Gove's changes include:
- giving schools more freedom over managing their teachers through simpler, less prescriptive appraisal regulations;
- removing the three-hour limit on observing a teacher in the classroom (the so-called "three-hour observation rule”) so that schools have the flexibility to decide what is appropriate;
- a requirement to assess teachers every year against the new, simpler and sharper Teachers’ Standards – the key skills that teachers need;
- allowing poorly performing teachers to be removed in about a term – the process can currently take a year or more;
- an optional new model policy for schools that deals with both performance and capability issues; and
- scrapping more than 50 pages of unnecessary guidance
The truth is that it is this culture, as much as the complexity of the guidance, that explains why it can typically take a year to remove an incompetent teacher. Teachers are often given far more informal chances to improve than they would get in most other working environments before any formal process starts: of course they need the chance to improve, but it can become quickly apparent whether they are willing to do so. So, these Gove changes are perfectly reasonable, and build sensibly on changes introduced in the late 90s, but they will only effect the radical difference that their prominence in today's news bulletins promised if the freedom to manage teacher performance more flexibly translates into a new mindset in schools themselves.
I am quoted on this issue at the Financial Times and this post also appears at Public Finance.