Sacking top teachers will be a bloodbath

21 September 2009
The Times and The Sunday Times
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Ed Balls’s latest plans will be disastrous for schools such as mine

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious — the Government’s latest wheeze is to sack thousands of teachers. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, announced yesterday that to cut spending 3,000 teachers could be kicked out of their jobs in the coming years, lopping £250 million off the education budget. He says that these dismissals will be “natural wastage” but teachers like me know that it will be a bloodbath.

What’s more, it is going to be the most experienced who will get the chop first: schools’ senior managers such as headteachers, deputy heads and heads of department. Our senior managers are often the best teachers; pedagogues who have spent decades honing their teaching skills, professionals who have the respect of pupils, staff and parents.

For example, one of the senior managers at my current school is a vital component of the school: he runs the sixth form, overseeing all applications to universities, as well as organising all the training of the staff. Perhaps more significantly, he is the one that people turn to if they have difficulties. With a comforting smile invariably on his face, he is frequently found walking in and out of lessons, encouraging, advising, and uplifting spirits. He has visited my classroom on numerous occasions, always helping me with friendly, timely advice.

On top of these numerous roles, he is a great teacher, frequently opting to take challenging classes himself. He arrives at school every morning at six and doesn’t leave until late at night. Without him, the school wouldn’t function as well as it does: it’s no coincidence that we have one of the top-performing sixth forms in the country. To sack him would be monstrous. Yet, in theory, this is what Ed Balls is proposing — teachers like him are expensive.

And even if he isn’t sacked, Balls wants professionals like my colleague to become “federate” with other schools. He says: “You might have a head teacher and a team of deputy heads working across the different schools.” In other words, instead of having senior teachers dedicating themselves to one school, where they get to know staff and pupils properly, they will be dispersed, spending their days hopping from one school to another, parachuting in and out, never having the time to get to know people in any one of them.

The Government has chucked billions of pounds of our money propping up the banks, but now it can’t find a penny to save our best teachers. The only people who need the heave-ho right now are the goons running our schools.

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