Lynn FulfordBy Lynn Fulford – Associate Dean of Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences

In late 2010 the Coalition Government set out its plans for education in the White Paper, The Importance of Teaching. In it Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, appeared to speak passionately about his commitment to teaching as a profession,

“At the heart of our plan is a vision of the teacher as our society’s most valuable asset. We know that nothing matters more in improving education than giving every child access to the best possible teaching. There is no calling more noble, no profession more vital and no service more important than teaching.” (November 2010)

His view was endorsed by the comments of David Cameron and Nick Clegg who said in the same document,

“The first, and most important, lesson is that no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers.”

It is therefore extremely depressing and disappointing that, slightly more than two years later, we learn that the Coalition has ‘relaxed’ the rules for academies and free schools so that they can employ teachers who have not gained qualified teacher status. A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) explains that,

“Independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got QTS. We are extending this flexibility to all academies so more schools can hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before. We expect the vast majority of teachers will continue to have QTS. This additional flexibility will help schools improve faster. No existing teacher contract is affected by this minor change.”

The dismissive view that this is simply a ‘minor change’ is quite breathtaking. How exactly will this policy ‘help schools improve faster’? Would the Government be willing to introduce ‘flexibility’ to the recruitment of doctors or nurses?

At the heart of excellent teaching is an understanding of pedagogy, an awareness of how to motivate, how to develop learning, how to manage behaviour and how to overcome the barriers that many of our children and young people face. At Birmingham City University we have welcomed the increased rigour of teacher training which has done much to improve our schools and colleges, as well as raising the status of the profession so that it is now the first choice career for many of our best graduates. We are extremely proud of our extremely effective training that has led to so many of our graduates having key posts and leadership roles in teaching.

Of course, what the DfE does not mention is that unqualified ‘teachers’ are much cheaper than those who have gained qualified teacher status. ‘Flexibility’ offers opportunities to pay staff less – and, in doing so, to devalue the role of the teacher. There is no doubt that schools can benefit from the skills, talents and expertise of those who are specialists in their fields – many already do so through the links they have set up with employers, industry and the professions. But there is a vital distinction to be drawn between the success of such schemes and the notion that any expert can be immediately transformed into a good teacher. Thankfully most of our schools and colleges recognise this, as do most parents: a recent poll conducted by the NASUWT found that 89 per cent of parents want their child to have a qualified teacher, with just 1 per cent “comfortable about those without the teaching qualification taking charge of a class”. Let’s hope that the academies heed their views – and that Government will consider a u-turn in its ‘flexible’ approach to the education of our children…

The following two tabs change content below.
Lynn Fulford

Lynn Fulford

Associate Dean - Student Experience & Quality Assurance