This morning the outgoing Head of Ofsted was explaining her approach to bad teachers. She claims today that every school is likely to have a bad teacher, and that some good can come of that. She says she is not recommending they have one.
The BBC gave her a very gentle interview, inviting her to move towards her media critics. She did go on to say that there were too many bad teachers in schools. She told us that this resulted from Head teachers and Governors thinking it was too difficult to remove bad teachers. They feared legal recriminations if they did.
Exactly. So where has Ofsted been over the last decade? Why weren’t they pressing for changes to the law to allow the speedy removal of bad teachers? Children only get one chance of a good education. Why didn’t they go into the schools and help Headteachers by revealing bad teaching in their reports, strengthening the hand of any Head who wanted to make changes?
The single most important issues raised with me in recent years by Heads and senior teachers (“members of the management team” as they are now called) has been this issue of how to deal with teacher quality. I have urged mentoring and teaching the teachers in each school. I have backed Teaching First to get new entrants into the profession who have energy and good qualifications. I have opposed changes to the law that make it more difficult to ask someone to leave who is not doing a good job.
In the private sector companies dismiss the salesman who is not selling or the quality manager who cannot deliver enough first quality product in each batch. Sacking anyone is a sign of failure. It means someone chose the wrong person, or managed them badly. However, it is a necessary evil if you cannot find some other way of putting right the institutional mistake.
I was told recently about one Head who tried to dismiss a poor teacher. It took him six months to go through all the procuedures. He had many a sleepless night worrying, as there was always a fear of a backlash against him for trying to do it. The atmosphere did not welcome taking action to improve.
Today I hope Mr Gove at Education questions will tackle the issue of good and inspiraitonal teaching. More of that can make up for older school buildings, and is an even more important issue than the capital programme. If he has good proposals to tackle the bad teacher problem, and good proposals to remove or improve all the quangos that bestride Labour’s educational bureaucracy, we might start to make some progress towards better education.
Sorting out the budgets should be the easy bit. The sooner he tells which school improvements we are paying for out of taxes the better. The sooner he frees some more money from cutting more of Labour’s unsuccessful bureaucracy, the better.