I’ll tell you what’s wrong with education

Headteachers must be given the power to sack poorly performing staff if the standard of the Scotland’s troubled education system is to improve, John Swinney was warned today (fri).

The Commission on School Reform, set up by think tank Reform Scotland, told a Scottish Government consultation is was “imperative” that heads have the final say in the hiring and firing of teachers and how to spend staffing budgets.

What’s wrong is that this is even a matter for discussion.

What do you mean managers don’t hire and fire staff?

33 comments on “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with education

  1. The problem in schools is that there is no bottom line. There is no measure of success. A manager who has to produce results can probably be trusted to hire and fire.

    Head masters are not managers who have to produce results. They are older teachers. Which means if they are given the power to hire and fire they will persecute their enemies – and schools are full of petty vendettas – and reward their friends.

    You need to start by firing most Heads. Introducing a strong measure of success. Ideally appointing a board made up of people from the community. Then give them the power to hire and fire.

  2. The problem with people from the “community” is that those works really well in “leafy Hampshire”. Lots of educated middle class professionals and managers. Great.

    You try this in, for the sake of argument, in Paulsgrove ( home of the dictionary starved, as El Reg once observed ), and it’s not going to work as well

    ( speaking from experience here – though not of living in Portsmouth )

  3. Well, they don’t in most major corporations either: all that is done by HR with the guy calling himself “manager” merely expressing a preference for which of the proposed candidates he prefers. He sure as hell doesn’t fire and set salaries, either. Best he can do is arrange for a transfer to another department and give an employee a good appraisal score in the hope that gets translated somehow to a pay rise.

  4. SMFS – when were you last in a school? I’m the vice chair of governors in one of the local schools here (not the one my kids go to though) and I can assure you the combination of Ofsted, league tables and key stage assessments mean there are plenty of objective assessment measures, linked to pay and performance that keep the mind of the head and leadership team on the objective at hand.

  5. The big problem is the sacking and managing teachers out of the profession. What happens is that bad teachers move on but get OK CVs, nobody ever seems to say that someone isn’t cut out for teaching.

    Given that most teachers know nothing other than educational institutions it shouldn’t be a big stain on their CVs if someone says they shouldn’t be teaching. We know what will happen, though. In these cases a lack of training and support will be blamed so even more money will be spent on incompetent teachers, to the detriment of the children and good teachers.

  6. Funny how once you are responsible for this sort of stuff you stop blaming England or lack of public spending and actually have to think about real solutions.

  7. I’m astonished at this, and at all of you.

    Surely the prime purpose of schools is for them to be run for the benefit of their employees – the teachers? We should be increasing teacher salaries and improving working conditions, and cutting working hours and extra-classroom responsibilities.

    The ideal would be to have teachers only teaching in classes with no children in them.

  8. Darren – “You try this in, for the sake of argument, in Paulsgrove ( home of the dictionary starved, as El Reg once observed ), and it’s not going to work as well”

    In which case, why should it work well? We don’t need one model for all schools. We need a diverse range of schools. But in a good way. If working class parents don’t read there isn’t much that we can do to change their minds or help their children. However they will want the best for their children which is more than you can say for the teachers or the bureaucrats.

    Andy H – “I can assure you the combination of Ofsted, league tables and key stage assessments mean there are plenty of objective assessment measures, linked to pay and performance that keep the mind of the head and leadership team on the objective at hand.”

    Great. There must be no illiterate graduating from British schools. Given all that measuring and accountability. Or, and I suggest this very tentatively, making people cheat when it comes to ticking the right boxes is not a strong measure of performance.

    Tim Newman – “Questions you hope never to hear a magistrate ask you.”

    Yeah. There’s that.

  9. Off topic but the Muphataollah has outdone himself on a logic jump about Airbnb.

    He claimed that Airbnb were exploiting the tax system by not charging VAT on rooms and benefiting from tax breaks.

    Someone points out that it is the people who let out the rooms that don’t charge VAT (because they are below the threshold) and benefit from rent-a-room belief not Airbnb

    To which he claims that this doesn’t matter as everyone renting off the Airbnb website thinks they are renting from Airbnb.

    ??

    I don’t know a single person who doesn’t know they rent from the homeowner. And even if they did, why would what the customer thinks affect who was benefiting from the tax advantages???

    That this man’s incomprehensible logic and understanding passes for knowledge is a complete mystery….

  10. What happens is that bad teachers move on but get OK CVs, nobody ever seems to say that someone isn’t cut out for teaching.

    Given that most teachers know nothing other than educational institutions it shouldn’t be a big stain on their CVs if someone says they shouldn’t be teaching. We know what will happen, though. In these cases a lack of training and support will be blamed …

    To be fair, this is exactly what happens in most professions. It’s not just limited to teaching, it’s rife in oil and gas.

  11. Leftist teachers need to be purged as do the leftists controlling what is taught.

    Might as well vet for competence while we are at it.

  12. BraveFart – “Surely the prime purpose of schools is for them to be run for the benefit of their employees – the teachers?
    Precise-Sarky-ly

    Last year or so I was in a pub after an appointment in an unfamiliar area when a local political party association had hired out the back room to discuss educational policy ideas. All welcome so i went in to give a tuppence or two.
    The most vocal there were a teacher and a retired teacher which is fair enough they get a hearing but they moaned about pay and government targets and curriculum stuff, and training. Yeah they dressed it up as- good for the children but really as patrick stewart said in extras… “i could see everything.”
    The piece de la resistance of the night was unveiling the local comp headmaster too busy to attend the whole meeting but turned up to say said give me more freedom, school partnerships, a bit more money and invest in new tech.
    For the rest a retired engineer wanted more 7 year apprenticeships and specialist engineering schools at 14. Sounded interesting but slightly dulled by the end of the speech –“so Britain can once more be workshop of the world”.
    Me? i said – There are three groups in this. Teachers, Parents and children. Why do we have holidays? teachers, parents or children? Is there evidence that hols are beneficial for kids? Got one spiel on kids need the break backed up by “trust me i’m a teacher”. One said we’d have a recruitment crisis as teachers would leave en masse because its the one perk they get. Basically no evidence just dastur hai and as far as i can tell they thought that is a winning argument.

  13. Tim Newman,

    I spent years thinking I didn’t want to be a manager, until I realised that it was just big places and that smaller ones are so different.

    It’s hard to really manage in a big place. You need another server for a project? You’ll be going through the bureaucracy to get one. Small place? Go to dell.com and order one.

  14. > that heads have the final say in the hiring and firing of teachers

    It’s the firing that matters most. Anybody can hire; but the ability to fire underperformers is what distinguishes a good manager from a great one.

  15. One of the problem with hiring and firing in school is that it is very difficult to do the hiring in the 1st place, because candidates are few and far between. At least that is the experience of the local primary where I’m a governor.

    The performance linked pay is also a complete shambles. Which is as expected since such a concept is impossible to run in a bureaucratic organisation, notwithstanding the opposition of teachers. We have spent hours on agreeing some details of the pay policy, as the main stuff was untouchable anyway. Result, we are more or less exactly at the same point as before.

  16. BiW,

    I spent years thinking I didn’t want to be a manager, until I realised that it was just big places and that smaller ones are so different.

    True: I’ve worked in both gigantic, sprawling beasts and small, light-footed companies both as a manager and a worker.

    I am in two minds which is better. You are right that in a small company you can get things done, but I in a small company you can have a nasty, vindictive boss who says “Your housing allowance is being reduced from next month” and you’ve got no recourse to a procedure or established practice. Huge companies can make life very difficult and boring, but you can’t be singled out in a huge company: the small companies, you often have useless managers running everything on the fly and seriously fucking up people’s lives as they go.

    True story: I knew one guy who was told by his boss he needed to move from Lancashire to Surrey. The job position was being moved and he had to take it, or lose it. So he sold his house in Lancashire, borrowed a fuck-tonne of money and bought one in Surrey, moved his whole family down. And then the boss who’d sent him there promptly made the position redundant, because he was a useless cretin who shouldn’t have been put in charge of a pile of wet dog shit. The guy who moved house had a nervous breakdown. A giant corporation couldn’t get away with this, the policies and appeals procedures wouldn’t allow it.

    Sure, if you have a high market value then you can avoid all this crap by quitting and getting another job, but it’s not so easy when you are a young engineer, and the managers know it.

  17. TimN and BiW: Just try to work in a small organization that is a subsidiary of a multinational behemoth. All the pleasures of the large-scale bureaucracy with all the idiosyncrasies of the local “hands-on” boss. To die for.

    But there’s the obverse side of the coin: the protections of the large company rules and the ability to get things done locally as long as you fly under the radar. So not all bad. It just depends on which side is more prominent on any given day.

  18. Just try to work in a small organization that is a subsidiary of a multinational behemoth. All the pleasures of the large-scale bureaucracy with all the idiosyncrasies of the local “hands-on” boss.

    Oh yeah, had that too. Nightmare.

    But there’s the obverse side of the coin: the protections of the large company rules and the ability to get things done locally as long as you fly under the radar.

    I’ve done that as well! Best job I did was a task that nobody in a large company wanted to touch, and so they let me get on with it with minimal interference.

  19. Remove the ideological left from education before you do anything else! They don’t want educated children, they want voters.

    Second, don’t attempt to mix students who can’t speak English into mainstream schools. Give them intensive training in English first, otherwise they and all around them will be f*cked.

    Next, don’t let children who are incompetent at reading or arithmetic “graduate” to secondary school until they are competent. They and all around them will be f*cked.

    After that, you might think about real education. Until these things are done, you’re just icing a shit-cake.

  20. monoi,
    > because candidates are few and far between. At least that is the experience of the local primary where I’m a governor.

    Clovis,
    > Remove the ideological left from education

    Primary schools aren’t exactly fonts of revolutionary zeal. Nor are 11-16 secondary schools. The rot only sets in at sixth form, in my (limited) experience.

  21. monoi,

    “One of the problem with hiring and firing in school is that it is very difficult to do the hiring in the 1st place, because candidates are few and far between. At least that is the experience of the local primary where I’m a governor.”

    And yet my son couldn’t get on a teacher training course at age experience of life, a 2:1 (Social Science) and glowing reports from the schools where he did voluntary TA work because all the courses were full.

    A good friend who’s in touch with the system reckons the biggest problem is that too many female teachers want to be TAs and work 9 to 3 without any responsibility which means in theory there’s enough teachers out there, they just don’t want the jobs.

    I’ve never understood why we artificially restrict the number of teachers (or any other profession (I use the term lightly)), train anyone and everyone who is interested and let the cream rise, the rest will have learnt a valuable lesson.

  22. @Andrew M
    The teacher training is ideologically-based more than anything. The revolutionary zeal is occasionally present at primary, but it’s mostly that the field of battle has been ceded and the primary teachers have internalised the cultural Marxism (without ever hearing the label).
    Social justice, equality of outcome, intergenerational retributive justice-these ideas are internalised.

    The single worst thing, of course, doesn’t look ideological at all, but its roots are-and that’s the idea that learning should be almost entirely by discovery and thematic and cross-discipline.

    The result is a complete absence of mastery of anything and a failure to recognise that different activities require different modes of thinking.

  23. Good comments Clovis. My teaching work has all been done in Private schools (not state) and the difference is stark. Son now goes to state primary so I’m getting a view of their approach now. It’s in leafy middle class Berkshire so the basics are ok so far.

  24. My younger brother left school with GCSEs, he’s not academically minded but he is pretty practical.
    He’s currently working as a teaching assistant in Qatar. And assistant nurse in the school as needed.
    15 plus years as nurse auxiliary, 10 years as a police special in his spare time – and he’s making more money now than I would get if I did a year’s training and became a qualified teacher!

    Back when I was on a school board we had problems keeping teachers, OK a referral unit is not the easiest of jobs but is a lot more one to one or small group. Around half the teachers took on in the year I was there could not handle the job and quit part way through the year.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.