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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 11:47 GMT
Unions 'protecting poor teachers'
Fight
Tackling discipline was seen as key to school improvements
Teachers who cannot control classes and are constantly on sick leave should be sacked or retrained, a think-tank says.

The teaching unions' hold on schools as "blockers of reforms" should end, the report published by Reform argues.

Its author, Northampton Academy chair of governors Richard Tice, said it took too long to dismiss poor teachers and unions "permeated" all school activity.

NUT leader Steve Sinnott said it showed the real agenda behind the academies programme and should be rejected.

The report, Academies: A model education?, argues all schools should have the kind of management freedoms afforded to academies - which are state-funded independently run schools.

Schools should be genuinely free to set their own levels of teachers' pay and conditions
Richard Tice
Report author

This includes more freedom from local education authorities and the ability to set the pay and conditions of new members of staff.

As the report points out, under the current rules the majority of staff are allowed to keep their existing terms of employment.

This is designed to protect public sector employees whose jobs are transferred to a private sector employer.

Teachers' day-to-day activities are regulated by the 2003 Workforce Agreement to which most teaching unions are signatories, the report says.

"These agreements have enabled unions to be the blockers of reform, instead of organisations that support teachers to do a good job," it argues.

Schools should be genuinely free to set their own levels of teachers' pay and conditions, and to make use of performance-related pay, it adds.

The report also argues that poor discipline in the classroom is one of the main barriers to educational improvement.

'Final word'

"Teachers who cannot control classes, who will not follow heads' policies and who are on constant sick registers need to be let go, either to pursue another career or retrain in their current posts.

"Arrangements could include a no reason, no blame, drop hands, no litigation agreed departure where schools should be able to give teachers four or five months notice at any time plus one month training package."

The report said it could take up to a year to get rid of a substandard teacher.

The call comes after Sir Cyril Taylor, the former government adviser and academies enthusiast, said poor teachers should be sacked and the management replaced at failing schools.

Schools also need to regain control over exclusions, the report says.

Currently parents can appeal first to the school's governing body and secondly to an independent panel over permanent exclusions.

'Claptrap'

General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers Steve Sinnott said the report revealed the real agenda behind the academies programme.

"In arguing that essential union protections should be ditched, Reform's attack on unions takes on all teachers.

"It is mindless and offensive and is a direct challenge not only to the teaching profession but to Ed Balls. I urge him to respond to Reform by rejecting the report as claptrap."

He also rejected the idea of dismantling national negotiations on pay and conditions, saying there was sufficient flexibility in existing arrangements.

General secretary of the NASUWT teaching union Chris Keates said: "The claim that trade unions block reform demonstrates an ignorance of the major developments in the education service in the last five years where unions have been constructive partners with government in workforce reform and drivers for change."

Dr Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said Mr tice did not understand how ordinary secondary schools worked.

"All schools have a high degree of management independence, the national pay system has huge flexibility, the unions in the social partnership, including ATL, are championing reform rather than blocking it and have been working on a new rigorous performance system for teachers and heads," she said.

"However, Mr Tice is right about one thing - all schools need to be released from the national curriculum and assessment chains so they can introduce innovation and spontaneity in teaching."

Education minister Lord Adonis said the report endorsed the government view that academies must have vital freedoms to innovate in order to raise standards in areas of low achievement.

"Sponsors can challenge traditional thinking on how schools should be run and what they should be like for students."

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said the report highlighted the contribution academies were making to improving education for children in some of the poorest areas of the country.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman David Laws said the government should give all schools more freedom and that academies should come under local strategic oversight.

SEE ALSO
Remove bad teachers, says adviser
10 Nov 07 |  Education
Reforms 'improve teachers' lives'
08 Oct 07 |  Education
School reforms 'cannot stagnate'
25 May 06 |  Education
Brown threatens failing schools
31 Oct 07 |  Education

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