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.

Why Performance Related Pay for Teachers is a Bad Idea (UPDATE)

Ministers Attend Cabinet Meeting At Downing Street


UPDATE: Please see the bottom of the post for Union reactions.

The DfE have posted this news item today:

All schools to get freedom to pay good teachers more

This post is my initial reaction as not all of the details are available as yet.

Does Gove really think that performance related pay will work in education? Insurance sales – yes, education – no.

Here is why:

How does one rate performance? Yes, results are important (and measurable), but being a teacher is about far more than letters. What about the positive influence teachers have on young peoples lives? You cannot measure that. What about the teachers who go the extra mile everyday? You can’t measure that.

I am sure many HoDs will not do this, but certainly a point that should be raised. If your salary is dependent on performance, will some HoDs allocate the ‘best’ students in order to get the best results? Teachers have kids and families to support. Could you blame them for wanting more money?

Value added could be a way of judging performance. However, if you have a class of students who are predicted A*, there is only so much value you can add. If many of your students are predicted C’s and D’s, you have more opportunity to add value.

This tweet from Sam is worth thinking about:

This is spot on and a great point.

Some schools have more outside donors or sponsors, these can provide funds to all sorts of things. This could free up extra money to pay more for staff.

Its common sense that teacher pay should be consistent. Imagine a situation when two teachers in the same department, doing the same job, find that one of them gets paid more. It will not be a good.

Schools are already under pressure about results and some are accused of helping students more than they should. Do you really think performance related pay is going to help this situation?

Think of the financial uncertainty for our future teachers.

Finally, it is a horrible to think of our students being treated like commodities.

I am sorry this may seem like a rant and possibly not brilliantly put together, I just wanted to get it out there.


Teachers’ performance pay ‘does not raise standards’ – Interesting article from the BBC.

Update 2:

NUT Reaction

NASUWT Reaction

ATL Reaction

Being an outstanding teacher relies on more than passing harder QTS tests

This blog was originally published by The Guardian on 12th November 2012.

The government recently announced its latest change to the teacher training programme: in order to make entry into teaching more challenging they will make the QTS skills tests more difficult by raising the pass grade over the next three years.

In order to pass, candidates will need to score the equivalent of a B at GCSE to pass. The government is also hoping to attract high achieving computer scientists into teaching by offering £20,000 scholarships. Yes we need high flying graduates if they have the correct skills to teach. However, a degree from a Russell Group university or an outstanding academic record isn’t simply a passport to good teaching.

When I took my GCSEs (nearly 20 years ago) I ‘only’ achieved a C in English and maths. Does this mean someone who achieved an A* or an A would be a better teacher? Of course not. Raising the minimum requirement to pass the QTS skills test to the equivalent of a B will not improve the quality of teaching, but only prevents potentially outstanding teachers from entering the profession.

It seems like another misguided step from Michael Gove, the education secretary, and shows he understands little about what is required to teach. It is also very shortsighted to think that the standard of teaching will improve because these tests are harder to pass.

In all honesty, why do we have a system that includes skills tests in the first place? If the prerequisite for entry onto a PGCE course includes GCSEs in both English and maths (and science if in primary training) then surely that is a better indication of your ability? Why the need for both?

During my career I have worked and trained with people who, on paper, are far more qualified than me, including the academically gifted and experienced industry professionals. Many of these people have entered the profession under the impression that qualifications, and being considered a ‘high flyer’ in their industry, will mean they will be a great teacher. Inevitably it’s a shock when they start training.

I have also seen many people who, according to their qualifications, should be outstanding, but have dropped out during their training year, failed to complete their NQT year or struggled to get teaching jobs. Why? Because it turns out, there is more to teaching than having a list of qualifications as long as your arm or how successful you are in a chosen industry. More should be made of the other qualities teachers require, that dare I say, are more important.

What qualities make an outstanding teacher?

I tweeted the following question to my followers on Twitter: “What are the most important things to look for in those wanting to train as teachers?”
I really wanted to know what other teachers around the country thought. Was I being naive in thinking that Gove was taking the wrong approach, that raising standards is as easy as raising the minimum qualifications required to train?

Below are some of the qualities I took from the Twitter response:

• The ability to build relationships, passion, a desire for learning, flexibility and being able to adapt.

• The need to enjoy working with young people and have an idea of what a career in teaching entails.

• A sense of humour in trainee teachers and the ability to see past labels.

• The ability to inspire, treat learners like equals and see the potential in all students. Teachers need to be positive, optimistic and confident.

One person tweeted that adaptability was more important than qualifications, which I thought was a great point. Not one person mentioned that trainee teachers need to be highly qualified.

The hypocrisy of Gove’s mission to improve the standard of new teachers is that academies can employ people who do not even have a formal teaching qualification to teach. On one hand Gove is saying how important it is that we only allow people to teach who have the best qualifications, and on the other hand that actually, it doesn’t matter, employ who you like.

Raising the standards of teaching is very important and I am all for it. However, we cannot lose sight of the other qualities required to teach, over and above just teachers’ qualifications.

Let’s bring hip hop into the classroom Part 1

Solitary Confinement

Hip hop gets a bad rep, its seems to get blamed for everything from young people swearing to knife and gun crime. I have been listening to hip hop for over 20 years and I have not been mentally scared or turned into some sort of knife wielding, gun totting criminal.

In fact, hip hop has helped mould me into the person I am today. I have learnt about politics, different cultures and religions, crime, love, death, war and much more.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes hip hop can be very hard to defend and I will admit nowadays there is a lot of rubbish around. Perhaps thats just me being a hip hop snob?

The fact I listen to hip hop often comes as a shock to both students and other teachers. When I am asked by students what music I like, I usually get this response:

“Hip hop? But you’re a teacher!”

Yes indeed I am! Which is precisely the reason I feel that hip hop can be used in the classroom to help teach anything from English to Politics or citizenship.

This is not a new idea. In fact a teacher I follow on Twitter who has the handle @infernaldepart (well worth following) used the song Ill Manors, by Plan B in one of his lessons recently.

I asked him why he used the song, this is what he said:

For those who have not heard the song. Have a listen. Its a cracking tune and has some very important things to say. Although, no doubt the message will be misinterpreted by many.

My intention for the second part of this post is not to provide teaching resources, lessons plans or schemes of work. Instead it is to simply draw your attention to a musical art form that can be used to educate our young people.

I am going to choose one song to write about. Its written and performed by perhaps the best group in the UK at the moment Rhyme Asylum. The track is called Holding On from their 1st album State of Lunacy. I will break down the song and highlight some lyrics that can be used to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

Have a listen before I publish the second part of this post, which should be in about a week.

Enjoy and make sure you listen to the lyrics.

Be sure to look out for the second part of this post.