Education: 59% of Lib Dems say teachers should have formal teaching qualifications

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

Yesterday I reported the results of what party members think about school structures. Today we look at your views on teachers and the curriculum…

59% of Lib Dems say teachers employed by state-funded schools should have formal teaching qualifications

Thinking about the choices that schools have over who they employ and what they teach… Which of the following best reflects your view?

    59% – Schools should only be allowed to employ people with formal teaching qualifications as teachers

    38% – Schools should be allowed to employ people with other experience, but no formal teaching qualifications, as teachers if they believe they are suitably qualified

    2% – Don’t know

Nick Clegg made his view clear last autumn when he stated that anyone employed by a school to teach should either have a formal professional qualification or be working towards one. And it looks like the majority of Lib Dem members agree, with 59% saying they expect schools only to employ qualified teachers. However, a substantial minority (38%) back a more light-touch approach, with schools having the freedom to appoint unqualified teachers – though, as you’ll see from the comments below, this support often included caveats.

• If people are well qualified in other ways, I see no reason why they shouldn’t go through the same process as everyone else to gain the teaching element of the qualification. It would be a good idea for Lib Dems to point out that there is also an issue wioth schools who recruit those who have a PGCE but whose subjkect qualifications are inadequate, or who are used to teach subjects they are not sufficiently qualified in.
• I’d expect teachers without teaching qualifications to only be employed exceptionally
• If schools are outside of local authority control, it is ESSENTIAL, that they are closely controlled by some other body, to whom parents can complain / raise concerns.
• Doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, architects, surveyors etc. have be formally qualified. So must teachers
• with strict controls and supervision
• It should be expected that all school staff have or be taking some teaching qualifications
• In vocational subjects, proper working experience might be more important than teaching qualifications. But in standard academic subjects, a teaching qualification is crucial.
• All these questions are too simplistic. Thus – if a school is run for profit, it is essential to insist on qualified staff, or else there is bound to be pressure to employ cheap unqualified staff. If a school is non-profit the same does not necessarily apply.
• You need trained teachers – considering that they are providing a service and dealing with the future of the country. We don’t have un-trained police officers, and we should not use un-trained teachers. Teachers need to be trained, so that they are equipped for the job that they do.
• As long as people have a decent degree or degree equivalent in their subject, they should be allowed to teach,with in house training and support on teaching techniques. They may bring more flexibility and be more enthusiastic about their subject
• This is an attack on teachers, and if allowed will drive down wages and working conditions.
• Some qualification is necessary but I support the principal of bringing in people with other skills.
• We would not allow unqualified doctors loose on our children’s bodies so why is different when it’s their minds at stake?
• Would anyone want an unqualified lawyer representing them in court or an unqualified architect designing their house?
• But they should have to report publicly the numbers.
• Plus people training for such qualifications
• Those without formal qualifications should work toward getting them.
• Maybe what they should do is make it easier for people to add teaching qualifications to their other qualifications. e.g. scientist to take a streamed course to learn how to teach instead of the whole teaching degree on top of the one they already have. This could be done partly while working at the school under the supervision of experienced teacher
• The vast majority of class teachers and teachers delivering most parts of the curriculum should be qualified. There may be scope for some exceptions especially for specialist teaching.

61% back compulsory National Curriculum for all schools

And which of the following best reflects your view?

    61% – The national curriculum should be compulsory for all schools, setting out what all schools must teach while being free to include other subjects or topics of their choice

    36% – The national curriculum should only be for guidance, and schools should be allowed to teach different things if they wish

    3% – Don’t know

This produced a similar result: most Lib Dems (61%) want a compulsory national curriculum prescribing what must be taught, with a substantial minority (36%) preferring to let schools decide. However, as can be seen from the comments below, there was considerable backing for a slimmed-down curriculum – a minimum guarantee of standards, but with maximum freedom for schools to teach around it.

• The curriculum should be mandatory, but should be made far less prescriptive at the same time.
• NC should be restricted to core subjects
• A core curriculum is sensible in a modern state.
• There should be a framework of essential skills and topics. A curriculum will also stop things like creationism sneaking into the schools.
• But a minimum curriculum. Not a return to Labour’s top down approach.
• Provided the NC only covers core subjects, English, mats, science and PE.
• I’m sick of people shoving ideology into the curriculum.
• To allow more freedom for specialisms in schools the national curriculum should beset on basic subjects allowing freedom to fill the rest of the school timetable with subjects that fit the need of the children.
• But we should have a much shorter, looser NC.
• We need some flexibility according to context. But basics are basics.
• Deeply unfair if pupils are not being taught on a level playing field
• The NC provides a baseline against which all students can be judges from the Tyne to the Tamar to the Thames
• There should be a core of compulsory subjects but more time and latitude for other subjects.
• But that’s not to say the national curriculum as it stands is a good thing, or is the right size.
• Again, hope the Education Committee are not dim.
• Please stop them teaching creationism anywhere!
• The national curriculum should be a smaller core with schools given the freedom to teach beyond it
• The national Curriculum is too narrow and does not allow for the areas interests, needs and skills.
• The current national curriculum is too prescriptive and should only have a few core elements.
• But the compulsory elements should be fewer
• This includes private schools.
• A core national curriculum should be taught by all schools but there should be plenty of flexibility and choice around it.
• There needs to be a basic minimum standard of education in important areas.
• It should encapsulate a range of objectives covering what we expect our children to need in order to lead happy and productive lives and be as narrow as feasibly possible. What shouldn’t happen is government trying to interfere in HOW a child is taught
• The important words you are missing are “slimmed-down”.
• But the National Curriculum should be thinned down(especially in younger years) and more room given for other areas & subjects.
• A national curriculum is illiberal. Any system with a centrally required curriculum plus freedom to teach other things will squeeze out the others as national curriculum results will be seen as most important and there will be constant pressure for subjects that are suffering to be brought inside the national curriculum to protect them – which then leaves even less room for initiative.
• But the scope of the national curriculum needs to be cut down within each subject, to give schools and teachers a degree of flexibility in what they choose to teach.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 749 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 18th December.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    14 Comments

    • Would the 39% who don’t think teachers need to have qualifications also support unqualified nurses, doctors, lawyers, surveyors, accountants,etc?

    • The fact that 38% of LDV survey respondents want unqualified teachers in our schools is disturbing, but not surprising.

    • jedibeeftrix, you can’t draw sweeping conclusions based on anecdotal experience! I’m sure there are people who have brilliantly defended themselves in court without a legal team and amateur architects who have successfully designed their own homes, doesn’t mean these are the norm, or that professional qualifications and standards are unnecessary.

    • @Whichever bright spark said this:
      “Maybe what they should do is make it easier for people to add teaching qualifications to their other qualifications. e.g. scientist to take a streamed course to learn how to teach instead of the whole teaching degree on top of the one they already have. This could be done partly while working at the school under the supervision of experienced teacher”

      Needs to get updated, there are several shortened paths to getting a teaching qualification for those already holding a degree (and also for those who don’t). I would question the motivation of anyone in teaching who can’t be bothered to spend the relatively short period of time needed to gain a teaching qualification.

    • @Steve 2nd Feb ’14 – 9:35am – “The fact that 38% of LDV survey respondents want unqualified teachers…”

      I suspect that part of the problem is that many can remember the days of the “competent amateur” teacher and have missed out on the growing professionalism in education, as evidenced by the founding of the Institute for Learning in 2002.

      By way of an example, today we think nothing of having to pass a driving test before we can drive a car on the roads, but this wasn’t the case for my grandparents…

      Aside: jedibeeftrix doesn’t mention whether their father was (or wasn’t) a qualified teacher and/or a qualified biologist!

    • jedibeeftrix 2nd Feb '14 - 9:14pm

      @ Roland – “jedibeeftrix doesn’t mention whether their father was (or wasn’t) a qualified teacher and/or a qualified biologist!”

      a degree and research masters in biology yes, along with 30+ years of teaching in Casterton school, Kamuzu akademy, and later in South Manchester.

      towards the end of his career his was coerced into doing a PGCE, so no, for the vast majority of his career he was ‘unqualified’ as a teacher.

      @ Steve – “The fact that 38% of LDV survey respondents want unqualified teachers in our schools is disturbing, but not surprising.”

      There is an enormous potential difference between having a PGCE and being a competent teacher.

    • “There is an enormous potential difference between having a PGCE and being a competent teacher.”

      It is possible for someone to have a PGCE and be an incompetent teacher, but it is impossible for someone to fail a PGCE and be a competent teacher. Without a PGCE, we are less sure they are competent. Would you be happy for someone to perform brain surgery on you without them having passed qualifications that assess their competency?

    • @Roland
      “By way of an example, today we think nothing of having to pass a driving test before we can drive a car on the roads, but this wasn’t the case for my grandparents…”

      Good analogy. Following jedibeeftrix’s reasoning, we shouldn’t bother with driving tests given that there are people who drive badly despite holding a driving licence.

    • Were there any questions about the role of faith in education. It would be interesting to see if attitudes changed since 2010?

    • I cannot believe that 41% of Lib Dems are so ill-informed that they don’t believe that our children have the right to be taught by teachers who are professionally qualified to teach. Or perhaps they don’t feel strongly about the rights of children. Another possibility is that the 41% misread the question!!!!

    • Shirley Campbell 4th Feb '14 - 11:30pm

      This issue is giving me a headache. What is a teaching qualification? Surely, one has to have an in- depth knowledge of a subject before one can teach the finer points of that subject. I conclude that “subject knowledge” is the be all and end all when seeking to impart knowledge to a receptive or unreceptive audience. Quite frankly, in the face of an unresponsive audience, an able practitioner will instinctively know what to do. Whatever happened to thinking on one’s feet!

      Furthermore, the measured competence of doctors and lawyers is that that surrounds their technical (subject) knowledge and not their perceived ability to impart that knowledge to a wider audience. They sell their services.

      Clearly, the term “teacher” is outmoded and needs to be revised to that of “purveyor of subject knowledge”.

    • Peter Watson 5th Feb '14 - 1:07am

      @Shirley Campbell
      “Surely, one has to have an in- depth knowledge of a subject before one can teach the finer points of that subject. I conclude that “subject knowledge” is the be all and end all when seeking to impart knowledge to a receptive or unreceptive audience.”
      I’m no teacher, but I cannot agree with that. Children up to 16 (and even 18) are not going to be learning the finer points of any subject. e^{i \pi} + 1 = 0 is a beautiful identity (that has probably not survived rendering here!), but knowing and loving it would not help teach times tables to year 3 or long division to bottom set year 7. I recently attended a session at my daughter’s primary school where her teachers went through the way they teach multiplication and long division. I have studied maths at an academic level far beyond any of these wonderful people, but by myself I could not have invented the tools and techniques they had learnt while training to become teachers.

      I was struck by a documentary a few years ago that followed some trainee teachers. One, a chemist I think, had a great academic background, but could not relate at all to children who did not share his passion for school or his subject. I identified with that as I am confident that I have enough subject knowledge to cover the curriculum in maths, chemistry, physics or computing up to age 16 at least, and can usually explain stuff to my own children, one-to-one. But stick me in front of 30 14 year olds and I would not know where to begin even before they start misbehaving.

      If it were a simple matter of imparting knowledge, then we could just lock our kids in a room with a pile of textbooks. I think that a simple truth is that “teaching” is an important subject in its own right, and teachers require knowledge of how to do that in addition to knowledge about the subject they are teaching. There is a balance between the two “subjects” which probably swings from “teaching” to “subject knowledge” as the learners get older, but for academic subjects I don’t think that subject knowledge is the most important factor until A-levels or beyond.

    • Shirley Campbell 5th Feb '14 - 7:29am

      Peter, you are right. Peter, I like you and you are right. I know, and anyone over the age of sixteen knows, that knowledge of any subject can be obtained from books and the INTERNET. However, the little ones need form and direction. We need to concentrate on the little ones.

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