Whenever I talk to people about the government’s reforms to teaching which have made qualifications no longer a prerequisite, most react with shock and disbelief. Parents in particular find it hard to comprehend that their child could be taught by someone who isn’t qualified to do so.
Yet this is, unfortunately, an accurate picture. In allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms on a permanent basis, the government have downgraded the status of the teaching profession and watered down school standards.
As a result, we’ve seen a 141% increase in the number of unqualified teachers in academies and free schools, such that 1 in 10 teachers in free schools are unqualified.
This is creating a situation where you need more qualifications to get a job in a fast food restaurant than teaching in a school. This can’t be right.
As you might expect, it’s definitively not what people want. The polling company YouGov found that 66% of people believe schools should only be able to employ teachers with formal teaching qualifications. This is true for voters from all the main political parties.
Despite the fact that it is the Conservatives who have introduced this policy, 65% of their voters think it is wrong. The policy is also opposed by teachers, including the heads of the Institute of Education and Institute for Learning, a series of college principals and Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Removing the requirement for teachers to be qualified is part of Michael Gove’s wider programme of undermining and talking down the teaching profession – he at one point described teachers as ‘enemies as promise’. For friends of mine who teach, and indeed do so because they believe in the talent and ambition of the children in their schools, this kind of statement from a Secretary of State for Education was deeply troubling, not to mention infuriating.
Bizarrely, Cameron used to tell us that he wanted to raise the standard of entry to the teaching profession. In 2010, he said: “A series of studies by American academics has revealed that quality of an individual teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s educational progress” and “research here in the UK confirms this – with children in with the best teachers learning four times as fast.”
I’m glad that in Parliament today, Labour will push Cameron and Gove to end the watering down of standards in the teaching profession by ensuring that all teachers in state funded schools become qualified. Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt MP, will insist that teachers will have to have, or work towards achieving, qualified teacher status.
Unlike Gove and his Conservative Party, Labour recognises that no education system can surpass the quality of its teachers and that raising the status of the profession is key to raising standards for all our children, in all our schools.