Gove and under performing teachers

If Gove won some unexpected praise earlier in the week for his comments on ICT in School by the end of the week he has managed to upset many teachers again. The "hot potato" of under performing teachers is the reason.

We are told that schools are bogged down in "red tape" and that this is what is making it difficult for schools to deal with under performing teachers and fire them when needed. The capability procedure currently takes a year and it will be reduced to a term from September. Headteachers have welcomed this, other teachers haven't.

Gove suggests that poorly performing teachers are passed from school to school. This is sometimes the case but in many ways is one of the undesirable consequence of competition rather than co-operation between schools. Time was when confidential phone calls between Heads would "warn them off" a particular teacher in the kind of way that would give HR people these days a cold sweat. This probably goes on still at least to some extent especially in areas where co-operation is still happening.

But actually I think this is another case where Gove's lack of real world experience in schools shows. I think a much bigger issue for schools when considering staff capability cases is the threat of employment tribunal cases. The results of ET cases are unpredictable and they can be very costly. So for Maintained Schools the Local Authority HR people tend to take a very risk averse approach. In academies (and increasingly maintained schools as well) the risk tends to transfer to the school who may or may not be able to afford it but no school wants to spend its budget on lawyers and payouts to former staff.

Now I know Cameron would like to see it made easier to sack people without recourse to Employment Tribunals but I do not think this is the solution. If Gove wants schools to act in the interests of the whole profession he needs to do something to reduce the risk of doing this for an individual school by maybe underwriting the cost.

But what is more important I think is the impression that Gove is creating. I am no apologist for poor teachers. Such cases need dealing with either by (preferably) supporting the staff member to improve their performance or if the issue is transitory and related to health or personal circumstances supporting the staff member through that. But sometimes tough decisions need to be made and staff have to be dismissed.

However listening to Gove you would imagine most teachers were rubbish. He is quick to criticise and slow to praise. Most teachers aren't rubbish and many are truly outstanding despite having to listen daily to how rubbish they are from the Secretary of State (whoever it is) and the media and dealing with the consequential disrespect this creates from parents and even children. 

It is indeed an irony that Gove constantly runs down in public the same people he expects school children to respect. He doesn't. Why should they?

I wrote earlier this week that it would be difficult to attract people into teaching who might otherwise go and work for Google or somewhere like that. I am sure Google fire under performing staff but when I hear their CEO talking he is always saying how great their staff are and building them up. 

You don't build success by talking people down Mr Gove!
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