Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 01 Apr 2010

An incompetent teacher at our primary school is being ‘encouraged’ to move on. Why can’t she be got rid of?

Hillary's Advice

There are lots and lots of no-good teachers in schools – and that’s all schools, independent ones as well as maintained. Most children will come across at least a couple of them in the course of their school careers. But teaching is an art, standards vary between schools, and it is much harder than you might think to benchmark competence and then prove people are failing to achieve it.

On top of that, the profession’s disciplinary body, the General Teaching Council, is generally considered to be worse than useless by those it is meant to serve, and there are many complaints that it takes forever to process the cases that are referred to it.

But perhaps the real reason it is so rare for teachers to be got rid of is that educational leaders are generally reluctant to pull the plug on someone’s career as well as, in the process, probably antagonising other staff in their school. They tend to feel happier coaxing and encouraging than wielding a big axe.

So, because of all these things, they very often choose to weasel their way out of a bad situation by easing people out of their jobs and sending them on their way – often with a glowing reference – to continue their poor work at another school.

Of course there needs to be a better system of dealing with incompetent teachers, catching them early and insisting they leave if they can’t improve, but sadly it does not yet exist.