What about bad teachers?

Did you watch the panorama programme – Can I sack The Teacher?


It raised the difficult question of how to get rid of incompetent teachers. Incompetent teaching is something we all gripe about but rarely manage to change. The problem being, what to do about it, who decides, and how?

I feel for all teachers. It is a difficult and challenging job that just seems to get worse and worse as they try and cope with an almost unmanageable workload, try to keep order of poorly parented children, and try and implement a curriculum that is inappropriate to so many young people. So to have as many good and successful teachers as we do is really something!

But what about the not so good and not so successful – what do we do about them?

On the news currently they are going on about the lack of funds to improve school buildings. But there’s something far more important than the buildings that we need money for and that’s the people in them.

Teaching and education is about the growth and development of human beings. It is the human beings and how they interact with each other that makes an education successful, not the buildings. How they interact makes or breaks the grades, makes or breaks a kids’ learning potential, makes or breaks a kids’ life. It is the people who matter over and above everything else and it is the people who do it that we need to get right. But how do we do that? Who judges and what’s the criteria for that judgement?

It’s a worrying prospect for the teachers for I know there are brilliant teachers who inspire the kids but are criticised for not following the boring inappropriate practises by the book and only appear ‘satisfactory’ at Ofsted. But I also know there are rubbish teachers who don’t bother with making lessons inspiring, who humiliate and disrespect the children but who can make themselves shine on Ofsted day.

To judge a teacher on academic results is completely misdirected. Grades are not only influenced by the teaching, the ability of the children does have something to do with it! Plus the climate the children learn in and the environment they come from. Grades are also enormously influenced by the parenting – but the teachers get all the blame, even the good ones!

However, incompetent teachers do need removing – but how to spot them?

Actually, we don’t need to because the kids know. If the kids are happy and progressing and keen to be in classes then there’s probably a good teacher behind it. There are of course exceptions, but kids need to be listened to. We all know a good teacher when we see one or feel one through our kids. We also know when there are incompetent ones about. It’s that personal.

Teaching is personal. Learning is personal. We have to get small and personal about it in order to make it better, take notice and care of what’s going on in our individual schools, weed out the bad and reward the good with our respect and encouragement.

Bad teaching is such an emotive issue. I’ve known parents too scared to speak up in case it reflects on their child in class. It makes families very vulnerable – that’s why everyone is so scared to take action. Their child can easily be the whipping boy – it happens. I suspect there are more parents home educating because of bad teachers than because of anything else. And it was probably not because of the teaching exactly, as much as the behaviour of the teacher.

It is teachers who behave without integrity, without respect, who bully and humiliate, and those that clearly don’t like children and can’t be bothered to inspire them, that we need to do something about.

The teachers who are dedicated, committed, hardworking and inspirational, who are good kind people who care for our kids, we need to value and applaud – they need our support – and congratulations!

It needs to start with parents taking the brave step of getting together and challenging this very sensitive issue. It’s not about a witch hunt. It’s just about preserving the child’s right to be respected within their learning environment. To be respected enough to be listened to and treated well. And not let those who would do otherwise get away with it.


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