HEADTEACHERS have called for incompetent teachers to be dealt with more rigorously.

School Leaders Scotland (SLS), which represents secondary heads, said current processes took too long, with some cases lasting several years before a teacher was struck off.

However, the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), the profession’s watchdog, said councils were responsible for managing teacher performance before cases were handed over to them and appropriate employment processes had to be followed.

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of SLS, raised the issue in a submission to the Scottish Government on the future running of schools.

He said: “When it gets to the point where the local authority refers the case to the GTCS it can take an interminable amount of time to be dealt with.

“You can identify a member of staff whose performance needs to be supported, that can then enter into performance management, and by the time you have gone through the whole system it can take anything from 18 months to two-and-a-half years and sometimes longer.

“What that means is that you have a member of staff around whom you have concerns over competence, who is in there teaching kids and not improving.”

Mr Thewliss said heads were generally happy with the process, but that it needed “more rigour” to get to a conclusion more quickly.

In 2011, the GTCS came under fire for taking nearly four years to ban a teacher who “simply could not teach”.

Despite concerns being raised in 2007, evidence was presented at the case of the individual that she was working as a supply teacher for Perth and Kinross Council a year later.

Following the case the GTCS introduced changes to speed up the process.

A spokeswoman said: “We recently revised out fitness to teach framework to streamline the regulatory processes.

“It is entirely possible within this new framework for a professional competence case to be processed within a matter of months.”

The GTCS also highlighted the role of local authorities as employers to take disciplinary action against incompetent teachers.

The spokeswoman added: “For a number of reasons the GTCS does not always receive referrals regarding professional competence from employers of teachers and the issue in this context are both complex and challenging.

“The GTCS is working with employers to increase awareness and understanding of its processes and recently established a fitness-to-teach employer stakeholder group to facilitate two-way dialogue on issues such as this.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said cases should be dealt with as quickly as possible, but that all stages of the process should be exhausted before a teacher was struck off.

He told the Times Educational Supplement Scotland: “It can sometimes take a significant length of time before you get to a hearing, but often the key thing for us is that the earlier stages of the process have not been addressed adequately.

“All stages must be exhausted including teachers being provided with support.”