As Michael Gove encourages schools to recruit unqualified ‘experts’ into the profession, Jane Bradley explains why it is now more important than ever to gain Qualified Teacher Status.
Teacher’s message boards have been aflame, following the recently announcement that Education Secretary Michael Gove will allow some schools to hire unqualified ‘experts’ to teach, without requiring them to having Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Currently, only free schools and independent schools may choose to employ teachers without QTS, but Mr Gove insists that allowing academies to follow suite will tempt more industry professionals into a career in the classroom. The government have said that this move means academies are now free to hire “great linguists, computer scientists and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before”, but teaching unions have reacted angrily, with many believing it to be nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise.
When I decided to pursue a career in teaching (only seven years ago), it was at a time when the government was in the middle of a mass recruitment campaign. There were teacher shortages across the board, in particular in subjects such as science and maths. When my PGCE class qualified we all strolled into jobs and, to be frank, I don’t think we realised quite how fortunate we were.
In line with other sectors, jobs now are harder to come by. Anecdotal evidence tells me that people are more reluctant to leave/change their jobs as a result of the recession and new teachers are finding it considerably tougher to find a position.
The decision to widen the net to allow the recruitment of unqualified ‘experts’, is a gross disservice to those who have slogged their way through a PGCE. Moreover, it is a disservice to the young people who, I believe, have a right to be educated by fully trained, classroom-ready specialists. In what other profession would this move even be contemplated? As the ever-passionate poet and author Michael Rosen pointed out in his open letter to Mr Gove in the Guardian, it certainly wouldn’t be acceptable in medicine. Or law. Or engineering. It is utterly inconceivable.
Perhaps if the government believes that going through the national training scheme for our country’s teachers is not a necessity then the answer must be to make the changes there – not by altering the recruitment policy. Perhaps a more flexible, more rigorous, or even more accessible system is needed to attract the top talent that the private, free and academy schools are hoping to entice.
But with every new Secretary of State for Education comes a whole raft of new initiatives that change the game for parents, teachers and children. We are expected to adapt and we do. We adopt new curriculums. We stretch ourselves to meet new targets. We take part in performance management exercises. We undertake rigorous training to update our skills and we are open for scrutiny from our line managers and the dreaded inspection team at a moment’s notice. And crucially we accept that this is part of the job… this is how we prove ourselves to be professionals worthy of such an esteemed role.
So it stings to hear Mr Gove talking about fast-tracking industry types into the profession. By obtaining QTS you are taking the necessary and accepted steps to become a teacher. It’s hard work. Damned hard work actually and rightly so. The job is a tough one; a constant balancing act that requires a specific set of skills, on top of subject knowledge, so it is only right that the broad assessment criteria reflects this.
But perhaps most importantly, by devaluing QTS Mr Gove is giving weight to that irritating myth that teaching is something you can just fall into when you have exhausted your ‘real’ career options. That, to us true professionals, is the biggest insult of all.