It is reported that the Secretary of State for Education (for England), Michael Gove, is exempting further categories of taxpayer-funded schools from having to employ teachers with formal qualified teacher status (QTS). The Guardian reports the DfE as saying:
"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."
If it is really the case that "additional flexibility will help schools improve faster", then the wonder is that it hasn't been extended to all schools.
First reactions were as predictable as they were hostile. The Guardian again ...
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the decision was a "clear dereliction of duty" and a cost-cutting measure dressed up as flexibility. A poll conducted by the union in anticipation of such a policy change last year found that 89% of parents want their child to have a qualified teacher, with just 1% "comfortable about those without the teaching qualification taking charge of a class", said Blower.
But hang on, virtually all the professional knowledge and skills that a teacher builds up is developed through working with other skilled and experienced colleagues over time – just what will happen with this change. Even those smart enough to survive the Teaching Agency (TA Note 1) grinding mill and emerge into schools are still pretty raw when they first start. So, what a relief that schools are full of inspiring teacher-mentors – many of them Christine Blower's members.
The BBC reports that the headmaster of Brighton College (an independent school) has, unsurprisingly perhaps, supported the changes. In a statement released through the DfE, Richard Cairns said:
"I strongly believe that teachers are born not made and I will actively seek out teachers from all walks of life who have the potential to inspire children. At Brighton College, we have 39 teachers without formal teaching qualifications, including me. Some come straight from top universities, others from careers including law, finance and science. Once teachers are in the school, they have a reduced teaching timetable to allow them to spend time observing other good teachers and are actively mentored. By the end of the year, they are, in our view, better trained than any PGCE student."
A claim too far, perhaps, and a fairer comparative question would be how do they fare at the end of year two. I note, just in passing, that the DfE seems to be endorsing this dismal view of the PGCE; only obeying orders, I guess.
Note 1 The Teaching Agency (which changes its name more often than the average nuclear reprocessing plant) still seems to take its copy book headings from Dickens' Hard Times.