Schools ‘are tackling bad teachers’

A teachers’ leader says schools are already dealing with under-performing teachers and their regulatory body is waiting for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to give them powers to strike off those who fall short of professional standards.

The comments come after Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said bad teachers need to be moved aside. He said reforms across the public service must include measures to make sure people who are not performing are moved to other roles or retrained.

But his comments in a newspaper interview were very specific to teachers, including an assertion that it is unacceptable for children to need grinds because a teacher is not good enough.

Although procedures have been in place since 2009 allowing schools to fire a teacher or withdraw salary increments if they are under-performing, figures on such interventions are not available.

The department only takes a role if local efforts are not enough to bring a teacher’s work back up to standard. Up to last summer, inspectors had been brought in to assess the work of two teachers and one teacher had resigned.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said it is involved in a handful of cases at any given time where issues have reached a disciplinary stage. But it said that, for each of those, there could be dozens more cases where schools are dealing with issues at local level.

“Sometimes teachers might be having issues with their health, or other personal matters, but principals and school boards work with them or ensure they get the necessary training, before it gets to us becoming involved,” said ASTI general secretary Pat King.

“There was an option for early retirement where a person recognised teaching was not for them, but that is gone now,” he said.

Mr King said it is up to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to give the Teaching Council legal powers to investigate complaints against teachers and the ability to remove a licence to teach or a range of other sanctions.

“In Scotland, there would be several teachers struck off the register in any year and we expect that will happen here, which we support once there is due process. The Teaching Council and its powers are the final part of the jigsaw, and put together with all the other pieces — the principal, the school board, the Department of Education and the inspectors — teachers are well accountable for the work they do,” he said.

Mr Howlin said there would be clear performance measurement systems to identify problem teachers. He said this could mean dismissing bad teachers if necessary.

“Children get one go at education and they can’t have that squandered by somebody who just can’t perform,” he said.

“There is a greater understanding of the need to have people move out of the way if they can’t perform to the required standards. I think that is going to happen anyway now. I think that there is a new realisation,” Mr Howlin said.


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