This is a post I’ve been meaning to write since the debate a few weeks ago but lack of time has prevented me. So these are my thoughts on QTS.
Over the Summer the DfE removed the requirement for unqualified teachers employed in maintained schools to gain QTS. Therefore schools can now employ unqualified teachers. No minimum level of qualification is required. The school simply has to determine if the candidate has suitable subject knowledge.
Let’s begin with the basics. QTS is in simple terms the accreditation that as teachers in the maintained sector we all possess or are working towards. For teachers to gain QTS there is a requirement to complete a period of Initial Teacher Training which enables you to meet the standards for QTS. This included all mainstream and special schools in England and Wales. This is what the DfE (2012) required. It was therefore simple to deduce that if you wanted to teach in a state maintained school you needed QTS. There are various routes to arriving at QTS but I’m not discussing the differing merits of those. QTS is my interest at the moment. Academies and Free Schools were different and had different rules. They were always allowed the freedom to employ a teacher without QTS if they thought they were suitably qualified. So is this the right way to proceed?
This ruling sparked a huge debate and coherent arguments were suggested on both sides of the debate. Personally I don’t think it’s quite that simple. On the face of it I think the removal of QTS may not be as damaging as it first appears. Some people in other professions have valuable skills which could certainly be utilised in schools. For example, a doctor would make a good science teacher, a banker would be a fantastic maths teacher and a computer programmer would make an excellent ICT teacher. Surely a writer could teach English with ease. I can see where Michael Gove is coming from with this one, I really can. These people have wonderful skills to teach to our children. Is it that simple though?
The arguments against the need for QTS have probably been the loudest amongst teachers as you would expect. We’ve worked jolly hard for our QTS and we are none too keen on it being whisked away on a Governmental whim. I take a different stand though and come to this debate from the point of view of the children. Children are not interested in politics or QTS, all they want is an education. Some don’t even want that, but that’s a different post. Some of the arguments for keeping QTS were valid and some were not. I’ve picked out a few of my own concerns for you to ponder.
The Teaching Standards are split in to two parts. Part one deals with the actual teaching aspect of QTS. In point 2 it calls for teachers to be aware of ‘pupils’ capabilities and prior knowledge and plan teaching to build on these’. My concern here is that how would a person with no teaching experience know the order in which to teach maths. Maths is sequential, each step must be mastered before moving on or you have great gaps in your knowledge which inevitably leads to problems further down the line. Being an expert in maths doesn’t automatically make you a great maths teacher. That said, knowing the order in which to teach maths does not give you mastery of the subject. There are arguments for and against.
Point 3 states that teachers should demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge. Now this is where our non trained colleague would win. They would have good subject knowledge, quite possibly to a very high standard. Will they know how to promote literacy, numeracy and articulacy at every opportunity in every subject?
Point 5 says ‘know when and how to differentiate appropriately’. Arguments rage amongst teachers about the effectiveness of differentiation. With non qualified staff will we not have lessons taught to the class as a whole? Children at either end of the spectrum might be missed out completely. I am aware that differentiation is a bone of contention for some, but as a special school teacher I have to differentiate. I differentiate as if my life depended on it. 9 children equals 9 lots of differentiation for me. Will our non qualified staff be able to cope with the needs of all children, those with high ability, those with challenging behaviour, SEN, those with English as a second language and so on? Will they know how to keep them all engaged, especially if they are all in the same class?
Point six states ‘To know and to understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas, including statutory assessment’. Will our non qualified staff know how to use FFT, RAISEonlinre, Ofsted Data Dashboard and the school’s internal assessment tool? Will they be able to meet the requirements for all the different external accreditation? It’s a tall order for those of us who are trained so I shudder to think how hard it is for the untrained person.
Point seven asks that ‘teachers have clear rules and routines for behaviour’. Our non qualified staff may surprise us here. For some people behaviour management is intuitive. This is not a chance I’m willing to take though. Vast amounts of money are spent on training teachers in the art of behaviour management and still many can’t master it. I would like to see training in this important area. Poor behaviour from pupils affects society as a whole and shouldn’t be left to chance.
The second part of the standards deals with Personal and Professional Conduct of the teacher. The standards call for teachers to ‘uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour within and outside school’. How many other professionals have to demonstrate exemplary behaviour all the time including outside school? This seems a little harsh to me, we’re only human after all. Would our non qualified colleague be up for this public scrutiny? Would they even know they had to be on their best behaviour at all times. This one is fraught with difficulties.
One further point from the teachers’ standards says ‘ensure that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability’. In my opinion, this standard needs to be taught to prospective teachers. Some teachers have fallen foul of this and they’ve had training, our non qualified teachers deserve the same training. This is too important an area to be left to chance.
My position is that some other professionals would make good teachers, of that I’m quite sure. If their subject knowledge is strong it appears to be a good idea on paper. In an ideal world I can see that this has its merits. Surely there needs to be some training to address the issues I’ve raised though. I’m not being precious about my QTS, but I think a happy medium needs to be found. Great subject knowledge doesn’t necessarily equal great teacher. I’ve heard the argument that they can learn on the job and this is true, of course they can. So, if a person has the proven required subject knowledge, let them learn on the job and after a period of 12 months let them pass the Teaching Standards and achieve QTS. There is already a programme of QTS assessment only. It seems like a fair solution to me.