Allowing unqualified teachers in schools breaches UNESCO recommendation on status of teachers

Janet Downs's picture
UNESCO is quite clear: governments should require entrants to the teaching profession to have the ‘required professional knowledge and skills’. It is the responsibility of governments, UNESCO says, to ensure there are ‘sufficient places in appropriate institutions’ so trainee teachers can complete ‘an approved course in an appropriate teacher-preparation institution’.

The recommendation allows people who may lack the formal academic requirements but who possess ‘valuable experience, particularly in technical and vocational fields’ to enter teacher training. However, whether full-time or (exceptionally) part-time, all student teachers should undertake teacher-preparation, UNESCO recommends.

Teacher preparation in appropriate institutions should include:

1General studies.

2Study of education philosophy, psychology, and sociology; education history and theory; comparative education; experimental pedagogy, schools administration and teaching methodology.

3ALL ‘teachers should be prepared in general, special and pedagogical subjects’ in universities, institutions operating at a comparable level or in special teacher training colleges.

4All staff involved in teacher preparation should be familiar with educational research and pass this on to their students.

Initial training should be supplemented by in-service training designed to improve the quality and content of teaching.

The recommendation includes other clauses which cover such things as stability of employment (‘essential in the interests of education’ as well as for teachers), disciplinary procedures, professional freedom, teacher responsibility, conditions for effective teaching and the recognition of teachers’ organisations (‘a force which can contribute greatly to educational advance and which therefore should be associated with the determination of educational policy’).

The Government breaches this UNESCO recommendation. It allows academies and free schools to hire unqualified teachers – subject knowledge is deemed sufficient. It is suspicious of university-based teacher training. Teaching, said ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove, is a ‘craft’ best learned on-the-job. Teachers learn by observing and being observed, he told the Education Select Committee.

Observation is important, yes. But this falls far short of the teacher education recommended by UNESCO. Teacher training which is entirely school based may downgrade or omit educational theory. As we’ve argued before, teaching is an intellectual activity as well as a practical one. It’s more than just passing on tips for teachers. Teachers require high-quality training and preparation – six week crash courses before being launched into schools as with Teach First or on-the-job training which focuses on lesson delivery, do not provide the intellectual foundation teachers need.

It appears, then, the Government has ignored and will continue to ignore the UNESCO recommendation. But teacher education would be better if the recommendation were implemented. And it would also be better if the Government regarded teachers’ organisations as a positive force as UNESCO recommends instead of treating unions as the enemy.
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… As Janet Downs, reports on the Local Schools Network blog, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, as far back as 1966 “was quite clear: governments should require entrants to the teaching profession to have the ‘required professional knowledge and skills’. It is the responsibility of governments, UNESCO says, to ensure there are ‘sufficient places in appropriate institutions’ so trainee teachers can complete ‘an approved course in an appropriate teacher-preparation institution’.” …

FJM's picture
Thu, 28/05/2015 - 21:46

Sorry, but I couldn't care less about's UNESCO's opinions on this matter.

David Barry's picture
Fri, 29/05/2015 - 14:55

But equally, FJM why should we care about YOUR opinions on this matter....

David Barry's picture
Fri, 29/05/2015 - 15:01

But on the unqualified teachers thing, I have noticied a recurrent pattern on internet fora where a parent asks advice on what the difference is between an Academy or Free School and an ordinary state school. When an informed person, who may or may not be a critic of the Academies policy - that point not always clear - remarks that an Academy is free, if it wishes to employ unqualified teachers, so a parent considering an Academy might wish to ask what their policy is on this, a rejoinder often appears from a proponent of government policy saying that this advice is "scaremongering" or some such phrase, as in practice, Academies (and Free Schools) DO employ qualified teachers....

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 30/05/2015 - 07:40

David - it's sometimes the case that when someone says 'I don't care about the opinions of (insert name of organisation, think tank, political party, pundit, blogger, media outlet, whoever)' it's a ploy to avoid discussing the content of what was written and engaging with the issue.

I'm not saying that's what FJM has done, of course.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 30/05/2015 - 07:51

It is, of course, the case at present that academies and free schools mostly employ qualified teachers. BUT the fact they have the dubious freedom to employ whoever they think is 'qualified' to teach is likely to become more common. Inspirations Academies Trust, for example, the academy chain chaired by Sir Theodore Agnew who is also head of the DfE's Academies Board, has advertised for four unqualified teachers at Norwich Primary Academy.

If someone as influential in education as Sir Theodore thinks it's OK to use unqualified teachers, then lesser mortals are bound to follow.

David Barry's picture
Sun, 31/05/2015 - 17:17

There is a relevant blog post on the IOE site. The author, Robert Hill, writes about what he sees as the ten challenges facing the school system over the next five years. The second challenge (after the school place shortage, which he has as number one) is " Teacher recruitment ".

"... Stories and surveys abound about the problems schools are having in recruiting sufficient teachers. Over the past three years 6,000 fewer teachers have been trained than the government planned for and the number of teacher applicants holding an offer at the end of April 2015 was down by 3,300 compared with a year before.

Maths, physics and languages are among the subjects where there are particular recruitment pressures. This throws into sharp relief the government’s pledge to train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers.

Questions remain about the coherence and effectiveness of different pathways into teaching and cynics are convinced that the government WILL USE SHORTAGES TO ENCOURAGE MORE USE OF UNQUALIFIED TEACHERS."

(My emphasis)

quoted from:

"The next five years: 10 challenges for school leaders
Posted on May 19, 2015"


Robert Hill.

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 30/05/2015 - 14:15

It could be though that the whole issue of unqualified teachers was a big balloon inflated by Tristram Hunt for the election. He did seem to mention it at every available opportunity, and sometimes when it wasn't even relevant. If you took away free schools and QTS, most of us would be hard pressed to say what distinguished Labour's schools policy from the coalition's. So maybe exaggerating the unqualified teacher issue was a way of marking out some distinctiveness to draw attention away from the similarities. It will be interesting to see if we hear any more from Hunt on this subject in the future.

The BBC's Branwen Jeffreys says there have long been unqualified teachers and the numbers are not significantly higher now than before the 2010 election. In fact, her chart shows that there were 18,800 unqualified teachers in 2005 as opposed to 17,100 now.

She also points out that in raw numbers MOST unqualified teachers are teaching in LA maintained schools, not academies. However, UTs form a higher proportion of the staff of academies, so numbers might rise with further academization. The issue relates to somewhere around 3 or 4 per cent of teachers, so not a huge issue really. Truth is that it does look like it has been hyped up a bit by young Tristram for political effect.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 31/05/2015 - 07:14

Barry - you're right that the proportion of unqualified teachers in schools has barely changed (see Full Fact).

The figures for untrained teachers presumably contain teachers in training - this would reduce the proportion further.

However, giving the green light for academies and free schools to employ unqualified teachers is, as you say, likely to increase the number of such teachers in these schools. They are cheaper. But teaching is an intellectual activity and proper, accredited training should be compulsory. The Inspiration Trust, for example, which is recruiting four untrained teachers for a Norwich primary academy, says it will offer 'training' but details aren't given.

The figures in the BBC tables are out-of-date - they finish in 2010 which was when the way of measuring the figures changed. This makes comparison with today a little unreliable. And surprise, surprise - they show there were more unqualified teachers in non-academies than academies. Considering there were only about 200+ academies in 2010, this is hardly an earth-shattering conclusion.

Official statistics show 'Between 2012 and 2013 there has been an increase in the number of teachers without QTS'. They confirm your figures: 'Teachers without QTS now represent 3.8 per cent of all teachers in state-funded schools (compared with 3.3 per cent in 2012)' but point out 'The number of teachers without QTS in free schools has risen to over 200 and represents 13.3 per cent of their 1.5 thousand FTE [full-time equivalent] teachers.'

It should be remembered, however, that there are few free schools and they employ only a tiny proportion of all FTE teachers. Any slight variation in teacher status would have a disproportionate effect.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 01/06/2015 - 13:39


The BBC table I linked to does not stop in 2010. There is a bar at the bottom of the table which enables you to display the next 3 years by sliding it with your mouse arrow. It gives figures up to 2013.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 01/06/2015 - 15:11

Thanks, Barry - I missed the significance of the solid bar. The figures for 2013 show there are indeed more unqualified teachers in maintained schools than in academies. The figures are as follows:

Maintained schools: 9,300 unqualified teachers
Academies: 7,900 unqualified teachers.

But there are more maintained schools than academies so we need to know the proportion not just the raw figures. These are as follows:

Maintained schools: 3.1% of teachers are unqualified.
Academies: 5.3% are unqualified.

The BBC doesn't give figures for free schools. I presume these are lumped in with academies.

What we don't know (perhaps I've missed it) is how many of these unqualified teachers are actually teachers-in-training. Or whether they're being offered no accredited training at all. If the latter, there are questions over quality control and professional development.

One interesting fact from the BBC data. In Jan 2010, before the Coalition came to power and before mass academy conversion, 11.1% of teachers in sponsored academies were unqualified. The proportion in maintained schools was just 3.3%.

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