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Under-performing teachers should get sack in interests of pupils: report



Schools must be prepared to sack under-performing teachers in order to cut the number of pupils failing to meet basic reading and writing targets, a Stormont committee has said.

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reveals that one in six are leaving primary school without key literacy and numeracy skills, while 40% do not reach the expected standard by the time they turn 16.

The PAC found £370m is being spent on the 9,000 pupils leaving full-time education each year without these skills.

Today’s report found that 18% of lessons in primary schools and 24% in post-primary schools were deemed inadequate by inspectors.

Yet no teacher has been dismissed for under-performance since 1997, and only three had been suspended in that time.

The PAC has called for greater sanctions against teachers who do not make the grade.

“Nobody benefits when poor teaching is tolerated,” the report states. “It undermines children’s education and puts pressure on other teachers. Schools need to be able to act more decisively in pupils’ interests and deal more rigorously and effectively with poor quality teaching.

“Under-performing teachers must be identified, supported and retrained, or dismissed.” The PAC also highlighted the “large and persistent gap” in literacy and numeracy skills between pupils who receive school meals — a key indicator of social deprivation — and those who don’t.

By GCSE level the gap had reached 33.4%, the report found.

Sinn Fein MLA Michaela Boyle, who chairs the committee, said it was unacceptable and called for more action to ensure children from poorer backgrounds were not left behind.

“This gap needs to be addressed with greater urgency,” she said.

According to today’s report, the gap has widened from 32.1% in 2005/06 to 33.4% in 2010/11, the most recent year for which figures are available.

The PAC examined literacy and numeracy levels in schools in the wake of a highly critical Audit Office report, which concluded that unacceptably large numbers of pupils were failing to achieve even minimal levels in both subjects.

According to the PAC, girls are achieving higher standards than boys and, in disadvantaged communities, maintained schools performed better than those in the controlled sector.

But the report also showed there was wide variation in the results achieved by schools with similar intakes, suggesting social background is not an insurmountable barrier to achievement. It concluded that two in five do not attain the expected standard in literacy and numeracy by age 16.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said she had not seen the report and declined to comment.


  • One in six pupils leave primary school without key literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Two in five (40%) still don’t have the required skills by the time they turn 16 and leave full-time education.
  • £370m is spent on 9,000 pupils leaving the system without core skills.
  • 24% of post-primary lessons were rated inadequate by inspectors.
  • Leadership and management is not good enough in 39% of post-primary schools examined.

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