‘Unqualified’ Teachers

Rubber StampWhen I started this blog, I decided to avoid party politics as much as possible. It is clear that there are people of all political persuasions who support a return to a rigorous, content-rich curriculum and firm discipline. In particular, there are many on the left who recognise, like Communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci, that political progressivism requires educational conservatism (see Hirsch, The Schools We Need, p7).

Yesterday, though, politics came to visit me in the shape of a hustings at my school, including the four main candidates in its constituency. And there was one issue raised which really made my blood boil: whether teachers in state schools should be forced to gain ‘qualified’ status.

Before I go any further, I should mention that I do indeed have ‘qualified’ status. I’ll blog at greater length some other time about the farcical hoops through which I had to jump and the rubbish I was taught on my way to receiving the rubber stamp from the government.

When the candidates were asked about their party’s approach to education, the Labour candidate launched straight in with the issue of ‘unqualified’ teachers, which makes it appear a central plank of Labour policy. She evidently expected us to be shocked to hear that 7000 pupils in our constituency are being taught by ‘unqualified’ teachers. She went on to mention other issues, but in her summing up, she reminded us that Labour are going to ‘make sure teachers are educated’.

I might have succeeded in maintaining diplomatic silence on this blog had it not been for that last comment. Make sure teachers are educated?!

Insisting on qualified teacher status does nothing to ensure that teachers are educated. Given the dogmatically progressive content of many teaching courses, it is more likely to ensure that they have been catechised in the defunct and dangerous ideology which has been creating an ever greater gulf between the privileged and the disadvantaged. Gramsci predicted in 1932 that the new ‘natural’ methods would have this effect: ‘The most paradoxical aspect of it all is that this new type of school is advocated as being democratic, while in fact it is destined not merely to perpetuate social differences but crystallize them in Chinese complexities’ (quoted in Hirsch, The Schools We Need, p6).

There is also little to no focus on actual subject knowledge in teacher training, and typically no requirement to have a good honours degree in the subject to be taught. Why should there be such a requirement, when education is supposedly all about transferable twenty-first century skills?

If Labour were really serious about ensuring that teachers were well educated, wouldn’t they be insisting on a good honours degree as an entry requirement? This is the type of thing that independent schools care about. In the independent sector, there are many teachers without qualified status, who have been employed on the basis of their knowledge and skills, not on the basis of a piece of paper of doubtful value. Parents pay thousands of pounds, even tens of thousands, to have these ‘unqualified’ staff teach their children.

Why on earth are Labour making this a central plank of their policy? It feels like a step back to the seventies, and a trade union closed shop mentality. Could it be that there are teachers who feel threatened by the competition from those without the requisite bit of paper?

(Image from Wikimedia)

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4 thoughts on “‘Unqualified’ Teachers

  1. Undoubtedly it is. I have mixed feelings on the issue. At the end of the day there is nothing wrong with passing a qualification (I did a PGCE) as at some level it does help to filter out some people who are not cut out for the classroom. In addition, the majority of private school teachers are not unqualified although I agree they do hire more unqualified teachers than the state sector. It does concern me though the extent to which one could be exploited but then these days with working hours of 60 or 70 a week – is it all that different?

    The problem is that we don’t have any statistics on unqualified teachers – either positive or negative and so I don’t feel I can support or refute it. My gut instinct is no to anyone who is not aiming for professional status as the last thing we need is to be is further de-professionalised. However, I agree with you about the unions but I wonder what is happening to the NUT – there is a difference between being assertive and being reactionary for the sake of it. I happened to mention that I thought the College of Teachers (depending on structure) may not be a bad thing – the reaction was as depressing as it was ridiculous.

    I am with you about teacher training degrees though. Just looking at a few of the entry requirements for primary undergraduate teacher training – you can easily get on them without a single A or A* in any subject at A-Levels!!!

    If we are going to start off the education system with the least qualified then what does one expect? You can scrape C’s at GCSE (Wales is better insisting on B’s) and then need what seems to be the equivalent of 3 C’s at A-Level. Next thing you are starting teacher training! I am sure that many university’s have higher requirements but I searched the 5 at random and they were similar enough. Then presumably if you pass then you can teach. So in theory a third in a teaching degree means you get to teach children which, in any other field, would not allow you access to that level of responsibility at all!!

    There is a tendency to believe that primary teachers ought to be nurturing and this is more important than subject knowledge. I doubt it. Intellectually insecure individuals can not help develop children who are secure… not unless they change their attitude towards it, of which there is no evidence!!

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  2. There may be some well spoken words here, but you miss the point.
    The reason that the Tories have allowed unqualified teachers to flourish is because it allows them to denigrate the profession incessantly, demand more hours for less money, destroy the pensions etc etc – and not have to explain why there is a shortage of teachers.
    I’m not in favour of make unqualified teachers train but allowing them into the profession simply has to stop, or the continuing destruction of the education system can continue without anyone having to be accountable for it!

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    • There are many who are not fond of the Tories who consider the insistence on QTS to be problematic. Could you offer any evidence that the motivation behind the policy of allowing ‘unqualified’ staff was in fact to attack the professional prestige of teachers? Do ‘unqualified’ staff in independent schools, or university academics, lack prestige because they have not been forced through a rubber stamping process? Or is their prestige in fact higher due to their independence from government interference?

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Thoughtful and reasonable discussion is always welcome.

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