Michael Gove’s giving a robust defence of his plans to make it quicker and easier for schools to sack bad teachers. ‘You wouldn’t tolerate an underperforming surgeon in an operating theatre, or an underperforming midwife at your child’s birth,’ he says in the Mail. ‘Why is it that we tolerate underperforming teachers in the classroom?’ And he was similarly forceful in an interview on the Today programme, the full transcript of which we’ve got here.
Gove is emphatic about how important this is. ‘The evidence is quite clear,’ he says. ‘If you’re with a bad teacher, you can go back a year; if you’re with a good teacher you can leap ahead a year.’ Indeed, an extensive American study last week showed that ‘Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000’. And it’s not just Gove who’s realised the importance of the ability to sack teachers. New York’s education chief Joel Klein highlighted it in a roundtable discussion with Gove last year, at which the Spectator was present:
‘we don’t reward excellence, there are no consequences for non-performance and we tell people if you stay a certain number of years in the system we’ll give you a lifetime pension so after a certain point your workforce is entirely locked in and incapable of changing their methodology... I don’t want to be in a world where people don’t want to improve every day.’
Naturally, the plans have provoked a fiery response from the unions. The NUT’s Christine Blower claims that ‘what the government proposes is potentially a bully's charter’, while Chris Keates of NASUWT calls it ‘yet another depressingly predictable announcement from a Government seemingly intent on destroying the teaching profession and state education’. ‘The draconian measures announced today are totally unnecessary’, she adds. ‘There is no evidence which demonstrates that there are problems with the current system.’ But if that's true, one has to wonder why, when there are estimated to be around 15,000 incompetent teachers, just 18 have been sacked for incompetence in a decade. Fortunately, Gove’s shown that he’s not one to let union opposition block his reforms.