Unqualified teachers.

On Friday, just hours before the Olympic ceremony demonstrated the qualities and strengths of Great Britain, the DfE announced that they had changed the rules for the appointment of teachers so that academy schools can hire unqualified teachers.

The immediate kneejerk reaction to what is often kiteflying by Michael Gove, Nick Gibbs or the mandarins behind them is often one of negativity. I was intrigued by this announcement because I am soon to become Headteacher of a large Primary school in a rural community and am aware that in future years I may be in a position where we struggle to appoint teachers. This is due to the traditional difficulty of rural schools to woo students from city based Teacher training institutions. Therefore this announcement was of interest to me in the same way as I am following the development of teaching schools.

The reaction amongst people I follow on Twitter was largely negative or at best remaining unconvinced. One point which was made several times was that it was intended as a ‘back door way of saving money and dumbing down of a profession.’ This runs counter to the DfE statement that it expected “the vast majority” of teachers to have the qualification, but that the change will allow head teachers to bring in professionals with “great knowledge and new skills”. These sit in direct conflict – one suspects that this is about taking on the unions and creating a greater body of teachers who potentially have not come through traditional forms of training.; whilst the other is about getting people who have high level degrees in important subjects or life skills which will help them to engage pupils.

My personal confusion is over the fact that two years ago Michael Gove was talking about the need for teachers to have Masters degree level qualifications and now we have an announcement allowing degree graduates to enter the profession without any training. These, again, lie in direct contradiction to each other and possibly suggest a watering down of the initial announcement.

It was with interest that I read this blog post Dumbing Down: The Tory Way by Andrew Old (who is rarely shy in giving his views but always back them up with evidence, research or examples.) I do not always agree with Andrew’s views but try not to miss his blog posts.
Here are several quotes which resonated with me:

Now I don’t want to overdo the value of QTS. Some PGCE courses are dire. The training signified by QTS is not always worth a lot. However, what QTS does represent is a commitment to join the profession.
Deprofessionalisation can never improve teaching. It will, however, make privatisation easier (by removing the need for private education providers to recruit qualified staff) and reduce the bargaining power of unions over pay and conditions.

Andrew is very much focused on Secondary and I recognise that the main emphasis of this rule change is aimed at this age group but I do wonder how this would work for Primary. It was with interest that I saw a discussion on Twitter involving Sam Freedman Special Policy Adviser (SPAD) to Michael Gove about the announcement. Sam Freedman is very open to discussing policy announcements on Twitter although he has a trick of dismissing those disagreeing with him of being opponents of autonomy or objecting to what others want.

Sam was in a discussion about the lack of qualifications in entrants to teaching and his opening gambit was to use Alex Ferguson as an example as he doesn’t have the UEFA coaching qualifications held by most football managers and coaches. The analogy is interesting but forgets the fact that Ferguson has always appointed the best coaches possible to instruct the footballers such as Steve McLaren and Carlos Quieros. Unless we are going to give every unqualified teacher a highly skilled Teaching Assistant, of course!

Sam’s comments on the subject included:

Nothing will happen unless education professionals decide to use this new freedom.

This seems to suggest that this is absolutely something which will only affect schools which believe that they can benefit their students by appointing unqualified teachers.

…that we want to give a little bit of extra autonomy to schools.

Again, this suggests that this is about giving more power to schools (in contrast to the accusation that education is being nationalised by a Secretary of State who is accruing increasing powers.)

(pupils) could get a great teacher they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

they could get great teachers who they otherwise might not have had.

This I found of huge interest. His use of the word ‘great’ as opposed to good or outstanding (OFSTED categories) was no doubt deliberate as it is more of a superlative than classification. However, it does seem to be a claim of some confidence that schools could appoint someone with a high degree and no teaching experience who would be a great teacher. Sam didn’t say by when they would be a great teacher. So it could be argued that, like someone on the Graduate Teacher Programme, SCITT or PGCE, an unqualified teacher could develop into a ‘great’ teacher. My view is that there is needs to be some evidence that those entering the profession without qualifications are or have the potential to be great teachers.

I don’t think that the comparison with private schools holds on most occasions as there are differences in class sizes, pupil support and the intrinsic motivation of many of the pupils.

Having watched the debate I entered the fray asking a question about evidence:

Sorry to butt in – where is the evidence that there is a stock of graduates who are already great teachers?

I received no reply and so sent a follow (presuming that Sam had missed it in the flow of tweets)

Does the lack of response to question imply that there is no evidence that there is a stock great teacher graduates? (I am aware that this appear terse but the semantics of Twitter sometimes don’t play well in blogs)

To date I have not received a reply from Sam which would suggest either that he has blocked me in the past and didn’t see it, missed the two tweets or chose not to reply.

My view is that there is no evidence to suggest that unqualified teachers are going to be better than those who are qualified. I do not believe that there is evidence that they will be great and this is actually a further announcement from the DfE designed to play to a very specific audience of disaffected Tory voters who are unhappy with the coalition. I am not convinced from reading Sam Freedman’s tweets last night that he even is fully committed to it (his defence was fairly tame compared to previous debates on Twitter involving him).

Do I think that it will dumb down education like Andrew Old? Firstly, I try to steer clear of pronouncing on secondary as it is massively out of my spectrum of knowledge but I do think that schools in cities may find transient employment for owners of good degrees who want to boost their CV without doing Voluntary Service Overseas – this would beg the question of what Teach First is doing wrong to not be involved  in this rule change. I suspect that there will not be a huge queue of graduates at Primary School doors but do wonder if artists, linguists and mathematicians may find some peripatetic work without qualification.

I don’t think that the government intend that this will dumb down, Michael Gove probably thinks that this will raise the quality of teaching in a small number of schools.
There are rumours amongst many politicos that Gove is manoeuvring himself into a challenge for the leadership of the party at some point in the future and this would appear to me to sit alongside his challenge to Leveson, his defence on the BBC of the Lords reforms and his alleged briefing against other ministers. This is, I suspect, not intended to massively undermine the profession nor to flood schools with unqualified schools – it is probably about flexibility and playing well in the Tory press. But, I believe it is a bad move as it is not based in any academic research or evidence and this is something which Gove promised from his comments and briefings whilst shadow minister. He has not stuck to this choosing to change his evidence base of choice as he is found out over the years and he should be called out on this.

I will, of course, put any evidence on here once Sam Freedman does reply.


14 Responses to “Unqualified teachers.”

  1. Cherrylkd
    July 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Excellent post. Well thought out. I liked the reference to Andrew Old. I also struggle sometimes to agree with him but his arguments are well structured and backed with evidence. I think you may be right about Gove challenging for leadership. He should refrain from moving his own goal posts as education secretary first though. Are we to be MA holders or an unqualified profession. If you get to the bottom of his decision please let me know. Thanks.

  2. Paul Scott
    July 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    Some very good points and although I appreciate this may allow children access to professionals with ‘greater knowledge’ we mustn’t forget that we are qualified as ‘teachers’ because we understand how different children learn. This is our ‘greater knowledge’ and without this ability you won’t make much impact in educating young people. That said, I think we should utilise people with specialist knowledge and successful real world experiences far more than we do. This needs to be done in partnership with people who are highly qualified to understand how best to utilise such resources to positively impact on attainment – Teachers!

    • Andrew Stock
      July 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      Absolutely, Paul! Let’s use these ‘interesting’ and ‘engaging’ unqualified folk to assist in our teaching, rather than bringing them in as teachers… Hang on though, isn’t that what he majority of schools already do?

      • Bill Lord
        July 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

        But do we Andrew? I am not sure that, as a Primary Practitioner, we always bring in people from all of the fields we could access. Trying to be positive, this rule change could lead to this happening but I do not believe that it was the correct way in bringing it in.

    • Bill Lord
      July 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      I agree with much of what you say but the qualification I have to give is the fact that there is a mixed economy in Initial Teacher Training across the country. If we could, with our hands on our hands, say that ITT always provides the best training then we could fight this rule change with stronger justification.

  3. John Pearce
    July 29, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    One hard issue here is who defines professionalism, or great (or safe, or acceptable). Another is we “the professionals” is the qualified, have failed to firm ourselves into a self-managing profession – as have physicians. To be honest, it may be too late. So, could unqualified teachers (UQTS) do, at least as good a job, or even a better job than QTS? My honest answer has to be yes, of course. But thE better question is, do we want the teaching profession to be deregulated, unqualified? Of course not. So, that leads to my way forward. Allow anyone, who is CRB’d, has a good level of education (not necessarily a degree – but I’ll hold that argument for today) to become an “apprentice” teacher. Then, if and when they demonstrate effectiveness, over time, as in several existing programmes, they are deemed qualified. The unions will not like it, but it is pragmatic… QED, or MWN (more work needed)

    Should have said enjoyed the post!

    • Bill Lord
      July 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      John, your solution is pragmatic but before I would hope that the government would be introducing something based in research. For example give it at least one year in all of the free schools before transferring the rule to all academies.

  4. Laura
    July 30, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    This isn’t about whether or not you can hire an unqualified teacher. That was already perfectly possible (e.g. through TeachFirst). This lifts the requirement for someone to EVER have to get QTS. Even where people currently start as unqualified, as in TF, they must still train and pass QTS and rightly so.

    I agree that a non-qualified teacher can be great in the classroom. But there is more to teaching than just being in a classroom. There are legal responsibilities, technical knowledge about assessment frameworks, trip risks, pedagogy that are also important. QTS developed these and required evidence that a minimum level of competence was achieved. It gave the new staff member a RIGHT to access crucial training and experience of all needed standards.

    No great teacher would fail to get QTS.

    • Bill Lord
      July 30, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      I strongly suspect that these are factors which have simply not been considered in the development of this rule change and one reason why I do think that it could be successful in the appointment of peripatetic teachers but it does trouble me. I don’t think it will necessarily unveil a torrent of unqualified teachers into academies but the in which the announcement was squeaked out and the lack of research behind it are troubling.

  5. John Pearce
    July 31, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    I think “all this” exposes the issue of just what comprises QTS. As has been said, there are a myriad ways in already and, over the 44 years I have been knocking around this profession (ouch) I have seen a varied set of individuals, stretched along a continuum from dangerous prat to inspirational saint. All qualified too. We cannot, in all honesty, state that all who are NQT are fine and all who are UQT are poor. So, I reluctantly say, let the reasonably well qualified, in academic and personal terms, enter as Probationers, or apprentice , or articled teachers. BUT they must then serve a period of proving and accreditation to achieve QTS. What is totally unacceptable is the idea that allcomers become QTS, unfettered, untested and untrained. The base issue remains – what are the common, unswerving, requirements in ferns of skills, knowledge Nd understanding teachers need? Again, in all honesty, I think we would find very few actual requirements. I’d offer my Pedagogical Oath (see my BLOG) as a starter set, to which we must add a decent level of literacy, numeracy, scientific and humanities understanding….

    Beware of the Gove trap – say he is talking bollocks and speak in testicles. Not you Bill, but those who say QTS is some kind of gold standard – we know it isn’t…we know gold standards are myths… Lovely myths but transient and changeable misty myths too.

    • Bill Lord
      July 31, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      For all of those who haven’t seen John’s Pedagogical Oath it is well worth a read (as is much on his site).

      As I said in my blog post, John, there is a danger of a knee-jerk reaction to everything which comes from Gove, Gibbs and Freedman because we don’t agree with most of it or the way in which it is presented. I think we are coming from the same position in that we think, like Andrew Old, that there should be some sign of commitment. David Rogers asked on Twitter how many teachers who had taken the golden hello for priority subjects had stayed in the profession. I remember in the last recession how people I knew who were struggling to find the employment they were seeking considering PGCE to tide them over for a couple of years until times got better. I can foresee graduates “having a pop” at teaching as a CV filler in some cases. I suppose it is then up to the interview process to find out whether they are the right people for the posts for which they apply.

  6. patrick watson
    July 31, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Doesnt Teach First show us the impact that can be achieved by bright, motivated individuals who have very limited initial training as teachers, but who are supported and have access to best practice and CPD once teaching in schools

    • Bill Lord
      July 31, 2012 at 9:47 am #

      I am a fan of Teach First and it is one model (although not without some issues in some cases) of using a non-conventional approach to bring people into the class . It has had significant impact on specific schools in specific areas.
      I am not convinced that it is a model which is transferable across all schools. One of the reasons why Teach First came in was to fill posts in schools where there is massive mobility in staff therefore the major impact is on creating stability in those schools and giving the pupils teachers who want to be there. It is also about putting the children into contact with people from different communities with the highest of expectations.
      I am not defending the present approach to the way in which we train teachers but I don’t think that Teach First provides the evidence needed to justify this rule change which appears to be more about playing to the electorate than improving education.

  7. John Pearce
    July 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    The more I think on this, the more we (the profession itself) must try to define what the necessary standards are…I suppose the teacher standards go some way… but unless we (the profession) police ourselves and throw out undesirables and incompetents and celebrate the inspirational and journeymen and women) we will always be pray to meddling outsiders, who wish in their four year terms to do violent good to us.
    I’m afraid my BLOG has been attacked by an virus (goveworm?) and my website is being upgraded but (if it works) here is the start of the Pedagogical Oath..http://www.jpearceconsultancy.blogspot.co.uk/p/pedagogical-oath.html

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