Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1567-7109
  • E-ISSN: 2468-1652



The performance of teachers largely determines the quality of schools. However, research shows that teachers’ underperformance is not always (adequately) addressed by school leaders. The legal protection of tenured teachers is frequently mentioned as an important obstacle. To obtain more insight in how Flemish primary school leaders deal with underperforming tenured teachers, we interviewed 14 school leaders about their views on teacher underperformance, the actions they take with tenured teachers and the obstacles they come across. The results show that school leaders describe underperformance as a prolonged failing towards students, the team and the school. Causes of underperformance are found in teachers’ attitudinal problems, physical and psychological problems, lack of expertise and lacking professional growth. School leaders adopt a phased and differentiated approach. At first, they offer help and support. If necessary, they proceed to confrontation and try to put pressure on the teacher. Underperforming teachers are also being moved to other positions within and outside the school and sometimes their workload is temporarily alleviated. Furthermore, school leaders are prepared to give them negative evaluations. Yet, for underperforming tenured teachers, they do not believe in the possibility of official sanctions and dismissal. Other obstacles in dealing with tenured underperformers include emotional and relational obstacles, time constraints, limited competencies of school leaders, a negative school climate, a lack of clear evaluation criteria and denial by the teacher. We conclude that school leaders need more support and training to adequately deal with underperforming tenured teachers and discuss the implications of our findings for follow-up research and practice.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): primary education; school leadership; teacher underperformance
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