Bad Minister…

Michael Gove obviously lacks a sense of irony. He complains that it is too hard to dismiss underperforming teachers while occupying a position where the ‘red tape’ of dealing with underperformance is virtually impossible to penetrate – the only way to get rid of underperforming Cabinet ministers (not to mention MP’s) is to rely on the whim of the Prime Minister or else wait an average length of 4 -5 years before summary dismissal can take place.

‘Bad performance’ is the kind of thing that everybody is against and its impossible to be for; that is why when changes of this nature happen it is always the pretext trotted out. The real issue however is what you do about it. Firstly, I have to say that the horror stories the media manage to unearth are obviously not a-typical and are not particularly relevant. One student I heard on the local radio station agreed that some teachers were bad and one had “locked a student in a cupboard”. Obviously unacceptable and actually abusive behaviour to be sure but are you seriously telling me that there is no mechanism to have that teacher instantly dismissed?

Gove’s proposals beg a question. Would we want to write pupils off who were serially underperforming by simply expelling them in the quickest, most expeditious manner possible? Of course not. Rather all possible avenues would be explored to make sure they perform to the best of their abilities. Having a tick-box and instantly gratified approach to performance is symptomatic of a wrong-headed cultural ethos – everything about education seems to be about ticking the correct boxes, not developing people and enabling them to think for themselves as opposed to teaching them what to think.

Sure, there will be some teachers who will not be capable of improvement and are in the wrong career – however, rather than face the sack and then consignment to the scrap-heap they need to be removed from their position and then assisted to re-tool themselves for a more appropriate career. The culture of ‘fire first, ask questions later’ might offer us one clue as to why long-term unemployment is a serious issue. Is it any wonder we have so many people are trapped in enduring unemployment when the state’s attitude itself is focus not on enabling people to thrive but merely be concerned with whether they meet its arbitrary criteria of capability? Christine Blower is right when she says these proposals could become a bully’s charter, they could be a weapon used by Headmasters to enforce their own dominion not just against the ‘incapable’ but also against the unorthodox and people they simply don’t like. I am thinking right now of Dead Poets Society, a film where a perfectly capable teacher is victimised and eventually forced out for daring to be different.

Our priorities are wrong when we focus on the solution to underperformance being the instant (or as close as possible to instant) dismissal of those falling short of the mark. Teaching especially is a highly skilled profession which requires years and training and study etc, so, to be cast out of that would shatter a life and give the person in question real issues with employability later down the line. Gove’s Victorian values are not what this countries modern education system needs – like everything else this government proposes they respond to the challenges of the modern world with half-baked solutions that are not fit for the purpose they are intended to serve.


About darrellgoodliffe


2 responses to “Bad Minister…”

  1. John D Clare says :

    ‘Bad teachers’?
    Anybody who has been in teaching could tell you of teachers who indeed should not have been in the teaching profession but – like benefit criminals in the welfare system – they are far, far fewer than the government and the media would have you believe.
    In a very exacting profession, sometimes teachers struggle with a specific class, or make a mistake – when you are dealing with other human beings for a living it is exceptionally difficult to get it exactly right every time … but that is surely a different matter.
    There are some teachers who are not as good as others … but surely that is just a fact of life? Different teachers have different strengths, and perhaps it is a good thing that pupils meet a range of adults with a range of personalities, strengths and weaknesses; if they meet only paragons of virtue and clarity, they are going to get a very rude awakening when they go out of school into the real world!

    Against this, you have to set increasing and often unreasonable demands on teachers; it is not to hard to create a situation where ANY teacher would or could fail.

    Ultimately, the issue is how you define ‘underperforming’. What we regard as ‘failing’ will change with what we want our education system to deliver. A teacher who fails to secure good grades can often be one who runs after-school activities and enriches the life of the school in many other ways. The teacher whose record-keeping is sloppy often turns out to be one who thrills and inspires pupils in the lessons. A teacher who struggles to control some classes can be greatly-loved by other pupils. Teachers who discipline is, to some, over-keen are often the teachers who churn out the best exam results … so are they good or bad? By comparison, a lazy and negative teacher who hates the pupils can often ‘turn it on’ enough to avoid challenge and spends an entire career ‘on the edge’ of unsatisfactory.

    It is not wrong that there are checks and balances in the system which make it possible to dismiss a teacher only after proper consideration of the case, and remembering that that teacher has rights too.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :

    I think we have had this conversation elsewhere J-c and I agree 😉


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