The TES 9.1.09 News summary Incompetent teachers face new crackdown (lead story) Increasing numbers of incompetent teachers could be banned from the classroom under a new system for identifying substandard staff. Keith Bartley, chief executive of the GTC, said the system for passing on concerns about weak teachers was ‘virtually non-existent’ in many authorities. The GTC, with the DCSF, has begun research into the system for referring substandard teachers to discover why the numbers remain persistently low. Results are expected later this year. Just 10 teachers have been struck off for incompetence since the GTC was set up in June 2001. In cases in which a teacher is dismissed for incompetence or resigns when dismissal is likely, employers are supposed to inform the council. But it is feared incompetent teachers are being recycled among other schools rather than removed from the profession. Mr Bartley said there was a distinction between incompetence and poor performance that could be difficult for schools to address. John Bangs, director of education for the NUT, said it was wrong for the GTC to have any responsibility for teacher competence. ‘Competence should be an issue for employers. It’s not a surprise that referrals are not being made by local authorities who understand the individual circumstances of cases.’ John Dunford, general secretary of the ASCL, said some heads found it difficult to carry out proceedings against incompetent staff because of a lack of support from local authorities, ‘The system needs to be changed because incompetent teachers are doing themselves no favours by moving schools and finding their professional lives equally difficult,’ he said. ‘I hope the GTC will investigate a process which supports teachers in making a career change where that is in their best interests.’ Children's wellbeing hit by recession (p1) Professor Barry Carpenter, a government adviser, has predicted that the economic downturn means the number of pupils with mental health problems will double within a decade. These figures, Professor Carpenter believes a fifth of five to 15-year-olds will have an emotional disorder by 2019, are likely to enhance the standing of wellbeing lessons. But Carol Craig, an expert in positive psychology who has been called Scotland's ‘happiness tsar’, this week criticised the whole concept. She warned that the systematic teaching of happiness can leave pupils depressed and teachers feeling like Cruella de Vil.Two east London academies are taking part in the first controlled experiment to establish the effectiveness of a wellbeing curriculum. Too frightened to declare a disability (p3) In a survey by the ATL, just 40 % of teachers said they would not be worried about informing a new employer of disabilities and long-term illnesses. One in five teachers said they had hidden their disability at interview for fear that discrimination would prevent them getting the job. In the survey, ‘disability’ included long-term health conditions such as epilepsy and cancer, mental health problems and specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. More than half of disabled teachers who responded said that disabled people faced considerable prejudice in Britain. Complaints from disabled staff included unfair removal of responsibilities and use of designated parking places by colleagues. Only 12 % of those polled said they had witnessed discrimination first hand. More than half said their school had made adjustments to accommodate those with disabilities. But almost 90 % said they had been carried out for the benefit of students, while just over half said they had been done for staff. More bullied pupils (p4) Almost half of all schoolchildren were bullied last year. New figures released by the Government show that 48% of pupils between the age of 10 and 15 experienced bullying. The statistics were gathered from local authorities, and published by Ofsted. Cash to be creative (p4) Creative schools could win a share of £1.4 million in a project to develop employability skills. Thirty state schools will be chosen for the scheme, which is being run by Creative Partnerships. Selected schools will receive £ 20,000 a year for two years and share their findings with others. The deadline for applications is March 6th.(www.creative-partnerships.com). Face scanners at school gates (p4) A futuristic facial recognition system is being offered to schools to improve security and recognise pupils as they buy lunches and borrow library books. Aurora, a biometric company, will exhibit its ‘intelligent new face recognition software’ for the first time at the Bett education technology show at London’s Olympia. It is due to begin its first trial of the system at a UK school next week. Students can stand up to a metre away from the device, which could be attached to a wall or balanced on a desk, and have their face scanned with an invisible infra-red light. Aurora said its systems can verify a person in 1.5 seconds, and are more accurate than a human. The device, only 28cm high, is aimed at schools, ‘for ultra-fast student registration, easy cashless catering and secure access control’, and could cost around £1,000. Previous trials of biometric security in schools have had mixed results. Teachers complained that pupils could cheat ID attendance card systems by getting their classmates to swipe their cards for them. Fingerprint scanners have proven more popular. However, they have sometimes met with opposition from families, with one set of parents establishing a campaign group, ‘Leave Them Kids Alone’ to stop the spread of the devices. Sexual bullying 'has always gone on' (p8) Sexual bullying has been endemic to schools for decades and is exacerbated by the classroom environment, according to a leading expert. Neil Duncan, of Wolverhampton University, believes the problem will not go away until schools change their fundamental attitude to sex and sex education. His comments follow the BBC Panorama documentary this week, ‘Kids Behaving Badly’, which claimed to ‘reveal the problem of sexual bullying in our schools’. Dr Duncan believes the problem has been exacerbated by an overtly sexualised celebrity culture. Maligning a classmate’s sexual reputation is the most powerful form of attack, Dr Duncan said. ‘Sexuality is clearly part of a competition about who is the most desirable in school. It’s about alpha males and alpha females.’ Dr Duncan believes the best way to tackle such bullying is through open, honest discussion about sex and relationships. ‘There’s an absolute silence around sexuality,’ he said. ‘If you want to know what you should be teaching in sex education, you need to cut out agony aunt columns from teenagers’ magazines. That’s the kind of thing you need to be looking at.’ A third of schools bore their classes (p12) Teaching is often boring and fails to inspire the pupils in more than 7,000 of England’s schools, Ofsted suggested this week. According to Tim Key, an advisor to chief inspector Christine Gilbert, schools where teaching is only judged to be satisfactory are likely to be delivering dull lessons that fail to motivate children, leading to poor behaviour. ‘I look back at the data and see that one third of schools have teaching that is only satisfactory,’ Mr Key told The TES. ‘Those are going to be the lessons where children have not been stimulated, where children were bored and where teaching was dull.’ The Ofsted annual report, published in November, said that standards of teaching were satisfactory in 33% of schools, with a further 3% described as inadequate. The proportion of secondaries with inadequate teaching rose to 5%. Ofsted has admitted that teachers can be discouraged from delivering creative lessons because they feel under pressure to drill pupils for high-stakes tests. Ms Gilbert has highlighted the issue in a number of reports, including her first annual report in November 2006, in which she said that exam preparation was hindering pupil development. In separate reports on maths and science last year, Ms Gilbert said that an emphasis on passing exams created too many repetitive lessons that failed to inspire children. Quality of Sats marking 'can't be guaranteed' (p22) Exam regulators will not be able to guarantee the quality of marking of this year's KS2 Sats because of the rush to find a new company to run the tests following last year's shambles. The QCA has told the Government that the system provided by the new contractor, Edexcel, will limit its ability to respond to any marker mistakes. It has also warned ministers that there will no opportunity to test the new Sats system fully and that it could be vulnerable to a campaign of industrial action aimed at undermining the tests. The QCA also says it does not have all the powers it wanted to supervise Edexcel in the £25m contract and will only have a limited ability to step in if things go wrong. Sir Tim and his title: 'I feel a bit of a fraud' (p27) Tim Brighouse, the controversial professor of education who was knighted in the New Year's honours list, has said he is both overwhelmed and embarrassed by the accolade. ‘All I did was go round seeing tens of thousands of really good teachers,’ he said, ‘and talked to them about what they did, and wrote about what they did together with their heads and schools. I feel a slight fraud.’ Knighthoods also went to Paul Edwards, head of Garforth Community College in Leeds, and Ralph Tabberer, director general for schools at the DCSF. Other heads, teachers, advisors and governors were also recognised. Bob Drew, head of Gearies Infant School in Redbridge, was appointed OBE. ‘My deputy told the children in assembly on Monday because I was out on a training sessions,’ he said. ‘When I came back, I was mobbed in the playground. It was lovely. The children were saying 'Congratulations on your badge'.’ And finally... A psychologist has urged teachers to allow playful teasing and nicknames in the playground. Dr Erin Heerey, of Bangor University's school of psychology, told the Western Mail that good-natured joshing was crucial for team-building. ‘If everybody's smiling, there's no reason to step in and stop it,’ she said. ‘They are learning about social norms and how to interact.’ The national papers were keener to list insulting nicknames, with the Daily Mail reporting that it was good for children to be called ‘four-eyes’, ‘lurch’, ‘shorty’, ‘carrot-top’ and ‘pizza face’. Included in The TES Magazine Parent power The secret is getting it where you want it p10 Brain and behaviour Why genes get the blame for everything p18 Special report ICT p26 The following two articles featured in the edition of the TES published on 19th December 2008: 'Creaking' special needs system faces overhaul The entire special educational needs system is under review, ministers have announced, with two separate inquiries and a scheme aimed at improving pupil statements of need on the way. Ofsted is to look at SEN ‘across the piece’ next year, in an about turn for a Government that had refused to take a ‘fresh look’ at the system. A separate review, looking at how to increase parental confidence in special needs, is also being broadened to look at why parents are not receiving the information to which they are legally entitled. Next year up to 10 local authorities will use a share of £31 million to work with schools on how they apply the system. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said the pilots would ‘see how we can use the legal process, the statementing process, to really drive better outcomes.’ He also revealed that the review will have a wider remit and he appeared to suggest there could be less emphasis on statements. ‘We’re going to ask Ofsted to look across the piece at the way in which SEN is working,’ he said. ‘What matters is whether the child succeeds. A statement is a step towards that. A statement in itself isn’t the solution.’ The Government is to use another £7m to give school leaders SEN training, to support schools in assessing pupils’ progress and to improve reporting to parents. The Conversation Stephen Capper, head of Sawyers Hall College in Brentwood, was interviewed for the TES before Christmas. The article included the following explanation of his belief that every day you have to do at least one thing that makes a difference: ‘The basis is the starfish story...The basic story is that a boy stood on a beach one day trying to put millions of starfish back in the sea after a storm. A wise old man walked past and told the boy it was a hopeless task, that he would never get them all back and could make no difference; they would die in the baking sun. The boy's reply was to throw the nearest starfish as far as he could into the sea saying, ‘Well, I made a difference to that one.’ That's become my philosophy and I've made it the school's too. I've retold that story to staff and pupils many times. I gave all the staff a starfish lapel badge when we got out of special measures, and everywhere you turn you'll see staff and pupils putting the philosophy into action. It not only symbolizes that we can all make a difference and that every journey begins with small steps, but it is also a unifying belief that helps us share a common understanding. It has given us a vision, hope, motivation and the confidence to enable the school to work together to make a difference.’ Sawyers Hall College was declared a National Challenge school in July 2008.
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