Controversy over allowing unqualified teachers’ into Academies

But there are already teachers in the state system who are not fully qualified

A couple of weeks ago the government confirmed plans to permit academies – which make up nearly 9 per cent of state schools in England – to employ staff who do not have Qualified Teacher Status.

New Funding agreements between new academies and the Education Secretary will now say that it’s up to schools to judge whether teaching staff are “properly qualified”.  The reaction was largely hostile, with many teachers at best unconvinced.  However, this change, in fact, brings academies into line with the new free schools, which are already free to employ people without QTS.

One charge made by some   is that this was intended as a ‘back door way of saving money and dumbing down the profession.’ Some suspect that this is about taking on the unions and creating a greater body of teachers who potentially have not come through traditional forms of training. They point out that the Governments own White Paper said “The most successful countries, from the Far East to Scandinavia, are those where teaching has the highest status as a profession”. But, they argue, this move looks, if anything, to be de-professionalising the profession and reducing its status.  The DfE statement, though, said that it expected “the vast majority” of teachers to have the qualification.

The idea behind the change is in line with  making schools more autonomous, which  central to the governments reforms. The change will allow head teachers to bring in  outside professionals with “great knowledge and new skills”.  Some  in education are supportive and like the idea of getting people who have high level degrees in important subjects, or relevant life skills,   being fast tracked  help to engage pupils, particularly those threatened with exclusion.

Michael Gove, the education secretary, has in the past  talked about the need for teachers to have Masters degree level qualifications, and now we have an announcement allowing degree graduates to enter the profession, without any professional training.  This might appear to be a watering down of  his initial position. . Sam Freedman, a special adviser to Gove used (on Twitter) Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, as an example  of how qualifications are not essential to do a good job . Ferguson  doesn’t  hold  the UEFA coaching qualifications held by most top football managers and coaches yet is still  regarded as world class and brings home the silverware.

True, but  this omits  the fact that Ferguson has always appointed under him  the best (qualified) professional  coaches to train the team.  Freedman  reiterates that this   is all part  the governments autonomy drive and gives heads and governors greater flexibility.But, he added that nothing will happen unless education professionals decide to use this new freedom. So, why not trust their judgement? Pupils could get  access to great teachers who they otherwise might not have had.

Of course , while it is easy to see how allowing children access to professionals with ‘greater knowledge’  and experience of the real world  might benefit them   there is a pretty fundamental purpose to qualifications. ITT aims to provide   potential teachers  with a formal set of skills and qualities required to be an effective classroom teacher. Arguably without this ability and the skills set that is taught, you won’t make much impact in educating young people.

Professor Husbands of the IOE puts it as follows “The importance of unpacking subject knowledge in ways which support pupil learning; of understanding how young minds develop; of the ability to plan for the learning of all, including the most gifted and the most challenging; of being able to assess and use assessment to improve teaching; of being able to deploy a range of behaviour management strategies. Teaching is a complex, higher order skill and it depends on high quality training.  None of these things matter any less because a school is an academy or free school rather than a community of voluntary aided school.”

However, set against this is the argument, made by some,  that initial teacher training is   of such variable quality and is  so  patchy that   in practice the QTS doesn’t  really mean an awful lot. In any case you can actually train teachers  once they are in the school, and learn by doing.   The Teach First  programme shows  us the impact that can be achieved by bright, motivated individuals who have very limited initial training as teachers, but who are  then supported and have access to best practice and CPD once teaching in their schools.  Teach First is regarded as a big success.  The Government had quietly, already decided, in 2010, to allow school workers without QTS to become fully-fledged members of the teaching profession, making the non-QTS route open to state schools.

And  it is also the case that some schools  have members of staff who are not qualified teachers on their senior leadership teams.  Indeed, an NCSL study found ‘that schools valued the contribution senior non-QTS staff were making to school life.’

And what about the independent sector, which has always had a very different approach and seems no worse for it, indeed quite the opposite? A sizeable chunk of career changers enter independent schools without teaching qualifications. While maintained school teachers must gain qualified teacher status (QTS), for independent schools no training is required. Although the Independent Schools Council (ISC) says the majority of new teachers enter the independent sector with QTS, as recently trained newly qualified teachers (NQTs), some schools employ up to five non-QTS teachers at a time, and even have positions open only to untrained graduates.(most independent schools have training systems of their own to guide non- QTS teachers through their first year)  For new teachers, particularly graduates lumbered with student debt who are reluctant to embark on another course, independent schools can offer the immediate entry to a paid, full-time job that a PGCE cannot.  So as we can see the fuller picture is not so simple. This will not stop unions vigorously campaigning against the move.



  1. The question I would always put to critics of this change is this. How many lessons take place in the maintained sector every day, where a qualified teacher is not present in the classroom?

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