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Underperforming Teachers

Volume 561: debated on Monday 22 April 2013

We have introduced new appraisal and capability arrangements, which should make it easier for governing bodies and head teachers to tackle underperformance. These procedures are shorter and less complex than the previous ones, and make it possible, in some cases, for schools to dismiss incompetent teachers in about a term.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. What plans does his Department have to assess teachers, to prevent them from reaching that critical stage in the first place? Does he agree that failure in schools is often one of leadership and management, and is not necessarily the fault of the individual teachers?

My hon. Friend makes a characteristically acute point. The sharper Ofsted framework, with its greater emphasis on teaching, leadership and, critically, performance management, should ensure that, although these procedures will take less time to execute, they need not be used in many circumstances because heads will have done exactly as he suggests, in that they will have moved quickly to deal with underperformance.

I beg the Secretary of State to stop giving the impression that he believes that all teachers are incompetent. There are some incompetent teachers, and they should be guided and managed properly, but too many people—both parents and teachers—think he is against teachers. Please will he start working with them, have confidence in them and energise them, in which case children and parents will be very happy?

Again, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to repeat in this House what I say in every speech I give, which is that we are uniquely fortunate to have the best generation of young teachers in our schools, and that standards are higher to a significant extent because of the commitment they make. I am also delighted that so many changes that are happening in education—from the establishment of free schools to the way in which teacher training is changing—are being driven by teachers, who are working with us in a spirit of collaboration.

While welcoming my right hon. Friend’s moves to give head teachers more power in this area, may I ask what he is doing, by way of balance, to attract the very brightest and best into the profession?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. He is committed to helping ensure that there are more mathematicians of ability teaching in our schools, and as a result of the changes we have made, including working with organisations such as the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Chemistry, more students with top degrees in science and mathematics subjects are now entering our schools, thus transforming the way in which those vital subjects are taught.

Heads used to turn to the local education authorities for support in dealing with underperforming teachers. Under the Secretary of State’s new regime, who would he expect academies and free schools to turn to?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Birmingham authority does not have a particularly good record, whether under Labour or the coalition, in providing an appropriate level of challenge. In Birmingham, it is head teachers who are providing the opportunity—people like Sir Christopher Stone are doing a fantastic job in making sure other schools improve—and the best school in Birmingham, Perry Beeches, has now opened a free school, which is showing the way. If we empower teachers in the spirit in which the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) suggests, we can do a lot more to raise standards than we ever did when we empowered bureaucrats.