Tristram Hunt did not say Labour would sack unqualified teachers – Telegraph headline is wrong

Janet Downs's picture
 8
“Tristram Hunt wants free schools and academies to fire teachers illegally”

Headline, Daily Telegraph, 2 March 2014

According to the article under the headline, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt told Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics that if Labour came to power it would force academies and free schools to sack teachers. This, the article argued, would break employment law.

But Hunt did NOT say Labour would sack teachers in state schools without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). What he said was he would expect unqualified teachers to undertake professional development with a view to becoming qualified. Neil asked what would happen if the unqualified teachers refused to do so. Hunt replied he didn’t think they should be in the classroom.

Neil pressed Hunt on whether they would be sacked – Hunt did not categorically say they would.

But unqualified teachers can be effective, Neil argued, as the prominent display behind him beamed a quote from the head of Brighton College, a selective independent school, saying qualified teacher status was not necessary. These comments have been widely disseminated thanks to Department for Education dispatches. But teaching small classes of children at a highly-selective private school was not the same as teaching the full range of children, said Hunt:

"It is a very different set of skills to teach ten nice young boys and girls in Brighton compared to running a class of 30 kids with more challenging circumstances, with special educational needs, with differing abilities.”

Hunt made it clear unqualified teachers should be on the way to gaining QTS. The Telegraph article argued if schools insisted such teachers become QTS then the schools could be in breach of employment law if such a requirement wasn’t in their contracts.

But teachers in maintained schools are expected to improve their practice throughout their careers:

As their careers progress, teachers will be expected to extend the depth and breadth of knowledge, skill and understanding …as is judged to be appropriate to the role they are fulfilling and the context in which they are working.”*

The same high standards should apply to teachers in academies and free schools. And it could be argued that teachers who refuse to fulfil the above expectations should not, as Hunt argues, be in the classroom.

It appears, then, the Telegraph article was scare-mongering. Hunt did NOT say Labour would sack unqualified teachers. He just made it clear he would expect them to become qualified. And this could be easily done through professional development.

Note: this is a companion piece to an earlier thread discussing the alleged errors made by Hunt on Sunday Politics. The programme can be downloaded here for a limited period. The section on unqualified teachers begins about 7 minutes into the interview.

* Teachers’ Standards: Statutory guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies, Department for Education July 2011 (updated June 2013) downloadable here.
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Comments

rogertitcombe's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 12:32

Up until sometime in the 1970s untrained graduates could be appointed to teaching posts in state schools. They did not gain QTS until a two year probation was passed. There may still be some such teachers in post but they will have QTS.

When this route into teaching was cut off there was no need to take any further action. If any untrained teachers had not gained QTS through probation, then they could not continue in post. This would not have been 'sacking' because this possibility was written into their contract of employment.

Surely some sensible, similar arrangement could in future be introduced in respect of untrained teachers in Academies and Free Schools. If necessary some compulsory 'training' could be prescribed in addition to successful completion of a satisfactory probationary period of employment.

I don't think this is a big problem for Tristram Hunt - just trouble making by his opponents.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 12:47

This is a comment from Roger Titcombe who is having difficulty posting comments:

'Up until sometime in the 1970s untrained graduates could be appointed to teaching posts in state schools. They did not gain QTS until a two year probation was passed.

There may still be some such teachers in post but they will have QTS.

When this route into teaching was cut off there was no need to take any further action. If any untrained teachers had not gained QTS through probation, then they could not continue in post. This would not have been 'sacking' because this possibility was written into their contract of employment.

Surely some sensible, similar arrangement could in future be introduced in respect of untrained teachers in Academies and Free Schools. If necessary some compulsory 'training' could be prescribed in addition to successful completion of a satisfactory probationary period of employment.

I don't think this is a big problem for Tristram Hunt - just trouble making by his opponents."

Chris Manners's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 18:40

You know what happens next?

He repeats his position and it's "Look, U-Turn!"

Andy V's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 22:40

I remain utterly underwhelmed by Labour and Hunt. Yes, the Telegraph used words that Hunt didn't but there is a case to be had that if you 'want qualified and motivated teachers in classrooms' then it is not unreasonable to suggest that this explicitly implies that unqualified teachers will be removed/replaced.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26405714

As one blogger, Mike Sivier has put it, why is TH in the Labour Party? he follows this up with (and relation to education) why vote Labour?

http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/why-is-tristram-hunt-in-the-l...

No-one should forget that schools have had the ability to employ unqualified teachers for the at least 20 years. One only has to go back through the annual pay award documentation to see the UQT scales. All Gove did was dust it off and leave the rest to HTs struggling with tight budgets and let human nature take its course. It must also be acknowledged that the private sector has successfully been employing UQTs for eons.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 11:54

Andy - you're right that Hunt's words could imply the sacking of unqualified teachers. But he made it clear this would not be the case if they worked towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). It's recognised that continued professional development is desirable throughout a teacher's career - it's part of Teachers Standards for maintained schools (see link in article above). Hunt is right - a teacher who doesn't think s/he can benefit from professional development shouldn't really be in the classroom.


Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 11:59

Andy - you're right that schools have always been able to employ unqualified teachers but there was a requirement they would gain QTS in a reasonable time or they were instructors employed only for such time as a qualified teacher wasn't available (see faq above "What is a qualified teacher?").

Letting "human nature take its course" (ie allowing heads to hire unqualified staff at low rates in order to reduce costs) is not acceptable in schools.

Most teachers in private schools actually have QTS. Those such as Brighton College which boast about the low number of QTS teachers are usually highly selective and have an advantaged intake.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 14:47

Janet, the point of the matter is that neither PGCE nor QTS are compulsory in the private sector and irrespective of the proportion of UQTs there is a long history/tradition of these schools employing them

I am not debating whether it is acceptable or not rather am stating that this is what has happened and is happening.

Having been offered a teaching position in a state school in 1991/2 I was given for my edification the pages from the STPCD regarding appointment and salary scale for UQT along and told that the LA would prefer that UQTs be employed for a limited period but that I shouldn't worry because (a) if I proved to be good enough and (b) the post was sustainable there would alway be a job for me. This may well have been a maverick HT but one thing is certain they were not unique in this approach.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 14:53

A two point review of Labour's position rapidly highlights how they are singularly likely to fail in getting the profession on their side:

1. We will not repeal anything Gove has done
2. We will require all teachers to re-licence every few years

This must be the Labour equivalent of Cameron's 2010 election position that the 'NHS is safe in my hands!'

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