All pupils have the right to be taught by properly-qualified teachers – 80% of parents say so

Janet Downs's picture
"Head teachers are best placed to make staffing judgments in individual schools".

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, 9 September, 2013

That claim has been debunked by the Al-Madinah free school debacle: Ofsted found there were large numbers of inexperienced, unqualified staff who hadn’t received adequate training. And the quick departure of Annaliese Briggs, who’d been appointed head of Pimlico Primary free school despite being unqualified and inexperienced, shows Future Academies, the academy chain which appointed her, wasn’t “best placed to make staffing judgments” either.

But these were just isolated incidents, surely? They shouldn’t be used to prove unqualified teachers are a bad thing, Gove’s supporters might say.

They would be wrong. Few parents would allow their sick children to be treated by unqualified doctors; few pet owners would allow their pets to be cared for by unqualified vets. But parents are expected to allow their children to be taught by unqualified teachers.

But graduates with good degrees are entering teaching, argues Gove, there’s no need for them to be qualified teachers as well. But Finland, a country whose teacher training is admired by Gove, require teachers to be good graduates in their subject AND have a degree in teaching methods.

But independent schools have never had to employ qualified teachers and their results are good, argue Gove’s supporters. Again, they’re wrong:

1 The schools which they cite are highly selective and their results are governed by their intake.

2 Little is said about private schools failed by Ofsted*.  Provisional data shows 37% of independent schools inspected between January and June 2013 were judged less than good, with 14% being judged inadequate. This compares with 30% of state schools judged less than good and 6% inadequate between September 2012 and June 2013.

3 There’s growing evidence that state school pupils outperform their equally-qualified peers from independent schools at university.

4 The private schools “advantage” disappears when socio-economic factors are taken into account: UK state schools outperformed private schools.

Contradictory claims about how many unqualified teachers are employed in state schools (see here) are not as important as whether this practice should be allowed at all. Schools Minister David Laws said (17 October 2013):

“We want to ensure that teachers in schools have good qualifications and the capacity to teach. The hon. Lady will know, however, that there are plenty of teachers who may not have formal qualifications but who still do a superb job.”

But the “capacity to teach” needs to be underpinned by a proper system of teaching training as in Finland. “Capacity to teach” isn’t demonstrated by having a subject degree just as “capacity to heal” isn’t demonstrated by a degree in human biology. The possibility of doing a “superb job” is increased by training in teaching methodology rather than it being left to chance.

80% of parents in a YouGov poll want their children to be taught by qualified teachers. No amount of disingenuous waffle about “capacity to teach” will alter that.


*The Ofsted report (downloadable here) into independent school inspections carried out between January and June 2013 will be the subject of a more detailed thread to be published shortly. Note: Ofsted was at pains to point out that the independent school inspections were “proportionate to risk” and “the schools inspected in any one year are not representative of the whole population of schools.” The same is true of state schools but this observation is often missed.

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