“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