Policy change to allow unqualified teachers in academies
July 29, 2012 3 Comments
The Department for Education announced on Friday that it was removing requirements for teachers working in academies to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Danny Boyle provided an Olympic distraction from this news.
A spokesman for the Department for Education told the BBC (who had little time to broadcast or analyse it):
“This policy will free up academies to employ professionals – like scientists, engineers, musicians, university professors, and experienced teachers and heads from overseas and the independent sector – who may be extremely well-qualified and are excellent teachers, but do not have QTS status.”
A teacher’s role is likely to include preparing young people for academic and /or vocational qualifications yet this move exempts them from having to take part in work-related professional preparation and assessment themselves. We might infer from the announcement that teaching doesn’t require specific expertise, knowledge or understanding or that subject specialists don’t value the relevant teaching qualifications sufficiently to want to bother with them. Neither is a very motivating message.
The announcement suggests that two broad groups might now teach in academies without QTS – experienced teachers who are unqualified in this country and subject specialists without previous teaching experience.
There might be some advantages in accrediting the prior experience of well-qualified teachers from other countries and fast-tracking them to QTS status – especially if they are from Finland, whose education system is a world leader in raising standards for pupils from all backgrounds.
What about the scientists, engineers and musicians? The new policy assumes that they will be good teachers by default and that teaching does not require specific professional preparation in educational theory and practice. The notion of dual professionalism, with expertise in a subject specialism combined with a teaching qualification, is familiar in Further Education and has been the subject of intense debate, latterly in the Lingfield Review (http://bit.ly/HaF4Lg).
Comparisons between teachers and other professionals such as surgeons, doctors and lawyers have featured in some of the social media responses to Friday’s announcement, prompting a range of reactions. Whatever other career or profession anyone follows (if they are lucky enough to have options in the current economic climate) their competence will depend upon their previous education and their teachers’ effectiveness, influenced greatly by their social class and family circumstances – or lack of them for children and young people in the care system. It is vital for the country’s future that all publicly funded education is of the highest possible standard and that teachers’ professionalism is encouraged and held in high esteem.
If ever there was a time to dilute professional standards for teachers, this is certainly not it. The education system is addressing criticism about levels of literacy, numeracy and work-readiness for school leavers. More than ever, we need to build on the best of our education system. Relaxing standards and requirements for teachers’ employment seems a perverse response under the current circumstances.
Teachers deal with major challenges on a daily basis and need to be well-equipped and supported to do so. Those who meet high standards deserve more recognition and respect.
It is worth noting that the minimum qualification for primary and secondary teachers in the world-renowned Finnish model is a masters degree in education, covering developmental psychology, classroom management and subject didactics. Teaching is respected and well-paid as a profession there and high standards for teacher education feed through into high standards of general education with excellent results.
An e-petition has been set up at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/12405 asking, “That the government makes it a legal requirement that any person supervising, covering and teaching classes in England must hold QTS.”
I’ve signed it and hope that many others will too.