Headlines: May 26th, 2011

Changes in the teachers’ performance management rules will give more power to headteachers to deal with underperformance.

There has been widespread concern across the profession that pupils are suffering from underperformance, which is not being tackled with sufficient vigour. In the last decade only 18 teachers have been banned from the classroom. The figure contrasts with the estimate, made by Chris Woodhead when he was the head of Ofsted, that there are 15,000 incompetent teachers in service.

Under current rules, head teachers of state schools can identify underperforming teachers to their local authority. The individuals have their classroom competence reviewed, and they are advised on how they can improve their teaching. Where there are serious failings, the teachers can be struck off.

The proposed changes will make it easier for schools to manage teachers and deal effectively with the small number of poorly performing teachers. The changes include simpler performance management regulations, which set a few basic requirements and remove restrictions. There will also be an optional new model policy for schools that deals with both performance and capability and disciplinary issues.

Poorly performing teachers will be removed in about a term, in contrast to the existing process that can take a year or more.

Recent research for the Sutton Trust shows that heads and teachers support the aims of these proposals. More than half of those surveyed in November 2010 agreed or strongly agreed that there was not enough freedom for schools to dismiss poorly performing teachers. Less than a quarter disagreed or strongly disagreed.