free school

Do teachers need to be qualified? Don’t ask such silly questions

This article was originally published by The Guardian on 28th October 2013 and was a response to Anthony Seldon’s Guardian article.

Surely it goes without saying that teachers should be qualified? Apparently not.

The idea of unqualified teachers working in school is nothing new and Gove has made it clear for sometime that he feels experts in their field should be able to work in free schools and academies. It would appear that all it takes to be a teacher is subject knowledge and a passion for the subject. Can you imagine how easy teaching would be if this was true.

Our job is far more than that, which is why gaining a teaching qualification is so important. When I think back to my training year, I can see that it was the hardest 12 months of my life, closely followed by my NQT year.

I was eager to be a teacher but wouldn’t have lasted five minutes without the sort of formal training I received not only from my school but from university. Teaching is hard, students can be challenging, the job can affect you in ways you never expected. Working towards a qualification prepares you for this.

I trained alongside some incredible people at university; people that ran their own tech companies, computer programmers, some trainees with first-class degrees – people who, on paper, would be far better teachers than me. I can imagine these people would be exactly the sort that Gove would love to see in schools. The problem is, many of them did not cope well. They found it hard to deal with behaviour and students’ social problems. They struggled to communicate their vast knowledge to students. Lots of people drop out. If they had been employed by a school straight away rather than starting a PGCE they would have quit, leaving students without a teacher.

Is it not fair on the unqualified teacher, their colleagues or students to employ them without having proof that they can meet a national minimum standard. We should not be experimenting with this.

If a school sees potential in someone and wants to employ them as an unqualified teacher, then great. But that school should be willing to train this member of staff up and get them qualified. If they are not willing to train them up, I think questions need to be asked.

Could employing unqualified teachers be about saving money? They are certainly cheaper. Will unqualified teachers be less likely to be unionised? Is this an advantage for schools?

Finally, how would students and parents feel about this? If you want a carer for your child you want one with qualifications. It’s important, it gives parents confidence that carer can do the job. Social workers need to be qualified. And, teachers are social workers too, of sorts. It does not matter if you are in a free school, academy or independent school you will have to deal with pastoral problems of different kinds.

I absolutely understand that those without a teaching qualification have much to offer. My advice is to do your training, get a qualification and join a union. Teaching is so much more than standing in front of a class and knowing stuff. I wonder if Gove has heard of pedagogy. Knowing something doesn’t mean you can teach it. Teachers should be qualified.