Opinion: We need unqualified teachers and assistants to become qualified

Teacher In ClassroomWe’ve just launched our parent guarantee about ensuring that all state funded schools should only use qualified teaching staff. A great idea, of course we want all teachers to hold a subject related degree and their post-grad certificate in education (PGCE) and their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). But what about those unqualified teachers already in a teaching role? What about the other staff which support and help educate our children?

I personally work in a secondary Academy (years 7-11) which has some non-QTS staff. Most are excellent educators of children and very valued by the academy and the children/parents. I’ve also seen the reverse though, non-QTS staff who can’t teach well, likewise I’ve seen QTS staff who are amazing teachers, also QTS staff who aren’t.

In addition to the parental guarantee we need a national scheme for all non-QTS teaching staff to become QTS. A distance learning PGCE if you will. Using their current teaching role for the practical elements of the PGCE and distance study over 3 years to complete the academic portions of the course. Supported by the local ITT (Initial Teacher Training) centres (normally a university but also training schools etc.), this will improve the qualification of our current teachers but needs to come with a commitment to change legislation to prevent schools & academies from hiring more unqualified staff, or that any unqualified staff will be put through the same scheme to become qualified within 5 years of starting to teach.

This also needs to come with a commitment to maintain the role of teaching assistants (TAs) in all schools & academies alongside the teaching staff. In addition to the scheme for teachers all unqualified TAs to be supported through the appropriate Diploma/NVQ for their level over 3 years. Using their current role for the practical elements of their course. Supported by a local college. And a similar commitment to put all newly appointed TAs through the scheme within 5 years of being appointed.

The support for educating our children also needs to come with the power for the ratio of TAs to students to be set by the Local Education Authority (LEA) based on their local mix of needs and funding availability, but with a floor level of 1 TA per 3 classes. This is in addition to TAs funded directly for a student(s) with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

We cannot simply nibble at the edges of our education system it needs overhaul from start to finish to do what’s best for our children and for the rest of society. I have other points about schooling which I will write about later.

* Barry Holliday Barry Holliday is Lib Dem PPC for Nottingham South, Nottingham City Lib Dems vice-chair & campaigns officer. He is a secondary school teacher of History & PSHCE and Notts County FC fan

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15 Comments

  • And once they are qualified, is there money in the education system to re-grade them and pay them the going rate?

  • 29/01/2014 Opposition Day Debate
    “The majority of MPs voted against requiring all teachers in all state-funded schools to have, or be working towards, Qualified Teacher Status.

    The motion rejected in this vote was:

    That this House
    believes that no school system can surpass the quality of its teachers; and therefore
    resolves that all teachers in all state-funded schools should be qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status, be undertaking ongoing continuing professional development and have their skills and knowledge re-validated throughout their careers in order to support them to excel in the classroom, to improve learning outcomes for all children in all schools, to uphold discipline in the classroom, to tailor their teaching to children with special educational needs and to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.”

    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2014-01-29&number=196

    Number of LDs voting in favour of every state-funded school insisting on every teacher either to already have QTS or be working toward the qualification = 0

  • Peter Watson 20th Jun '14 - 9:57pm

    @MartinB “Number of LDs voting in favour of every state-funded school insisting on every teacher either to already have QTS or be working toward the qualification = 0”
    More depressingly, the number of Lib Dems voting against every state-funded school insisting on every teacher either to already have QTS or be working toward the qualification = 48. (Some names here http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2014-01-29a.922.0)
    But at least we now have a guarantee. Is that anything like a pledge?

  • Richard Dean 20th Jun '14 - 9:58pm

    Why did the LibDems all vote against. At first sight it seems obviously right to ensure that teachers either have QTS and do CPD, or are in process of acquiring QTS.

  • Peter Watson 20th Jun '14 - 10:17pm

    @Richard Dean “Why did the LibDems all vote against”
    I’d love to know more about the debate that MartinB links to.
    On the face of it, if those Lib Dem MPs had voted in line with the party’s guarantee, the motion would have been won by 277 (or 278) to 252. Is this a U-turn by the party or is there some clever reason for the MPs to vote against something they want in order to avoid being seen to agree with Labour?

  • Richard Dean 20th Jun '14 - 10:49pm

    @Peter Watson
    Yes, it seems that those 49 MPs owe the membership an explanation.
    http://www.libdems.org.uk/a_qualified_teacher_for_every_child

  • Peter Watson
    “Is this a U-turn by the party or is there some clever reason for the MPs to vote against something they want in order to avoid being seen to agree with Labour”

    The latter I imagine – mustn’t be seen fraternising with the enemy !

    Grown up politics – whatever happened to them…..

  • Charles Rothwell 21st Jun '14 - 7:35am

    The votes outlined by Martin and Peter only remind me of Talleyrand’s quip to the effect that, “It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake!” Students, trainee teachers, teachers and teacher trainers (you are talking here of sections of the electorate of whom many used to be seen as ‘natural’ party supporters if not actual members!) will be incensed (insofar of course as they have not already (long ago – tution fees!) given up on us, that is!) If the vote was down to ‘clever, clever’ little Westminster insider games/need to show ‘governmental solidarity’ (against a move the Party is now backing!!!)*, one can only despair and work with renewed diligence towards the day when the Party is put back on track to being what it used to be seen as by millions of people; the reforming party with a soul and a conscience. (*If somebody on this forum can provide some enlightenment of why these votes (which I had not known about before now) should have been made in the ways they were, it would be useful to hear from them).

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Jun '14 - 11:45am

    Charles Rothwell

    ” Students, trainee teachers, teachers and teacher trainers (you are talking here of sections of the electorate of whom many used to be seen as ‘natural’ party supporters if not actual members!)”

    Indeed. The last poll I saw of the voting intentions of teachers was 8% for the Liberal Democrats – down from 28% in 2010.

    It seems that teachers have little confidence that the Lib Dems offer anything high quality and status-enhancing. The fact that NC talks of accepting unqualified staff teaching children – while working towards qualification – is a signal to teachers that he thinks it is not essential only to have qualified staff teaching children. This approach does little to enhance the status of teaching as a profession.

    Still it is better than the coalition’s policy of allowing an increase in unqualified staff. Yes, Gove was pushing this but plenty in our party appear to support it. Big mistake.

    I’m afraid I think the proposal in the article is simply more of the same. We should not compromise with the Tories on this. Every teacher should be a qualified teacher, not unqualified or ‘working towards it while teaching.’

  • Charles Rothwell 21st Jun '14 - 4:19pm

    Helen: I have not got more recent figures but the last ones I did see said that there were then at least 5,000 (!) unqualified teachers in state-funded academies and free schools. I do not have the slightest doubt that some of these are excellent teachers with a real passion for teaching their subject and working with young people/children. I think it is, however, essential that state school teachers (facing very different challenges than in the private sector in many cases) be qualified (if for no other reason than to root out those who are totally unsuited to teaching!) I would therefore be very loathe to “show the door” to any teachers already working in academies etc (and who may well have established themselves very successfully in the years they have been employed but would make it part of their appraisal process that they work towards/acquire QTS over a certain period of time (three years?) Unlike in my day (when all state trainee teachers were herded through a whole year of PGCT at an HEI), there are now many alternative ITT provision routes and maximum use could be made of these. I think such arrangements could also allow schools to more readily appeal to the kind of people who are desperately needed in teaching, namely those who have worked in ways other than “school > degree > teacher training > school” in their lives (and fully agree with what Vince Cable said in this regard a few months ago – even though it landed him in a certain amount of hot water!)

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Jun '14 - 6:30pm

    Charles Rothwell

    Yes, there is an argument to be had about mature students coming into teaching with experience from industry and other areas. In practice this has gone on for years in fact and has had some limited effect. I’m thinking of John Major’s licensed teacher scheme, which did bring in to my school a few unqualified staff who proved to be good at their jobs. However, these people were relatively young, having spent only three or four years doing other things.

    Gove has created Schools Direct which might well attract mature students into teaching and those who want to bypass the university route. Of course we have Teach First but I am concerned that all these schemes undermine the professional status of teaching as a post-graduate profession.

    It gives the impression that teaching is really a craft – a classically old-fashioned view – and ignores the leaps and bounds made in pedagogy at HE level. I fail to see how someone who comes into teaching without having the academic backup (except in a limited sense) can be called a professional.

    I’m not sure that nowadays all trainees at PGCE level are straight out of university and completely raw – that was not my PGCE experience way back in the late 1980s. Mature students back then were quite prepared to do a PGCE, though they would have obtained a small grant. Perhaps we should offer this again to mature trainees instead of trying to train on the cheap?

    We don’t expect these shortcuts to be made by doctors and nurses (including late entrants) so why is it that some in the party are prepared to countenance unqualified staff (working towards their qualification) to teach lessons ( in the hope they will be good enough)?

  • I think it is, however, essential that state school teachers (facing very different challenges than in the private sector in many cases) be qualified (if for no other reason than to root out those who are totally unsuited to teaching!)

    But given the number of teachers who are already qualified and are still totally unsuited to teaching, it’s hard to see how this would help!

  • Helen Tedcastle 21st Jun '14 - 8:19pm

    @ Tim

    What number did you have in mind when writing this comment:

    ” But given the number of teachers who are already qualified and are still totally unsuited to teaching”

    Evidence please.

  • It’s quite simple in my eyes. You wouldn’t want an unqualified nurse or doctor would you? So why accept an unqualified teacher?

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