, the NUT's head of employment conditions and rights. "And then they will start moving into performance managing around it, but if necessary going further. They could quickly move on to capability procedures."

The changes will also allow for speedier capability procedures and the removal of an informal, preliminary stage of the process.

Under existing rules, teachers are only dismissed for underperformance if they fail to achieve a set of basic "core standards". Experienced teachers on the upper pay scale can also theoretically face capability procedures if they fail to meet a separate set of "post-threshold standards", but this has rarely happened in practice.

Both heads' and teaching unions believe that the new standards could be difficult for managers to use and for teachers to understand because they lack clarity.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was a "major concern" that standards had been published without an explanation of how progress should be measured. "It is regrettable that every single school will have to draw up their own interpretation," he said. "It could be quite problematic."

But Nigel Middleton, a consultant from Educate Services, said schools could use the new regime to set their own expectations of teacher performance linked to capability, as long as the expectations were clear and properly consulted on.

By September, at least 2,500 heads will have taken courses that Mr Middleton has devised on the changes. …

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