Good teachers should get pay rises, bad teachers should not. Can you think of a less controversial proposition? Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, has told today’s Times that “something is wrong” with the way pay rises are awarded to teachers on the basis of length of service.
“In last year’s [Ofsted] report we said that 40pc of lessons overall were not good enough. And yet everyone is getting a pay rise. Hey! Something is wrong with the system.”
This has enraged the teachers’ union, who negotiate the across-the-board pay rises, and they have accused Sir Michael of “war” on the profession. If there is a war, the unions are ones inflicting the damage on schools. Their precious collective bargaining system is not fairness, but its negation. I would like there to be lots of teachers on six-figure salaries in English state schools, if they are the type who can turn a class around (or, in the case of head teachers, turn a school around. But rewarding on length of service, and giving the slackers and the stars the same pay, will discourage the talented who will leave the profession.
The damage which bad teachers inflict on schools (and the communities those schools serve) is a very serious issue. Almost no teachers are struck off for incompetence, whereas lawyers and doctors are struck off fairly regularly. The teachers’ unions have, by and large, set up a system where merit is not recognised and bad teachers are protected. This hurts pupils, obviously, but the unions are not that interested in pupils. For them, it’s all about the adults. This helps explain why English state school system has doubled over the last decade, as schools hurtle down the international league tables.