Parents in England worry about school league tables almost as much as teachers do. League tables are a the bogey man of education, but what should concern parents much more, is the quality of teachers and departments within schools. For example, according to the OECD the UK’s education system has the highest level of variation in student outcomes and that performance outcomes between departments within schools is four times greater than between schools.
This means that parents should focus on how good the departments and teachers are within are within any given school. Sound too radical (it is for unions)? Well the NHS is already doing it for surgeons and I think education is just as important, especially when you look at the damage that occurs when a student is trying to learn from a sub-standard teacher.
School leaders also know how damaging bad teachers are, but the real problem they face is getting them to improve or leave. Getting any employee to improve is a challenge, but the education system has been terrible at identifying and capturing what good teachers do and then using this to help their lower-performing colleagues. It can and does work, so why isn’t it used all the time? I believe it’s the dead hand of education unions, whose power gives their members rights and protections that far outweigh students right to a decent education. Union membership in education is astronomical and it wouldn’t see this as a problem if not for the relentless negativity spewing out of the of the NUT and NASUWT – ‘Minister should resign…… No confidence motion… Proposed industrial action….Campaign for the abolition of the inspection system’, etc. This doesn’t reflect the thoughts of the majority of teachers, it’s the ranting of a tiny number of politically and ideologically driven union activists who have captured these organisations. Teachers are so disheartened with the politicking of unions that apparently almost 25% would join another organisation that gave them similar employment and industrial protection. Luckily this is just what education start-up edapt is offering.
For head teachers the combination of union power and poor teachers has given rise to the ‘pass the lemon’ phenomenon where the easiest and cheapest way to get rid of an underperforming teacher is to offer them an ‘excellent’ reference in the hope they successfully apply for a job at another school.