Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 43)



  40. Are you happy that the machinery exists to deal with incompetent teachers?
  (Mr de Gruchy) We co-operated fully with Stephen Byers (when, perhaps, he was having easier times as Minister of State for Education) when he requested that we sharpen up the procedures which would allow incompetent teachers more quickly to be dismissed. We thought they existed already but we emphasised the fact and we gave him new procedures. They were agreed between the local authorities and the teaching unions under the auspices of ACAS. So all the machinery is in place. We look for prevention rather than cure with good standards of entry and good training systems to make sure that only the very competent people get through in the first place. Then it will be only a small residual problem that people sometimes, for quite understandable reasons, become incompetent as life goes on—illness, family difficulties or whatever the case might be. It really is a minuscule problem.

  41. If it is minuscule problem, why did 20 per cent of teachers not apply to go for the threshold?
  (Mr de Gruchy) That is up to them. There are a lot more now applying. I think, perhaps, some teachers were not well-advised and they are now picking up on the bad advice they received. A large number of the 20,000 who chose not to apply last time—perhaps for ideological reasons—are now having serious re-thinks and a great number of those are now applying.

Mr Simmonds

  42. How important do you think the basic level of teachers' pay is for the recruitment and retention of teachers coming into the profession, particularly when compared with other professional, vocations—and I do not necessarily mean within the public sector?
  (Mr de Gruchy) It is very important, although as people have said earlier and I have been saying for many years now, pay at the moment is not the major problem. That does not mean to say we are paid generously, but I would put it in order: workload, indiscipline, pay. However, it is quite important and, as I said before, we have co-operated with the new threshold payments. I would like to think that the NASUWT, in particular, have played a very positive role in making those proposals workable and reasonably attractive to the teaching profession. The next thing is to look at the upper pay spine, mention of which has been made by Doug earlier today, to make sure that that is operating in fair way. We accept the link to performance with some reluctance, but we are saying to the Government that if teachers meet their objective then they have to proceed up the upper pay spine. At the moment the Government is not putting in place a system which would guarantee that all those who do meet their objectives receive the money that is due to them. If they do not do that then I think the Government will run serious risks of alienating teachers in a way which is quite unnecessary and in a way which would be very disappointing, bearing in mind the progress we have made over the course of the last few months. So pay remains important but there are even more important issues as well.


  43. Nigel and Eamonn, on that note, I am afraid, we have to end this session because we have yet another very important witness to come. Can I thank you and wish you well, Nigel, in all your future endeavours. Thank you for coming before the Committee. Eamonn, we look forward to welcoming you over the next years.
  (Mr de Gruchy) I wish Members of Parliament well in the future as well.

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