Pupil interview grilling revealed
A teacher failed to get a job after being labelled as "Humpty Dumpty" by a pupil allowed to sit on his interview panel, a report has revealed.
Another teacher was told to sing their favourite song while another was asked by students on an interview panel how they would impress the judges of Britain's Got Talent.
The anecdotes are part of a 200-case dossier compiled by the NASUWT teaching union, which says a government scheme to allow students a greater say in their education is being abused. The union also heard students could "inform" on their teachers and would manipulate questionnaires so they could unfairly criticise staff.
The NASUWT asked its members to comment on the Student Voice idea, most recently updated in 2008, ahead of its conference. In one case, a pupil did not choose a prospective teacher at interview because he looked like "Humpty Dumpty". The teacher who was eventually awarded the job wrote: "I was 'interviewed' by a panel of five students. During my first year here I taught three of them.
"These pupils turned out to be poor behavers and low achievers who were being given these positions of responsibility as a motivational and self-esteem boost. One of them actually said to me, 'If I'd known I wasn't going to like you in the interview I would have chosen one of the other teachers, but one of them looked like Humpty Dumpty so I didn't pick him'." In another case, a teacher said they were "humiliated" after being asked by pupils to sing their favourite song at interview. They declined and didn't get the job.
The NASUWT said it warned the idea could be abused by students when it was introduced in schools up and down the country. On Saturday, the union's members will debate whether they should resort to industrial action to stop pupils abusing their new powers. The motion added: "Conference rejects the inappropriate use of Student Voice. Conference asserts that the involvement of pupils in classroom observations, selection, interview and assessment of teachers is inappropriate and erodes teacher professionalism."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the union, said the dossier of teachers' experiences made for "distressing and disturbing reading". It was "littered with examples of demeaning, embarrassing and humiliating practice", she added.
Ms Keates said: "Many of the practices described are grossly unprofessional on every level. They are stripping teachers of their professional dignity. To be effective in their role, teachers need to feel confident and empowered to act with the authority. It is clear that too many schools are engaging not in Student Voice but in the manipulation of children and young people to serve the interests of school management and its perspective. This is a distortion of the true purpose of Student Voice and constitutes an abuse of children and young people.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the idea was devised to give students a say about how lessons could be made engaging and interesting. Pupils were not meant meant to have an input on the performance management of teachers, the spokesman added in a statement.
A 39-year-old teacher from Buckinghamshire, who did not want to be named, said she withdrew from a job interview after being told she would have to sit in front of a student panel. She said: "I feel so strongly about it. It's not on. I feel people who are properly qualified for the job should interview me, not students. How many qualifications have they got?"