Today is a BIG news day. To most people, the opening ceremony of the Olympics, after years of build-up means one thing: time for a party. But not for the DfE; For them it can mean only one thing: time to launch a major policy change whilst the headlines are otherwise occupied. So, whilst thousands of athletes step out into Stratford stadium to celebrate qualifying to participate in the greatest sporting show on earth, the DfE has decided that anyone can now turn up and take a shot at teaching.
There’s bits of this which can be welcomed. It’d be madness not to employ someone who showed every sign of being an incredible teacher. So we absolutely should have the flexibility to do so. I recently interviewed someone for a TA job and found her to be so truly inspiring and extraordinary, so vastly experienced, having gone far beyond the normal requirements of a TA that, given that she was better than many of the teachers I’d interviewed that day, suggested she be given a teachers’ job. But ummm…
I could already do that. Unqualified teachers can already be teachers and sadly the press seems to have failed to report that
. It seems the DfE
has failed ask “does this actually solve an actual problem?”
Currently the requirement is just that teachers achieve QTS within four years. That can involve joining a course like the Graduate Training Program or just going through the “Assessment only Route” in which you put together a portfolio that shows you meet the standards expected of a teacher. I would have thought that was a fair requirement. If in four years you can’t show you’ve met the standards it seems pretty reasonable to suggest you shouldn’t be teaching.
Of course, the argument may be made that it’s not a particularly useful thing to have. Also fair enough; I have no particular affection for the piece of paper that says “QTS” (heavens knows where I’ve put mine) but there’s more to QTS than that. There’s the training that comes with it. Rather alarmingly, the DfE’s press release quotes the head of Brighton College, Richard Cairns who argues that “teachers are born not made” – (one can only hope he doesn’t impart such a “fixed intelligence” message to his pupils). Anyway, his claim is nonsense. Last year I published an article in Professional Development Today about a trainee I had taken from serious “cause for concern” to “good”. The same happened this year and several more moved from good to outstanding. All of them were very clear that the training had played a role in this. Training clearly yields progress.
The counter argument is that you don’t need to be working towards QTS to undergo training and professional development (hmm. let’s try saying the same of GCSEs, A levels and degrees). Sadly, plenty of schools would not provide the training opportunities needed if there were not this goal in sight. I’ve had stern words with several schools who weren’t giving trainees the opportunities they needed and I had the back up of saying it was part of what they needed to get their QTS. Otherwise, many schools see good trainees and think- “well they’re great as they are, let’s get on with making full use of them”. Thanks to the training course, my trainees got a few more months with sufficient time and support to observe and reflect. They are now going into their NQT year prepared to make the best of it. As to those who struggled at first, if we perpetuate the “born not made” myth, they may not even get a chance to prove themselves.