In I’m All Right Jack, the shop steward Fred Kite, played by Peter Sellers, says:
We do not and cannot accept the principle that incompetence justifies dismissal.
Mr Kite’s philosophy is shared by the teaching unions and the “blob” – the education establishment.
Between 2001 and 2010 just 18 of England’s 400,000 teachers were struck off by the General Teaching Council for “professional incompetence”. If teachers were registered with the GTC they were regarded, in bureaucratric terms, as being up to the job.
The GTC spent £22.5 million and was funded through a Teachers Tax. Each teacher was obliged to pay an annual registration fee of £36 a year (with most of this recouped from the taxpayer). The Education Secretary has abolished the GTC on the grounds that it wasted teachers’ and taxpayers’ money while being ineffective at maintaining high teaching standards.
Last week the Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, was asked why only 18 teachers were sacked for incompetence during those ten years of Labour Government. Mr Hunt was interviewed on the Radio 4 Today programme and was asked to respond to a comment from Toby Young expressing concern at the figure. Mr Hunt’s response was to dismiss it, saying Mr Young was an “unreliable source”. The detailed GTC figures were given in a Parliamentary Written Answer. They were also highlighted by a Panorama programme in 2010. It is startling that Mr Hunt was unaware of them.
Still, let the dead bury their own dead. What has happened since 2010?
This is no equivalent figure available, as the process has been decentralised to schools. The new rules allow poorly performing teachers to be removed in about a term, a process that previously took over a year. It is also much harder for bad teachers to be recycled. Schools who are asked about a teacher they previously employed are now obliged to disclose if the teacher had been subject to disciplinary hearings over the preceding two years. Keeping struggling teachers in schools is a betrayal of the nation’s children.
When a failing school is put under new management as a sponsored academy then sorting out the teaching is an obvious priority. Often teachers who are finding it difficult to cope just need some help and back up. But at other times they need to leave. The number of sponsored academies has increased from a couple of hundred under Labour to nearly 1,000. That process is transforming our worst schools that had the worst teachers. There are plenty of capable people coming into the profession to replace them. The Teach First scheme provided 485 teachers in 2009. This year it is providing 1,262.