Academy plan to use untrained teachers is an outrage

Francis Gilbert's picture

Why is Michael Gove instituting this policy when he has praised countries like Finland where teachers are intensively trained? This article first appeared in The Guardian on the 27th July 2012

The news today that the education secretary is to remove the requirement for academies to employ qualified teachers sent a shudder down my spine. For a teacher like me, who has taught for more than 20 years in various comprehensives and has spent a great deal of time, quite a bit of it my own time, being "trained", I know that pupils get a raw deal if they are taught by an untrained teacher.

Firstly, a properly trained teacher is fully conversant with the various theories about how children learn; he or she understands that you can't just stand at the front and bark orders, that you need to engage children in "active" learning where they are doing things that assist with their learning. A well-trained teacher knows how to assess their pupils lesson by lesson, and use their assessments to shape further lessons, building upon a child's strengths and tackling their weaknesses.

I know I wouldn't be nearly as effective as a teacher had I not been trained. My training has equipped me to deal with both the academic rigours of my subject, and managing hundreds of children over the course of my career. It's enabled me to draw on a variety of techniques and approaches so that I feel I can constantly innovate and improve myteaching.

A well-trained teacher understands how to nurture good behaviour; they know how to set clear boundaries and understand the complexities of children with special educational needs who may be struggling. They are also specialists in subjects.

Much research shows that the best teachers have been very well trained. Indeed, it is puzzling that Michael Gove should be instituting this policy when he himself has praised top-performing education systems such as Finland's where teachers are intensively trained.

So why is he instituting this policy? I think there are two major reasons. First, he himself has admitted to disliking the "educational establishment"; he has a covert agenda to "de-professionalise" the profession. He wants to give the impression that anyone off the street can teach, that it is a "craft" – as opposed to an art or science – that can be learned on the job.

Second, he's got his eye on setting up "for-profit" schools where companies can move into the sector and offer education at "cut price". This is the equivalent of offering children "ready meals" instead of home-cooked food. If the Conservatives get a majority in the next election, I've no doubt this will happen.

It's time the teaching profession spoke out collectively against this outrage; our children's future is at stake.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Sarah Dodds's picture
Mon, 30/07/2012 - 06:12

Many people will know that there has been an anti-academy campaign in Louth for a long time. Sadly, we could not hold off the national tide forever, and two of our schools are coverting now. But the group is still strong in Louth, and we must make sure we campaign hard to commit our local school to recruit only trained teachers.
And while I am at it, I always wanted to be an airline pilot....maybe they will relax the training requirement on that too..

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 14:19

In June, the Mail and the Telegraph quoted “a Government source” who allegedly said: ‘For too long, Left-wing training colleges have imbued teachers with useless teaching theories that don’t work and actively damage children’s education.”

The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) wrote to the DfE and challenged the above claim (which also appeared in the Telegraph). UCET wrote that all initial teacher training programmes (ITT) “meet explicit professional standards and are subject to more external scrutiny than any others in the world… OFSTED rate the quality of training as being high… The quality of ITT has, in fact, been given explicit praise in all recent HMCI annual reports.”

The DfE replied that Government policy for ITT was given in a letter dated 27 February 2012 which said that “universities play an important role in the provision of ITT” and told UCET that it would be “more useful to focus on these direct statements of Government policy than on media reports”.

But it's media reports that do the damage. The DfE didn’t categorically deny that a DfE source had indirectly given the quote to the Mail and the Telegraph. It wouldn’t be the first time that dodgy data has been passed to the Mail by a DfE special advisor. And, of course, sensational media articles are spread more widely than “direct statements of Government policy”.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 16:50

“The importance of good teachers and good teaching is undeniable. That is why Conservative Members have made such a priority of training, of in-service training, and of grants for education support and training money to help raise teaching standards. There are thousands and thousands of dedicated teachers.”

Those words were spoken by a previous Conservative Secretary of State, Gillian Shephard, in 1995. It appears that Conservatives have now changed their minds unless Mrs Shephard was paying lip-service to teacher training like the DfE does when it tweets that qualified teacher status is a benchmark of quality while simultaneously saying that academies don’t have to insist on this professional qualification. And an anonymous DfE source spreads propaganda about lefty teacher training colleges to the Mail and Telegraph (see above).

Adrian Elliott's picture
Tue, 31/07/2012 - 17:05

And when was the term 'training college' officially dropped? Thirty years ago at least or was it forty? Very revealing about the knowledge of education of the average DfE spokesman?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 01/08/2012 - 09:26

Adrian - it also raises questions about the level of knowledge (or lack of it) of those who write on educational issues for the Mail and Telegraph. Unfortunately, both of these papers seem more interested in publishing inaccurate articles pushing stereotypes about "teacher training colleges", unions, the parlous state education (especially comprehensive schools), "plummeting" down league tables and so on.

The anonymous DfE source probably knows quite well that the term teacher training colleges no longer exists. However, s/he knows that the hacks at the Mail and Telegraph will eagerly churn out this nonsense.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Thu, 02/08/2012 - 15:02

Agreed,,,the mail has dreadful ill-informed and reactionary editorship on education matters...but then that could be said for most of their interests ( other than gardening and money) . Unfortunately it also appears to be where the main protagonists on the Official Facebook group for the Liberal Democrats get their information...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Thu, 02/08/2012 - 17:52

What's much more outrageous than employing unqualified teachers is the very widespread habit of schools employing teachers to teach subjects in which they have no background or academic training.

On another blog, there's a discussion about this issue in which an UQT who is working in an academy on short-contract is the one of only two maths teachers in a department of eleven with a maths degree. The rest have geography degrees etc.

So, the unqualified teacher gets to teach the sixth form because (with the exception of the head of Dept) the rest aren't up to it!

(scroll down to Matt's contributions)

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 03/08/2012 - 07:54

Shock horror! When BBC computers first hit schools all those years ago, the teachers expected to teach pupils how to use them DID NOT have degrees in Computing! Even today most teachers who use IT to support their teaching DO NOT have degrees in ICT. And take Personal, Social and Health Education (which includes sex education), most PSHE teachers DO NOT have a degree in how to put condoms on bananas.

Worst of all - primary school teachers who teach all subjects DO NOT have degrees in ALL these subjects! It's outrageous that such teachers are not qualified at degree level in English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, RE, Music, Drama, Art, Sport, IT... But it's likely the huge majority will have QTS.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 03/08/2012 - 17:26

I don't understand why you want to trivialize what is an important problem, Janet.

I think most parents know and accept that most primary teachers teach across the curriculum. But I believe most parents of secondary age kids would be scandalized to learn that their children are being taught GCSE Maths by people with Arts degrees who have to go to an unqualified teacher for advice and instruction in basic maths topics before giving lessons in the classroom.

There are, of course, areas of natural crossover: a History teacher could plausibly teach Politics and Citizenship. An English graduate could plausibly teach Drama. But English grads teaching Year 11 Maths? Come off it. It's outrageous. And it's much more outrageous than whether or not a teacher has QTS or not.

Clive Opie's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 20:52

Being one of those teachers who had to teach pupils the use of the BBC I am just so satisfied I had good PGCE training which gave me the knowledge of how to teach.

My contribution to this discussion centres around three points all to do with ITE

1 Similar to your point Janet having a good degree and PhD did not ensure I would make a good teacher. Good teacher education, close working with schools, and colleagues who helped me build my understanding of childrn's learning, did. There are thousands of teachers who similarly honed their teaching skills and the Secretary of State for Education needs to take heed of this when he keeps upping the entry into ITE.

2 Having worked in ITE for over 25 years, and supported by numerous Ofsted inspection, the key for a good grounding in teaching is appropriate education in children' learning and sound partnership with schools. ITE has always looked to improve and change to do so and work with its placement schools. But, again the Secretary of State for Education non-evidence based drive to undermine this positive working relationship and put 'schools' in the lead threatens to damage not improve the future of the education profession.

3 Finally the actions of the Secretary of State for Education to 'play' with ITE allocations based on his unilateral decision over the definition of good ITE are very likely, unless reversed, to set the teaching profession, and I make no excuse for calling teaching a profession, back and undo all that the last 20 years have achieved.

I have a lot more to say but I am sure others will want to comment. These views are mine and do not necessarily reflect m place of work.

agov's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 07:43

So it's perfectly okay to have staff who have no idea of what they're doing so long as they are not English graduates developing their skills in community schools.

You're so funny Ricky. It's the way you tell 'em.

howard's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 09:07

I agree it's outrageous teachers not knowing what to teach, but it's equally outrageous teachers not knowing how to teach, but you don't seem to think that's a problem!

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 05/08/2012 - 07:32

Clive - thanks for your succinct comments. You say you have more to add - perhaps you could start a new thread by clicking on the blue "Add" button above.

I also find it strange that when schools invite an outsider (say, a local entrepreneur helping a Young Enterprise Group) into school to work alongside trained teachers on a particular project that this is taken as "proof" that QTS isn't required and those same outsiders could be taken on as full-time teachers. There is a world of difference between, say, an instructor coming in to help coach the hockey team and being a full-time teacher. It's like saying that when a GP surgey employs a dietician then this dietician could be called "doctor".

No-one should be called a teacher without the proper training.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 10:28

Agov, Howard......

So it’s perfectly okay to have staff who have no idea of what they’re doing ....... it’s equally outrageous teachers not knowing how to teach...

We need to get past this lazy conflation of 'unqualified' with 'incapable'. There are many UQTs in independent schools, for example, who have been teaching well for many years. It is perfectly possible for an unqualified teacher to be a better teacher than the qualified teachers around her.

It seems to me that there are three reasons why an academy might want to appoint an unqualified teacher:

1. Because the UQT is better than the qualified teachers who applied.
2. Because there is a local shortage of qualified teachers in the relevant subject.
3. Because they could get an unqualified teacher more cheaply.

Only reason 3 gives me any grounds for concern.
And it would be easily solved by having a rule that schools could only appoint UQTs if they paid the same going mainscale rate they pay to other teachers in the same school. That would solve the problem, but somehow I can't see the unions buying that.

howard's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 14:01

Glad to see some acknowledgement that knowing how to teach is important, but we also need to get past the lazy assumption that this new freedom will only be used to employ experienced teachers from the independent sector. As the DfE's own announcement and the Langley Free School case example cited in this make clear, it can be used to employ any one the school sees fit.

agov's picture
Sun, 05/08/2012 - 07:42

"We need to get past this lazy conflation of ‘unqualified’ with ‘incapable’."

Except in the case of English graduates developing their skills in community schools. Apparently.

"It is perfectly possible for an unqualified teacher to be a better teacher than the qualified teachers around her."

Except in the case of English graduates developing their skills in community schools. Apparently.

"It seems to me that there are three reasons why an academy might want to appoint an unqualified teacher:

1. Because the UQT is better than the qualified teachers who applied.
2. Because there is a local shortage of qualified teachers in the relevant subject.
3. Because they could get an unqualified teacher more cheaply."

But obviously such considerations could not apply to community schools appointing English graduates to teach other subjects. Apparently.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 10:51

DfE stats show that for publicly-funded schools in England: “The majority (94.8 per cent) of teachers held degree level qualifications or higher. Head teachers and teachers working in nursery and primary schools were more likely to hold Bachelor of Education qualifications than teachers working in other publicly funded schools.

“73 per cent of teachers of mathematics to years 7-13 held a relevant post A-level qualification. Similarly, 78 per cent of English teachers and 91 per cent of teachers of combined/general science held a relevant post A-level qualification.”

“84 per cent of the total hours taught of mathematics to years 7-13 were by a teacher who held a relevant post A-level qualification. 88 per cent of total hours taught of English, and 94 per cent of the total hours taught of combined/general science.”
A relevant post A-level qualification is defined as a subject degree, a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree, Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) and other (eg Certificate of Education – Cert.Ed).

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 11:12

Thanks Janet for quantifying the scale of the problem.

73 per cent of teachers of mathematics to years 7-13 held a relevant post A-level qualification

Or to put it another way:

27% of teachers teaching maths in Years 7-13 have no post-A level Maths qualification

More than a quarter. More worrying than whether the odd one or two percent have QTS or not.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 15:09

howard - re your post above 4/8/12 at 2.01 (no reply button). As you say, the DfE press release cited, among others, Langley Hall (which has just fallen foul of the School Adjudicator) which employs an actor for Drama. Just because someone's a professional actor doesn't mean they can teach - I remember poor Simon Callow, an actor I very much admire, struggling on Jamie's Dream School. And Langley Hall's head, supposedly speaking during the summer holidays, says the Drama teacher's off playing Cinderella in Pantomime. In August! Or is she going to be off until the Pantomime season's ended early next year? Not much use for teaching drama then, is s/he?

The Barnfield Federation, also cited in the press release, wants to run a further education college for profit. This can be achieved much more easily by employing unqualified, cheaper teachers. However, I'm unsure how Barnfield Federation will continue to get away with employing unqualified people at its FE college or studio school now that Minister John Hayes has insisted that FE colleges and training providers must ensure that teachers are properly qualified.

A TES article written by the Head of Classics at WLFS shows her enthusiasm for the subject. However, her arguments about the usefulness of Latin had been previously rebuffed by Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, as the comments following the article show.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 04/08/2012 - 17:11


Why is it bad for one primary - Langley Hall - to hire an actor for Drama while it's good (according to your other thread) for Downhills to have two paid artists in residence for Art?

Many primaries do not have subject specialists for either art or drama.

Both schools are lucky. We shouldn't tie them up with red tape.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.