From now on, funding contracts between new academies and the education secretary will state that the school has the right to employ staff who it believes are properly qualified, even if they do not have QTS. Academies that are already open – currently 1,957 of England’s 22,000 state schools, including most of its secondaries – can also ask for this clause to be included in their agreement.
Unions described the move as “perverse” amid fears that it will devalue the status of the profession. But the Department for Education said it simply gave academies “additional flexibility” and it expected the vast majority of teachers recruited would still be QTS trained.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “In terms of education, nothing matters more than the quality of teaching. A recognised and demanding entry qualification is the hallmark of a profession and an assurance to parents that the people they trust with the care and instruction of their children know what they are doing.
He went on to say that although schools can benefit from the input of a wide range of people, the unique skills needed for teaching required training to acquire.
Hobby concluded: “This new freedom for academies to employ unqualified staff in teaching roles is a backwards step and makes as much sense a freeing up hospitals to employ unqualified doctors. The fact that the government cannot see the similarity betrays a low regard for the teaching profession.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Teaching is a skill, and the idea of employing individuals who have not been given the tools to do a professional job flies in the face of the coalition government’s aspiration of creating a high status profession. Of course subject knowledge makes a difference but it is no replacement for professional training in pedagogy and methodology.”
Another dissenting voice came from Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who said: “The government has brought itself further ridicule by its decision to allow academies to employ unqualified teachers.
“This contradicts its own assertion that good quality teachers are the crucial element in improving pupil achievement. And to sneak out this announcement as a so-called minor change when everyone’s focused on the Olympics takes government news management to a new low.”