24 May 2011
(See also update on Teachers' Standards below.)
General Secretary Philip Parkin said: "Voice will respond formally and in detail to the consultation in due course.
"We welcome the document's recognition that 'the single most important factor in ensuring a good education for every child is that they have a good teacher. Teachers are our greatest asset'and the promise of 'support and professional development'.
"However, the document fails to give any detail about the provision and funding for identified 'training and development needs'or how it will be ensured that 'they are addressed'. Will heads, facing squeezed budgets and staff shortages, release teachers from their school duties to receive the training and development?
"Voice opposes removing the 'Three Hour Rule'. The current three hour rule is for performance management purposes and head teachers can already observe teachers more under certain circumstances. The three hour rule should be maintained. It was negotiated by the unions because it is a reasonable amount of time in which to judge a teacher's performance. In most schools, performance management is working well.
"The DfE's desire to scrap 'unnecessary guidance'should be treated with caution. One person's bureaucracy can be another's protection. The presence of guidance can control how things are done and how staff are treated.
"We would be very concerned if a reduction in the guidance given to schools increased poor treatment of staff by senior managers.
"Phrases such as 'allow poorly performing teachers to be removed in about a term'and 'clarify that staff illness need not bring disciplinary processes to a halt' also set alarm bells ringing.
"'Poorly performing' is not the same as 'incompetent'. Can any of us say that we have never underperformed? Personal circumstances, illness and so on can distract us or impair our performance, but that is very different to incompetence. Greater freedom to 'remove' could lead to hasty decisions, unfair dismissals and the summary end to careers.
"Unions are there to ensure that members are dealt with fairly in accordance with agreed procedures. Problem resolution should not be about sackings, but about sensible discussion and negotiation. There are many instances where underperforming teachers are returned to former levels of performance through training and support.
"It is crucial that proper processes are in place to support underperforming teachers, and that each case is judged individually.
"We do not want to see open season for headteachers to bully people out of their jobs.
"The Sutton Trust's survey quoted by the DfE in its press release also included teachers' top spending priority for the pupil premium. Out of 15 alternatives, 44% opted for smaller classes, 16% for additional teachers and 14% for more support staff which could all make a difference to 'poor' teacher performance."
Voice also responsed to the first draft of, and later to the first report on, the new Teachers' Standards.
Whilst these standards do make a welcome attempt to slim down and synthesise the previous standards and the controversial GTC code of conduct, and some of the standards are such that few teachers would take issue with them, Voice does have concerns.
The Standards are intended as a minimum professional benchmark for all teachers from NQT upwards and, as such, preclude any sense of development within the profession. We doubt whether all the standards could be reasonably met by a newly qualified teacher or by centrally-employed or supply teachers.
Voice is wary of the inclusion of specific teaching methods masquerading as standards, and the implication that managers should also be assessing teachers' conduct outside school!
Do let us know your thoughts on both issues....