Hartsbrook E-Act Free School was opened in September 2012 but help has only just been provided by E-Act to the inexperienced leaders. 18 months after opening the school still hadn’t appointed subject leaders for English and maths, Ofsted
said. Inspectors found school leaders had recognised their lack of capacity for leadership and requested help last year but E-Act had only recently responded.
The primary school was rated Inadequate on all four counts and Ofsted has recommended an external review of governance.
This raises a wider question about the use of inexperienced staff in positions of responsibility at free schools.
The Discovery New School, soon to be closed, had a head without qualified teacher status
. Inexperienced and unsupported staff contributed to the failure of Al-Madinah free school
. Annaliese Briggs, who was appointed to be head at Pimlico Free School despite having neither teaching experience or a teaching qualification, left her post
seven weeks into the school’s first term. Sherry Zand, who was appointed to lead IES Breckland despite never having had experience of deputy headship, left her post
after just one year.
In 2011, Dr Rob Higham, London Institute of Education, researched groups
behind free school proposals at the time. He found the second largest group after parent-led ones in the first-wave were from mainly middle-ranking teachers who aspired to become the free school’s head. This, Dr Higham said, would be “very rapid promotion”. It would also result in schools being led by teachers without experience of senior management.
Last October, a leaked document
revealed civil servants were concerned “some free school projects may appoint inexperienced principal designates who are not suitable which would significantly undermine the success of the school." Despite their warning ministers, including Education Secretary Michael Gove and David Laws, approved the scrapping of a requirement to attend assessment centres.
It isn’t only free schools where education is threatened by the use of inexperienced* or unqualified teachers. According to TES, the Tory vice-chairman Richard Harrington has voiced concerns that allowing academies to recruit people without qualified teacher status (QTS) could result in heads hiring teachers “on the cheap”.
According to the Statutory Guidance
issued by the Department for Education (DfE):
“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.”
But it appears this high standard doesn't apply to people employed to teach in academies or free schools.
And even the Tory vice-chairman sounds worried.
ADDENDUM 28 March 2014: a YouGov
poll in Autumn 2013 found 60% of respondents thought children should only be taught by qualified teachers. Support for this was highest among Labour voters (73%) and those intended to vote UKIP (71%).
*It's to be expected that newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) or teachers-in-training will lack experience. But problems arise when their presence in a school is disproportionately high or when teachers are promoted beyond their level of competence.