There is currently a large debate going on in the UK about whether teachers need to be qualified to teach children or whether that is a requirement at all.
As of right now – I am really not sure where I am in this debate – and maybe that’s a good thing as I can look at both sides of it unbiased. Also, as I have just become a Newly Qualified Teacher I don’t necessarily need an opinion right now I suppose!
There can be no argument that an individual can gain development of teaching skills in Initial Teacher Training (unless I’m mistaken). However, I get the feeling this goes beyond the point of approaches and teaching methods of teaching. A teacher from Essex stated that people in favour of recruiting unqualified teachers were “responsible for attempting to deprofessionalise teaching.’ I personally think there is a lot of sense behind this comment. Teaching is a professional job. It requires consistent professional training, deep intellectual and creative thought and impacts directly on dozens of children and adults. There is not a specific definition on what a teacher is but it is clear and understood by many what it requires. In my mind there is no doubt that teaching is a professional job.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a profession is: “A paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification”. Now of course, the advocate for unqualified teachers could point out here ‘Ah-ha! It does not state a teaching qualification, so why couldn’t the engineer, biologist or business manager enter the world of teaching to teach their trade and share experience? I would then question – ‘Where would the limit be?’ If you remove the need for a teaching qualification then you may not only be able to employ the adults with degrees in other areas, you could employ teachers with no degrees whatsoever.
Any evidence that unqualified teachers may not be the best option in teaching children? Simply – Yes! The debate has arisen due to the opening of a number of ‘free schools’ in the UK, which allow Heads to employ unqualified as they are not tied to mainstream school regulations (that include teachers needed Qualified Teacher Status). 12 out of the 38 inspected free schools have been classed as ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted. That’s 32%! That compares to 21% of open schools in 2013. Not only this, but the champion of these free schools, Michael Gove, has been embarrassed recently with this:
In summary, plans have been made by the government to limit the failure of of failing free schools, because of the potential of serious political embarrassment for Michael Gove. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about the political embarrassment for Michael Gove, I care more about the inadequate standard of education the children in those schools are receiving. Now, of course, it would be unfair to attribute the failure of these schools to unqualified teachers alone. However, they are a key feature, I think, of these schools.
Firstly, a Department for Education spokesperson said “It is entirely up to head teachers who they employ.” Fair point. If a Headteacher wanted to employ an unqualified teacher, surely that’s up to them?
Why would a Headteacher want to employ an unqualified teacher?
1. Cost – The current minimum pay amount for a qualified teacher is £21804 per annum – for an unqualified teacher it is £15976. If the unqualified teacher has the ability to teach that the school needs and can offer something unique, why wouldn’t someone want to employ an educator like that?
2. Experience – The majority of newly qualified teachers come straight from the classroom themselves. I’m not one of those but I’m very close, I had two years out. However, there is a valid point to make in the fact that an unqualified teacher who has worked in other professions can bring great value in the diversity to the skill set of the teaching staff in a school.
3. Pure Teaching Skill – For want of a better phrase, I know some people who have no teaching qualifications who are, or if given the opportunity, could be excellent practitioners. My Dad is one of those. He does not even have GCSE’s, never mind an A Level or University degree, yet, I have seen him teach with confidence on a weekly basis at our local Church. Ok, he does not have to manage behaviour or assess learning, but the raw elements of building relationships with the class, teaching methods and enthusiasm are there. He has, himself, told me he regrets not pursuing a teaching career, he is instead a Sales Manager, well-established in his career but not happy. A point well made by @LewisJBell is that there are some great teachers who may struggle to get to grips with academic writing – an essential for getting a University degree.
All these are reasons why an unqualified teacher may be more desirable than a qualified teacher (except for 3, which is just a reason why they may be just as good).
Of course, the reasons and thoughts expressed here are not the only arguments for either side and maybe not the most critical – but just ones I’m aware of right now. Most of the teaching unions feel it is becoming a large issue. Others are saying that it is a welcome diversity. What are your thoughts? Is the balance of qualified and unqualified teachers just right, or unbalanced either way?
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