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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Should Teachers Be Fully Qualified?

I have heard a lot about unqualified teachers teaching in schools but have not had any direct experience of them. I do however have experience of H.L.T.As covering lessons .H.L.T.As in my experience are on the whole professional and have lots of school experience. When Higher Level Teaching status was introduced in 2003 the rationale behind it was it would reduce teacher workload:

The DfES (Department for Education and Skills) stated in the Consultation of 2002 that: 
Most teaching requires the expertise and skills of a qualified teacher; but some teaching activity can be undertaken by suitably trained staff without QTS [qualified teacher status], provided they are working within a clear system of leadership and supervision provided by a qualified teacher. Qualified teachers must have overall responsibility for effective teaching and learning. --DfES, 2002, p.5

This was really the first step towards unqualified teachers.

So why would schools use H.L.T.As and unqualified teachers? Has it got something to do with salaries?

Salaries for full-time HLTAs can be between £16,000 and £21,000 a year. This will vary depending on the Local Education Authority (LEA) and the responsibilities of individual jobs. There is no national pay scale and wage rates are set by each LEA. Teaching assistants who work part-time, or are paid only for term-time, earn a proportion of full-time rates. This is known as pro rata payment. 

Salaries for unqualified teachers (Outside London): £15,976 to £25,267  

Salaries for qualified teachers on the main pay scale (Outside London) £21,804 to £31,868 

I would argue that pay and conditions are huge factors and the figures above are evidence of this. S.L.Ts and governing bodies manage budgets which are increasingly under strain.This is just one article reflecting of the pressures caused by pay and show why schools are increasingly looking towards cheaper options: School heads warn of budget snatchback on pensions

What are the other reasons for unqualified teachers in the classroom?

A DfE spokesman said:
"Independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got QTS. We are extending this flexibility to all academies so more schools can hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before. We expect the vast majority of teachers will continue to have QTS. This additional flexibility will help schools improve faster. No existing teacher contract is affected by this minor change."

Is this 'brilliant people' really an argument for unqualified teachers? Schools have always had non teaching professionals coming into schools in an advisory, supportive role. They include people with skills in P.E., Science and Technology. They have performed an important role in adding to the curriculum, up skilling teachers and adding 'interest' for pupils, however they do not and should not replace teachers. 

The whole country would be up in arms if suddenly they were being represented in court by unqualified lawyers and solicitors or treated in hospital by unqualified nurses. Or would they? do they even know? Nursing is another profession under threat from cheaper, less qualified staff, taking over nurses jobs in the form of Health Care Assistants. 

The present government say they want education to be accessible to all. All pupils, from across the country and from every type of family background should they say, be leaving school with high standard education. However, their access to university will then be dictated by their ability to pay. Then even if they get a degree they will be usurped in their chosen profession by someone less qualified but cheaper! Why bother struggling to get to university and struggle for years to pay back a huge student debt?

How can high standards in education be best achieved with unqualified teachers? If graduates want to teach they should also want the professional qualification that goes with it. After all teaching is or should be a profession, filled with people who want to teach and who would be proud to have the 'piece of paper' that awards them 'Qualified' teacher status.

Some recent news headlines on the subject of unqualified teachers which give me hope:

'Teachers' unions are demanding that schools in England should only employ fully-qualified teachers'

 'Unqualified teachers 'damaging school standards'

Good quality professions require good quality professionals. This cannot and should not be achieved on the cheap!