Is Qualified Teaching Status necessary? DfE says it’s a mark of quality but Academies can recruit teachers who don’t reach the quality standard.

Janet Downs's picture
Academies and free schools can employ teachers without Qualified Teacher Status. That is a view promoted by Secretary of State, Michael Gove, who thinks teaching is merely a "craft" that can be picked up on the job .

Gove says he wants to learn from high-performing countries and cites Finland where teachers are recruited from the top-performing graduates. But he overlooks that they also have to be trained up to degree level in teaching methods as well as in their subjects.

The BBC reported that, "The headmaster of a leading independent school, Brighton College, has supported the changes. In a statement released through the Department for Education, Richard Cairns said: 'I strongly believe that teachers are born not made and I will actively seek out teachers from all walks of life who have the potential to inspire children.'

'At Brighton College, we have 39 teachers without formal teaching qualifications, including me,' he said. Some had come straight from top universities, others from careers including law, finance and science, he added. 'Once teachers are in the school, they have a reduced teaching timetable to allow them to spend time observing other good teachers and are actively mentored. By the end of the year, they are, in our view, better trained than any PGCE student.”

Although Cairns takes the trouble to ensure that his unqualified staff receives what he considers to be sufficient training from his qualified staff, his words will be taken as “proof” by less scrupulous heads and governing bodies that a professional teaching qualification is unnecessary. This would allow them to recruit amateurs more cheaply and place them in front of a class with minimal training.

Parents have a right to know that those who teach their children are suitably qualified. Few parents would willingly allow their children to be treated by an unqualified doctor; few pet owners would seek out unqualified help for a sick dog and only foolish people would allow themselves to be represented in Court by unqualified Counsel.

Teaching without the necessary qualifications should be as condemned as passing oneself off as a doctor without having been to medical school. The idea that teachers are "born not made" is disingenuous – even the naturally gifted need some theory to underpin their practice. It’s like saying that anyone who’s handy with a butcher's knife can make a good surgeon - all that's required is enthusiasm, knowledge of human biology and a few months of observing Sir Lancelot Spratt.

The latest tweets from the Department for Education say “Government remains committed to QTS as benchmark for quality: new freedom recognises Academy heads best placed to make appointment decisions.”

If it’s a benchmark for quality – then it should be a requirement that all teachers have that quality mark.  And allowing academy heads to ignore the quality mark should not be described as "freedom".

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A guest says's picture
Sat, 28/07/2012 - 16:06

If it is such a good idea why does it not apply to all schools? Gove is illogical.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/07/2012 - 09:36

Francis's article in the Guardian condemning the idea is here:

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/07/2012 - 10:23

Update: Richard Cairns was on Radio 4 last night (Sat 28 July) explaining that his unqualified graduates at Brighton College, a school with a huge majority of above-average and far-above-average ability (according to the latest inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate), will be trained on-the-job. In other words, he expects them to be trained.

This is also the case at the London Academy of Excellence, a free 16-19 school being established in Newham: graduate recruits will be trained in schools linked with the project.

Cairns is not suggesting letting untrained people loose in the classroom. However, this is how his words will be interpreted - the message is clear, "There's no need to be trained to be a teacher. If it works in top independent schools, then it can work in the state sector."

Cairns and the head of the London School of Excellence have both worked in selective independent schools with a majority of high ability or very high ability pupils. It is not acceptable that a system which may seem to work in the selective independent schools is applied to the state sector which educates children of all abilities.

johnbolt's picture
Mon, 30/07/2012 - 14:48

Maybe there are some unspoken motives here. Softening the system up for profit making? Getting his own back on university departments who won't do what he wants? I've written more on this at

Cat Hall's picture
Mon, 30/07/2012 - 19:55

But then - isn't it a bit weird that someone as talented and experienced as Richard Cairns couldn't until now have worked in the state sector?

If schools like Brighton college have these teachers, academies should be free to poach tem surely?

Andy's picture
Mon, 30/07/2012 - 20:57

Cat, that is an entirely logical idea but one that will not come to anything for sesveral reasons e.g. the independent sector all too often offer salaries and perks that state sector schools simply can't, the independent sector academic year is shorter (they get more holidays - 4-5 weeks) and the nature of their student cohorts are massively different in focus and temperament than state students. There are very few independent school teachers who successfully make the transition to the rigours, challenges and expectations of their colleagues in the state sector. The salary scale for Brighton College is markedly better than the existing state national salary structure.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 07:33

Andy - you're right to remind us that the make-up of the pupil cohort in the independent schools where Richard Cairns has worked are not the same as in the state sector. Brighton College is highly selective - its last inspection (2011) said "Most pupils are of above or far above average ability, and very few pupils are below average ability."

It used to be said in the old GCE O level days that grammar school pupils could pass O level despite their teachers but secondary modern pupils who passed the exam did so because of their teachers. That's a bit of an exaggeration - the sec mod pupils in the O level classes would have been equally as bright as their grammar school counterparts - they just "failed" the 11+. However, it's a salutary reminder that a school's results mainly depend on its intake (see Institute of Fiscal Studies report 2011) and bright children can pass exams even if the teaching is poor (remember the Trafford Grammar School failed by Ofsted).

Andy's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 10:34

PS And lest anyone forgets the majority of fee paying parents are rather more motivated in relation to supporting their schools in driving their children to maximum progess and achievement. Oh, and the class sizes and faciltities are markedly more advantageous in the private sector.

So poaching teachers from private to state is something of a rarity

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 02/08/2012 - 18:05


WLFS have recruited c 30% of staff from independents.

Andy's picture
Mon, 06/08/2012 - 20:26

Ricky, I've no idea of the local situtaion (e.g. fee-paying schools feeling the pinch and staff jumping ship), so I'll take your word for it but set against the wider scenario the numbers are still very low. Indeed, if stats were avavilable if would be intersting to see how many state sector teachers have switched across to benefit from smaller classes and better holidays for which they are willing to accept the pressure to produce higher levels of results. That is to say, the number of teachers at fee paying school who switch to the state across England, let alone the UK. The figures have been distorted in recent times with a number of fee-paying schools opting to become Free Schools rather than close.

Leonard James's picture
Wed, 08/08/2012 - 14:00

What encouraged them to make the jump? Some flesh on the bones would be useful here.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 07:43

Heads of highly-selective independent schools should think twice before making statements which are then applied to the state sector.

It speaks volumes that Richard Cairns's comments were released by the Department for Education. This gives tacit backing to the mantra repeated by the media equivalent of Animal Farm's sheep:

"Independent schools goooood! State schools baaaaad!"

And up pops Squealer saying, "But if your state school becomes an academy it will be independent. Then it will be good. Forward, fellow animals, towards Freedom and Autonomy."

The School Liberation Front pick up the refrain: "Freedom and Autonomy for Schools!"

Adrian Elliott's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 08:08

Somebody has made the point on the Guardian website that everyone seems to assume that 'unqualified' means a graduate without a teaching qualification whereas it actually means anyone the school decides to employ - regardless of whether they have any academic qualifications at all. Is that the case? I hadn't thought of that.

I also note that the original DfE press release mentioned 'brilliant linguists' as one of the prime examples of the kind of unqualified people they wanted to get into schools. I always thought as a head that linguists had the toughest jobs of all my staff ,particularly with reluctant learners, and are the last group I would want to go into schools without preparation.

Once again, its a question of basing policy on what (possibly) works in some independent schools and ignoring the fact that children in the independent sector come overwhelmingly from the brightest and wealthiest 25% of the population.

Andy's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 10:40

Adrian, may I suggest that in the prevailing climate over recent years every subject can be perceived as a cinderella subject for the average and difficult learner these. E.g. Throwing a first class maths graduate solo in front a class is like sending a lamb to the slaughter house in just the same way as an experienced but untrained vicar would be or an untrained first class graduate scientist.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 11:41

Good editorial in TES yesterday. Main points:

1Finland says one key to their success is the high quality, mandatory teacher training which includes majoring in “education sciences”.
2DfE “wheeled out” cheerleaders from independent or free schools to drum up support for recruiting untrained teachers.
3The graduate teaching programme allows state schools to recruit graduates and train them on-site so there’s no need to boast about the “freedom” to “snap up fresh Oxbridge graduates”.
4There’s a “peculiarly British” assumption that whatever private schools do must be good. In the past this has been used to defend “a range of dubious practices, including corporal punishment.”
5Independent schools should not be held up as “models of rigorous teacher recruitment” because many hire “duff staff” whose bright pupils hide incompetence.
6Academies could hire unqualified staff as cheap substitutes for properly-trained teachers.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 06/08/2012 - 12:08

The graduate teaching programme allows state schools to recruit graduates and train them on-site so there’s no need to boast about the “freedom” to “snap up fresh Oxbridge graduates”.

Not anymore.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 12:36

Longer TES article includes reaction from organisations such as the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, Independent Academies Association (IAA), NAHT, NUT, ASCL, ATL and ARK (all against the idea) and the ubiquitous Richard Cairns of Brighton College (for). Mr Cairns is certainly receiving a lot of free publicity for his school.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 06/08/2012 - 13:02

Latest news re on-site teacher training available for graduates in state schools:

Still places available on Graduate Teacher Programme for September 2012:

To be replaced by the Schools Direct Training Programme and Schools Direct Training Programme (Salaried):

Any state school can apply to take part.

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