Private schools use unqualified teachers - but are they really any good?

(431 Posts)
Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 13:35:08

One of the justifications for Free Schools etc being allowed to use non qualified teachers is that Private schools do so and get great results.

However, are the great results because those non qualified people are really better?
or is it because they are handed heavily selected cohorts to teach?

This can be tested.

Take two schools of similar size and age range, one that is fee paying and the other that is fully comprehensive
say Eton and Wallingford school in Oxfordshire (fast search for 11-18 leafy)
and swap the whole of the teaching staff for a fortnight - to run a whole timetable cycle.
TAs and support staff would stay put so the places kept going
but the whole staff from each school would teach the other's timetable.

How would they cope?

My hypothesis
The state school teachers would be pleasantly surprised that a lot of the private school kids were pretty normal.
The state school teachers would get some good ideas about how to make extension work more useful
Some of the private school teachers would rise to the challenge and come up with new ideas
most would be eaten alive by lower ability kids.

So, could a TV company make it happen?
What are your hypotheses?

straggle Sun 03-Nov-13 07:37:01

I've found more info now about PISA and socio-economic context of private schools here. Around one-tenth of the advantage is as a result do competition and higher levels of autonomy but more than three-quarters of that advantage can be attributed to 'the ability to attract socio-economically advantaged students'.

The Economist is suggesting when the new PISA study is published next month Sweden will continue to fall down the tables with more poorly paid teachers and more inequality.

abbiefield Tue 29-Oct-13 18:34:52

Interesting Talkingpeace . I have a wry smile when people tell meabout other systems ( like Finland <g>) and now Korea.

I mentioned above how my own school takes some international pupils. Recently we have had a few ( count on one hand) Koreans.

It does seem apparently that the university system there , which allocates students according to their exam results on that big exam can be circumvented by straight A* and A grades in our A levels.

The children we seem to have in my school arethose whose parents have wealth and whose children have been failing in the system. It is a great shame on a family if a child is failing in their culture ( as in many SE Asian cultures still). They send them here, we get them A grades at A level and they return home to the best universities and on track for careers. Or sometimes they stay and go to our universities.

The children work amazingly hard. But they do have a particular way of learning. The same goes for many E Europeans I have taught in recent years.

Talkinpeace Tue 29-Oct-13 18:25:27

Interesting article I read over the weekend
www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588373-there-are-perils-country-having-all-your-children-working-too-hard-one-big-exam
Korea does amazingly in the tests
BUT
the intensity of learning is not paying off for many
wait ten years and their attitude will have changed

abbiefield Tue 29-Oct-13 18:18:39

By the way,I would not necessarily decry any of the above motivations as they have ,aslong as I can remember, been the motivations for teaching in many cases.

The reasons for staying though are often diffeent. Hence picking a teacher who has experience and shown staying power might indicate their suitability more readily.

But someone has to have the trainees and NQT's I agree. But that is true in all occupations.

abbiefield Tue 29-Oct-13 18:15:49

In my experience ( and I cannot speak outside of that but it does cross several schools), it seems that motivations to get onto a PGCE or teacher training course are not always to do with seeing it as a suitable career or even guided by any genuine desire to teach often.

It seems sometimes its " something to do", " there was a bursary", " I got paid" "there wasnt anything else going", or even my original motivation "it fits in with my lifestyle right now ( family)...... but at leastI had taught previously and did know I could do it, allbeit at university level.

rabbitstew Tue 29-Oct-13 17:42:35

Funnily enough, experience and innate suitability is what makes a person good at whatever career they pursue. However, it is expensive and time consuming for employers to advertise for jobs, interview and recruit, so not something they will want to be repeating too often as they realise they've recruited untested duds... There should be some sorting of the wheat from the chaff before people get in front of our children to teach. Assessing the quality of someone's undergraduate degree and the level of their English and maths skills is not a sorting of the wheat from the chaff - unless, of course, they did a degree in teaching... At least the PGCE requires you to have made a very active choice that you wish to teach, to have got onto a course (and I'm sure some providers are better than others), to have had supervised work experience in several schools, to have been assessed by several people prior to even getting to interviewing for a "proper job" and to have taken time to study and consider what teaching is about, work with various teachers, experience more than one school (and therefore to realise how different they all are). I would rather that and a piece of paper to prove it than having to interview hundreds of people off the street who all claim they have what it takes to make a brilliant teacher, so why not give them a go?

Straggle, basically yes. Because teacher training courses do not make good teachers. They provide a bit of paper which says you have done a course. Experience and innate suitability to the profession are what makes a good teacher.

abbiefield Tue 29-Oct-13 08:26:40

Whilst on the topic ( and totally off topic now) most of those countries who do perform well show two significant features in my opinion.

They have a culture which places value on being educated and they do not have discipline issues in the way state schools here do. The issue of ESL in Britain is an interesting one too. But not to dowith private schools using unqualified teachers.

abbiefield Tue 29-Oct-13 08:19:37

As I have said I am skepticalabout PISA but I dislike selective quoting. Hence the reason I thought it was worth pointing out what the report said that you didnt Straggle.

Many other countries use quite different teaching methods to the UK - especially those who out perform us and especially the Eastern European and SE Asian ones. Finland is not all itscracked up to be actually.

Most of those countries may not have what you call segregation and selection but I can assure you they exercise it in a different way. SEN are treated very differently.

Onother teacher has said her independent school has a number of SEN pupils. My school also seems to take a share of SEN pupils. Most ofours come from other countries ( including Finland and most Scandinavian countries as well as Canada and the USA and a lot from SE Asia) . We have establised two features predominate in this choice

a) rpovision here is better than their own countries
b) in most of these countries there is a coulture where SEN are " put away" or sent away so they cannot be seen. Sorry to have to say that.

straggle Tue 29-Oct-13 08:01:26

Abbiefield PISA also reports that the UK has one of the most segregated systems and in Finland - much less segregation, no selection, no faith schools and highly trained teachers - is at the top.

Free schools don't address the unequal and segregated provision we have.

straggle Tue 29-Oct-13 07:58:39

If you look at this article from 2008, drop-out rates from a secondary PGCE are averaging 15%. A small percentage pass but don't continue. Teaching practice is a weeding out process but there is always supervision and cover. Are you suggesting private schools would employ dropouts? Or that state schools should?

abbiefield Tue 29-Oct-13 07:52:45

One thing that is emphasised in the PISA report if I recall, is that the UK has far more qualified teachers in front of classes and far fewer socio economic deprevation factors compared to other countries yet it performs far more poorly than many of those other countries.

So clearly qualified teachers are not doing much to improve the situation here are they? Clearly socio economic factors are not responsible for children not doing well educationally.

straggle Tue 29-Oct-13 07:21:48

There may not be enough SEN training for state teachers. Presumably there should be more. Not a justification for less training, surely?

Class sizes are much smaller in the private sector. The state sector cannot afford that so it should prioritise having well trained teachers.

manicinsomniac Tue 29-Oct-13 00:05:09

I also don't agree with the idea that Private schools get away with it because we are selective.

Many private schools are not academically selective in the slightest. Ours is in fact developing a reputation for taking children who haven't coped in mainstream due to either academic, behavioural or emotional challenge. They all manage to pass to indpendent senior schools so there are plenty of non selective options for older children too.

I accept the point about monetary selection - about 85% of our parents pay full fees and only about 5% attend for free - but why do people think that having money necessarily means:
a) the children will be academically able
b) the parents will be supportive of the school over their child
c) the children won't be going through all sorts of shit at home
d) the parents invest time and energy in their child's education

I have one bottom set class of about 15 (I know how many there are of course, I just don't want to be too specific!) It is fairly representative of all our bottom sets. In this class about 13 have IEPs, all are on the SEND register, many on SA+, 2 are autistic, 3 have aspergers, 10 are dyslexic, 4 are dyspraxic, 1 has global development delay and 8 exhibit challenging behaviour (exact numbers made up but you get the gist). This class and similar classes are taught various subjects by some unqualified teachers very successfully. The class is probably half the size it would be in the state sector but there is also no TA.

I also have a top set class who are working about 3 years ahead of where they would be if they had to follow the national curriculum. That class and similar ones are also taught well by unqualified teachers.

I have an unqualified teacher in one of my departments. He is very young and a recent graduate. He plans to train as a teacher if he decides teaching is what he wants to do long term but isn't going to pay for it until he knows it will be worth it. I don't see that as a problem; he knows what he's doing, the children enjoy his lessons and he gets great results. If he was doing a bad job then that would be a problem but that would apply to a qualified teacher too.

soul2000 Mon 28-Oct-13 23:50:54

Some interesting facts on Sandbach School (I KNOW IT) It has been an
all ability school since 1979. Most of the pupils before 2011 where state
pupils from the local primaries. It was a kind of a Direct Grant Comprehensive ...

manicinsomniac Mon 28-Oct-13 23:49:36

I don't have a problem with unqualified teachers because I think the skills you need to teach come from a mixture of experience and innate ability/personality rather than from a one year whirlwind course that, in my experience at least, was pretty much useless.

On my PGCE I was taught that dyslexia probably didn't exist and that there was no need for us to learn how to teach reading because we were KS1/2 not Foundation and children learn to read in Foundation. We were 'taught' by one lecturer who literally read his notes to us for an hour, spent whole afternoons enjoying ourselves with arts and crafts projects, science experiments and doing music and games just like we were the children and got to spend all of ten weeks on teaching practice out of the whole year. We got a 2 day observation experience of EFL and SEN.

When I entered my first classroom I was SHIT. I'd say I'm a natural teacher but I am far from a natural disciplinarian. The children ran rings round me and both I and they had a horrible time of it for the first half term or so.

After 7 years on the job I have no class control issues, am very adaptable in terms of age range and subject and am very experienced with SENs at both extremes of the ability range. I have learned all this by experience on the job, it has nothing to do with my pretty worthless qualification.

I think it's very important that teachers have a good degree - the PGCE/QTS - not so much. Having one won't make a good teacher any better and it won't help a bad teacher become good.

straggle Mon 28-Oct-13 22:40:14

And you get shit solicitors and bright young paralegals. And shit accountants. And mediocre GPs. But they don't get permission to practise without being qualified. They usually get better with practice, too, but not always. Is that a justification for complete deregulation of professionals employed by the state?

Just came back to this thread - can't believe it's still going - and looked at the title again. Surely the answer to it is 'Some of them may not be any good. Which is equally true of QUALIFIED teachers'. Some of the best teachers I have worked with have had the least impressive qualifications. And vice versa.

abbiefield Mon 28-Oct-13 20:41:59

The socio-economic background of pupils is specifically noted in the PISA study which Gove takes very seriously

I doubt very much whether Gove actually takes that report seriously at all. Its a good sound bit though as are many sociological outpourings.

Personally I think the report you cite takes the PISA (if you pardon the expression).

However, we are now far from the original topic and any point I had for coming into this discussion,so I will end it here. I have no interest in the direction this discussion now seems to be taking.

Thank you.

straggle Mon 28-Oct-13 19:35:53

Sorry, exact quote on Sandbach School:

'This school has had an over-generous view of its own performance.'

Meanwhile this teacher at independent Kingston Grammar School is firmly of the view that teachers need to be qualified:

www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/oct/28/teaching-teachertraining

straggle Mon 28-Oct-13 18:57:26

Also Sandbach School and Batley Grammar School were ex-independents judged to 'Require Improvement'. I don't think they were judged by Ofsted as independents. Sandbach was described as having overestimated its own performance.

straggle Mon 28-Oct-13 18:53:12

The socio-economic background of pupils is specifically noted in the PISA study which Gove takes very seriously:

'in the United Kingdom public schools outscore privately managed schools by 20 score points once the socio-economic background is accounted for'

Make of that what you will.

You're right to assume I don't agree with selection in the state system but grammar schools follow state regulations and have been employing qualified teachers. I don't think the ones in grammar areas like Kent perform that well (my local girls' comp 'top attainers' gets better grades at GCSE than most of them). But so far only one out of 164 has been judged inadequate.

Not all the private schools which applied were accepted. Some were run by the Plymouth Bretheren. Kenneth Baker made a speech in the Lords in 2006 about a number of religious private schools (Muslim in the context of the debate) wanting to join the state sector which he described as 'mostly deplorable'. Many of those also applied to be free schools. The Al-Madinah school was already running a nursery, I believe. The Maharishi free school was supposedly 'Outstanding' as a private school inspected by Ofsted but only 'Good' in the much tougher state school inspection framework. They forgot to enter pupils for SATs in the first year and were slapped down by the ASA over misleading advertising.

abbiefield Mon 28-Oct-13 18:32:05

independent schools are generally inspected by the ISI not ofsted.
I do not know of many independent schools who have aplied to be free schools except for those who are so small they cannot meet the inspection requirements of ISI ( let alone ofsted) . Such schoolsas I know of personally have usually been formed by parent conglomerates and try to charge very low fees - so cannot afford staff. So again cannot be compared with most independent schools (even what one might term bog standard ones). However, I do know of one faith school ( independent) that bucks that trend and has outstanding results despite having only one qualified teacher (Head) in its stafflist. The others being parents.

Further, applying your criteria, most grammar schools do not perform well either. However, I am not at all sure that results and outstanding teaching alone or similar measures are in any way valid or reliable.

Academically able ones, who can put their fingers in their ears and get their heads down in any state school and do well. What I would obhject to is why they should have to put their fingers in their ears and heads down at all. Thats not what schools should be about. Independent schools ( who do not select by ability oft times) score on atmosphere for learning , or at least an atmosphere which does not inhibit learning.

Further, although it is not the purpose of this thread here, I do not buy into your notion that there is social and economic advantage of the kind you would like to describe.

straggle Mon 28-Oct-13 17:52:33

I'd say few of us disagree that Gove, Truss, Nash et al do not have a leg to stand on in justifying a policy of unqualified teachers in state schools, appointed with no guidelines, at the discretion of a headteacher who may be equally inexperienced. Al-Madinah was, it was reported, trying to save money for a swimming pool.

But when you say 'most independent schools do quite well in most measures of excellence' and refer back to the OP inviting comparison with the private sector, I'd point again to the most misleading aspect of Gove's policy.

You can't compare comprehensive state schools and selective fee-paying schools. Strip out socio-economic advantage and state schools outperform private schools by 20 percentage points (PISA 2009, para 53). Strip out selectives from private schools and you are left with a long tail of schools producing much poorer results, many of which are religious and with tiny numbers of pupils. Of the independent schools Ofsted inspected in the first half of 2013, 14% were inadequate and 37% less than good. This wouldn't include the highest performing of the sector (inspected by the ISC?) but we have no data on intake, and no external tests at 11 to compare with state schools. Yet many of the independent schools that have applied to be free schools are of the type inspected by Ofsted. So the irony is that state sector is acquiring the lowest performing schools employing the least qualified teachers (because they also have been strapped for cash). And yet we are meant to see that as some sort of benevolent gift?

And the DfE ministers are repeating the same lies over and over again.

abbiefield Mon 28-Oct-13 14:34:40

sorry to be unable to differentiate the keys on the keyboard

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