• Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • National Numeracy

  • National Literacy

  • School Home Support

  • Advertisements

Free school head without any teaching qualifications plans to ignore curriculum

Free school head without any teaching qualifications plans to ignore curriculum

The Guardian |by Daniel Boffey, policy editor on March 9, 2013

Pimlico school

Pimlico Academy free school in Westminster, London, is due to open its primary school in September. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
_
Worrying news that a significant number of unqualified staff are being employed as teachers in free schools. In addition, at least one free school is employing a headteacher who is not a qualified teacher and plans to ignore the national curriculum. This is directly at odds with the requirements for Qualified Teacher Status being made more stringent which suggests that greater qualifications are required to teach effectively. The government’s education policies are, yet again, shown to be, confused and flawed. 

One in ten teachers working in free schools are not formally qualified to do so, according to official figures, including a 27-year-old who has been appointed as headteacher of a primary due to open this year. There were 21 teachers with no teaching qualifications in the 17 free schools that responded to a government census. Almost half (47%) of the schools had at least one unqualified teacher.

Pimlico Primary free school in Westminster, which is due to open in September, has appointed a headteacher who is only now receiving teacher training. Annaliese Briggs, a former thinktank director who advised the coalition government on its national primary curriculum, is the designated head for the new school, which is sponsored by Future, a charity founded by John Nash, the Tory donor and former venture capitalist appointed schools minister in January.

It is understood that Briggs, an English literature graduate from Queen Mary, University of London, and a former deputy director of the right-wing thinktank Civitas, is being trained in Wandsworth in preparation for the beginning of the next school year. She has already said that she will ignore the national curriculum and teach lessons “inspired by the tried and tested methods of ED Hirsch Jr”, the controversial American academic behind what he calls “content-rich” learning.

One local teacher, who did not want to be named, said he was astonished that such an inexperienced candidate had been selected. . “It seems extraordinary that having experience and teaching qualifications are no longer prerequisites to running a school,” he said. Even a young headteacher is normally expected to have six years of teaching experience before they are entrusted with the task of leading a school.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, announced in 2010 that free schools – which are outside the control of local authorities but funded by the state – would be allowed greater leeway over appointments. Last summer he extended such freedoms to the country’s 1,500 academies, claiming that removal of the requirement for staff to have qualified teacher status (QTS) would replicate the “dynamism” that he believes is found in private schools.

The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, responding to the school census figures – which were collected in November 2011 – said he would reverse the policy if Labour was in power. “Parents will be shocked to learn that this government changed the rules and we now have unqualified teachers in state schools. This wouldn’t happen under Labour – we would ensure teachers are qualified,” said Twigg.

“We need to strengthen, not undermine, the quality and professionalism of teaching. Ministers should reverse this decision so that all young people get the qualified teachers they deserve.”

Leaders of the teaching unions believe the policy is part of a “deskilling” of the profession. Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, said the latest figures were an insult to teachers. “This information is just a manifestation of the fundamentally flawed policies of a coalition government that believes it is acceptable that schools should be able to employ leaders and teachers who do not have qualified teacher status,” she said.

“Parents and the public should be deeply concerned that they can no longer have confidence that when children and young people go to school they are being taught by a qualified teacher.

“If anyone suggested that doctors could be unqualified and allowed to treat patients, everyone would be rightly horrified. Why is the same concern not extended to the education of our children and young people?”

The row comes as the first Ofsted reports into standards in free schools are published. Batley grammar school in West Yorkshire and Sandbach school in Cheshire were both found to “require improvement”. They were said to be letting their pupils down across a range of subjects, particularly English. Staff at Sandbach school were told they had an “inflated view” of their performance.

Jo Saxton, director of education for Pimlico Primary’s sponsor Future, said: “All our staff are carefully selected to ensure the ideal balance between excellent subject knowledge, effective teaching and the ability to engage all pupils.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have given free schools and academies the same freedoms the best independent schools enjoy to hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists so they can inspire their pupils.

“Pimlico Academy’s governors and teachers [Pimlico Academy secondary school is also run by Future and will share its site with Pimlico Primary] took a failing secondary and increased its Ofsted rating to ‘outstanding’ in record time. Headteachers and governors at places like Pimlico know their schools best and we trust them to recruit the right staff.”

Advertisements

Should All Those Who Teach, Lecture or Tutor Have Professional Qualifications?

Lecturers should need a teaching qualification, says NUS president

On 22nd April 2012 the Guardian revealed a call by the NUS (National Union of Students) to make all university lecturers qualified teachers. NUS president Liam Burns was quoted as saying that it was “astonishing” that it wasn’t already a legal obligation for those who teach in higher education to have professional qualifications.  An area of concern is the increasing use of post-graduate students to deliver lectures and seminars by cash strapped universities and colleges.  Their view echoes the recommendation of the university funding review by Lord Browne in 2010 but this proposal was abandoned after objections were raised by the universities because they felt that it would compromise their institutional independence.

Should All Those Who Teach, Lecture or Tutor Have Professional Qualifications?

Yes!  We wholeheartedly agree with the views expressed by both the NUS and Lord Browne.  It is of great concern that post-graduate students are being used to deliver lectures in colleges and universities. But it is not only in higher and further education where we are seeing this worrying trend in the use of unqualified people delivering lessons. It is also becoming more and more common for primary schools to use teaching assistants to cover lessons during teachers’ absences rather than paying for supply teachers.

Why Are Schools, Colleges and Universities Using Unqualified Staff?

It is understandable, to a certain extent, that they are making use of unqualified personnel and it does appear to make sense on some levels.

  • The argument for universities is that post-graduates have a proven sound knowledge of their subject which they can then pass on to their younger under-graduate colleagues.
  • In primary schools, the use of teaching assistants (TAs) allows for stability for the children because they are being taught by somebody who they already know. And the teaching assistant will already have an understanding of the current curriculum that is being covered and therefore find it easier to step into the breach.
  • It is cheaper to use non-qualified staff  and this cuts down on personnel costs for cash-starved educational establishments.

What Is Wrong With Using Unqualified Staff To Teach?

The main issue with this, is the widely held and incorrect assumption that having a sound knowledge of a subject enables you to teach it.  Knowing your facts and being able to impart them effectively are two different things entirely.  Anyone who has watched E4’s The Big Bang Theory and witnessed the genius Dr Sheldon Cooper’s wholly inadequate efforts to lecture students in his area of expertise will be able to relate to this immediately. Teachers go through 3 to 4 years of study in order to understand the principles of how people learn, how to put together effective lessons and how to assess the progress that has been made by their students.  A good teacher can then tailor their planning and teaching methods to suit the needs of their student/s according to ability, learning styles and how well or otherwise they have understood the topic.

No-one, however great an expert they may be in their field, will have these skills at their fingertips if they haven’t been trained to teach. Therefore, to use unqualified and untrained people in the classroom or lecture theatre means that students are not being taught adequately and are receiving a sub-standard education.  It is worth noting that with many primary schools now using TAs for teaching cover for 2.5 hours of PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) time each week a child is, on average, losing a month’s worth of qualified teaching time each year.

A further cause for concern is the fact that under current regulations anyone in the United Kingdom can set up in business as a tutor regardless of their educational training or qualifications.  At Kip McGrath Education Centres we recognise the need for the skills and teaching knowledge that accompany a professional teaching qualification in order to teach children effectively.  We believe that in order to improve education standards and maximise the potential for all children they must be taught by qualified professionals at every stage of their learning career. That is why at Kip McGrath we guarantee that all our students are always taught by qualified teachers.

%d bloggers like this: