Lack of teaching qualifications in staff at Free Schools

(55 Posts)
gingeroots Mon 11-Mar-13 10:36:38

One in ten teachers working in Free Schools lack a formal teaching qualification .

Does this concern people ? Is it not unusual in private sector ?

Idea of a 27 year old with no teaching qualification ,no experience of teaching being the headteacher at a primary school certainly worries me .

As does this quote from Observer article
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

gingeroots Mon 11-Mar-13 10:47:52

And if you'd like a glimpse at what a "content rich " curriculum might be like have a look at this from Caroline Nash .

^In September Pimlico Primary will open its doors to sixty reception-age pupils. As sponsor and chair of governors, what is my educational vision? I think, really, it is quite simple. I would like our pupils to know things: things that they won’t necessarily discover for themselves.

If you were to give a young child a paint box, a brush, water and paper and ask them to paint a picture, what would they discover? That water makes the paint wet, that the brush can only hold so much paint and that you need to keep dipping it back into the paint box, that the paint box soon gets in a mess and that the paper is soon filled up with a muddy puddle. Compare and contrast this with teaching a child about primary and secondary colours and how to mix them, explaining the colour wheel and showing how the use of complementary colours can enliven a painting. How much more a child would discover and how much more harmonious the painting would be.^

Caroline is the wife of John Nash ,sponsor of Pimlico Academy and now Lord Nash having been made an education minister .

prh47bridge Mon 11-Mar-13 10:59:21

It is not unusual in the private sector. Many independent schools employ teachers who do not have a formal teaching qualification.

It is also more common than you might think in the state sector. In 2009 there were 20,000 unqualified teachers at state schools, up from 3,000 in 1997. At least some of these are teachers trained overseas whose qualifications are not recognised in the UK but who are allowed to work for up to 4 years before gaining qualified teacher status. They are often able to become qualified teachers without further training.

Whether or not this is a good thing is an interesting question for which I don't have a simple answer, but I certainly have concerns about someone with no teaching experience becoming head of a primary school.

MsInterpret Mon 11-Mar-13 11:28:44

I think having Heads that are unqualified as teachers is not necessarily a bad thing as long as they are paired in the role with an experienced-in-teaching Head.

National shortage of Heads is in part because the job/remit of a Head is too huge now for one person. S/he has to wear too many hats and have In-depth knowledge of, amongst many other things, finance, legal issues, health & safety...the list goes on... In addition to being a visionary leader for the staff, pupils and wider school community. Looking at ways to address this, I think a teaching and non-teaching Headship partnership could be one possible solution.

muminlondon Mon 11-Mar-13 14:15:44

Firstly, this is a highly politicised appointment.

John Nash is an appointed board director of the DfE, Tory donor, founder and now non-Executive partner of Sovereign Capital, which until recently invested in a group of private prep schools among other interests. This firm also profited from £73 million in government contracts. He donated money to Andrew Lansley personally when the businessman was chairman of the private healthcare firm Care UK. He's obviously got a lot closer to government now (i.e. heading the DfE and trying to force through 1,000 redundancies without actually paying redundancy money or carrying out a proper consultation with the unions.

But aside from the political agenda of privatisation and asset stripping of the state, the cronyism and conflict of interests...

... who would choose to send their children to a school run by a Tory think tank director with no educational qualifications?

muminlondon Mon 11-Mar-13 16:11:36

Some interesting insight into the links between the Curriculum Centre, right wing think tanks and the DfE is here - from one of the comments on the article the OP refers to:

(He also points out that this new head advised Michael Gove on the new primary curriculum but is now going to ignore it - that is weird isn't it?

Bonsoir Mon 11-Mar-13 16:15:17

I think that teaching qualifications are overrated, personally. Brains and experience are a lot more valuable than a teaching qualification.

scaevola Mon 11-Mar-13 16:19:26

I am surprised that the figure is so high.

Is there a more detailed breakdown of what qualifications the staff have? For example - music teachers with a licentiate, games teachers with coaching qualifications, teachers with overseas qualifications, teachers with subject expertise and experience/qualification in FE (or military?) rather than schools, those with subject expertise and some other quality/experience that made them suitable for the classroom, and others?

Some of these I would have no problem whatsoever with them teaching my DCs. But not all.

gingeroots Mon 11-Mar-13 16:23:58

Good points scaevola and I agree with you - a formal teaching qualification is not the be and end all .

But a 27 year old head of a new primary with no teaching experience at all ?

Not ok in my book .

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 11-Mar-13 16:46:18

Every individual should be assessed separately - my two most inspirational teachers at school did not have a formal teaching qualification. They were both excellent teachers whose students achieved higher than expected grades due to their inspirational nature.

Bonsoir Mon 11-Mar-13 18:24:06

gingeroots - look at it another way - a 27 year old with no teaching qualification or experience will be entirely fresh and free of the malpractice, reflex and prejudice of someone who has been in the profession since university.

My DD's class teacher, who is in her late 30s, is new to the profession - she was an actress in a previous life. Since she is French and new to the profession, she hasn't had any teaching training so to speak of, though she passed an exam to test her knowledge of the primary curriculum. She is a a far, far better teacher than any DD has had so far, 6 years into school.

gingeroots Mon 11-Mar-13 19:38:27

But to be a head teacher ?

Manage other staff ?

I think you're very naïve Bonsoir .

HorribleMother Mon 11-Mar-13 19:58:12

I will file away the fact that Bonsoir had such a low opinion of her DD's teachers all this time.

Briggs wants qualified staff, though. I wonder why? Interesting that she's an American style Principal, too, not an HT. Why the language change?

Trivial fact, in about 1962 my uncle became the youngest school Principal in the state of California (age 26).

Bonsoir Mon 11-Mar-13 20:09:18

My DP was CEO of a chain of restaurants when he was 27... he cannot cook... (still a CEO - different company, lots more £££ - 20 years later).

gingeroots Mon 11-Mar-13 20:19:47

Yes ,that's the way forward .

Education is no different from business and what we should be looking for is managers who have the skills to maximise profit .

Bonsoir Mon 11-Mar-13 20:29:35

I don't think that is true and I don't support for profit chains of schools. That was not my point and you know it.

The teaching profession is unique and dangerous in that many people within it never leave the education system. That is a huge problem.

TheFallenMadonna Mon 11-Mar-13 20:36:16

Unqualified teachers can teach in state schools. We have a number and they are excellent. We are judged on results, and if you get them, then whether or not you have QTS is secondary. You do get paid more with QTS though.

I think I would want a Headteacher to have had at least some experience in schools though, because I would want to know that they had the know-how to ensure my child's success within the education system. A rapid rise for a talented person, regardless of age - I have no problem with that at all. But to lead a school with no experience of education is not desirable IMO.

Xenia Mon 11-Mar-13 20:50:43

I would never be keen on a new school for my children. I want one that has been one of the best for at least 30 years.

Also free schools are state schools so I would not want a child of mine at one of those on principle.

muminlondon Mon 11-Mar-13 23:07:20

Xenia, I think most other parents are of the same opinion as a quarter of free schools were significantly undersubscribed this year. Some free school applications have been initiated by parents frustrated by lack of school choice, but they still expect a mainstream curriculum, strong experienced head, well qualified staff and good facilities.

Yet thinktanks (who advocate profit-making) have repeatedly suggested relaxing planning permission, which could mean no outside space for infants or children taught in corridors, employing young/unqualified (cheaper) staff, and even having less rigorous inspection regime at the same time as trying out an untested curriculum. I don't believe for a second these thinktank directors or politicians would send their own children to such a school, and I don't know any parent who wants to have their children experimented upon in this way.

teachertrainer80 Tue 12-Mar-13 09:26:47

The question I have is how does a new graduate become deputy director of a think tank straight out of uni when many bright young graduates are struggling to even get entry level jobs and voluntary work? Who does she know/ who is she related to? This kind of thing happened when I worked in the charity sector. Desirable campaigns/ policy jobs just handed to the (straight out of uni) children of senior managers while those of us from working class backgrounds struggled in dull admin jobs with no prospects.

That's one of the reasons why I moved into to teaching as progress is based on merit and qualifications or so I thought. I find a lack of qualifications de-professionalises the teaching profession and means that people can just employ friends and family so it will become as unregulated as the private/ charity sector where it's not what you know, it's who you know...

gingeroots Tue 12-Mar-13 10:18:56

Good points teachertrainer and muminlondon.

I can hardly believe we've come to this .

muminlondon Wed 13-Mar-13 15:08:36

There's a Rupert Murdoch connection here too. The Sun sponsored a Saturday school in Wapping run by 'teacher' Anneliese Briggs's think tank where she patronised tutored children with her content-rich flip charts. Rupert Murdoch tried to set up an academy in Wapping then was in negotiation with his ex-employee Michael Gove over free schools. Michael Gove's former adviser and free school broker Rachel Wolf has joined Murdoch's US company Amplify which is aiming to sell IT and tablets to schools.

There's a critique of 'altruistic billionaires' and a picture of Murdoch (who owns the Wall Street Journal which encorages a saintly view) in a US magazine here:

creamteas Wed 13-Mar-13 22:30:54

Good teaching is a skill and like other skills some have a natural aptitude with can be honed through qualifications and some can gain the skill through being taught how to teach.

The idea that just anyone can turn up and deliver is nonsensical.

I also think it is ironic that just as universities are finally recognising they need to train people how to teach and insisting that all new lecturing staff gain qualifications that schools are being encouraged to go in the opposite direction....

lalalonglegs Wed 13-Mar-13 23:07:19

Are we sure she is only 27 - I've just googled her and she seems to have fitted an awful lot into the past six years since she presumably graduated. Also, her photo makes her look much closer to her husband's age (not meant bitchily) and apparently she co-founded a charity with her husband in 2006...

I think non-teachers can bring a lot to the role of head and I wouldn't be bothered about someone following/not following the curriculum necessarily (although I would want to know what they were planning to do instead) but her appointment reeks of cronyism.

muminlondon Wed 13-Mar-13 23:41:53

Graduated July 2008 according to this YouTube video. Co-edited a primary school textbook by Ed Hirsch for the UK market, full of facts to be memorised - published nearly two years ago. That apparently qualified her to advise Gove on the primary curriculum. My googling didn't get beyond that and the link to Murdoch!

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 08:00:11

"Co-edited a primary school textbook by Ed Hirsch for the UK market, full of facts to be memorised."

Do you have a copy of that book, muminlondon? Because it really is not "full of facts to be memorised".

HorribleMother Thu 14-Mar-13 08:18:21

Recent interview with Terence Stamp in the Big Issue: he talks about being a bright lad who completely failed at grammar school (no O-levels) because all they did was learn rote facts; he was bored witless. It sounds exactly like what Ed Hirsch/Civitas are promoting.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 08:32:55

Ed Hirsch/Civitas are not promoting rote learning of facts. I live in a country (France) where there is a lot of rote learning of facts, so I know what that looks like (two step DC in Y13 and Y11 - I've seen years of this stuff). The Civitas book is nothing like "rote learning of facts".

gingeroots Thu 14-Mar-13 09:11:05

What is it like Bonsoir ?

( shameless attempt to avoid reading it blush )

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 09:12:12

It is principally full of texts that can form the basis of discussion of ideas.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 09:15:48

You can look inside here.

I would have been delighted for this book to have formed the basis of what school covered with my child in Y2.

gingeroots Thu 14-Mar-13 09:54:09

Thanks Bonsoir .

Hard to judge I think without reading more ,and of course no knowing what the curriculum will be like at Pimlico Primary as I believe it's to based on this line of thinking rather than slavishly following .

I confess I was put off by the tone ( smacked to me a little of religious fervour ) and of course comments about how vague and unspecified the curriculum in primary schools cannot be applied to UK .

I've worked in a primary school as a TA and the curriculum was enormously prescribed ,every detail specified ,what needed to be learnt ,consolidated before the next stage tackled all listed .

I remember the despair of teachers when children were off because their absence meant that they'd missed a vital building block .

Mintyy Thu 14-Mar-13 10:00:38

Lol at Xenia's valuable contribution to this thread.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 10:02:05

Xenia constantly wants something to boast and name-drop about. There is no boasting and name-dropping potential in a new school...

Xenia Thu 14-Mar-13 10:07:40

That is not how I am but I do think some parents aren't aware of what much better schools are available particularly if women work full time and earn enough to pay school fees so it is worth drawing it to their attention. No need to accept mediocrity.

CecilyP Thu 14-Mar-13 10:07:50

^You can look inside here.

I would have been delighted for this book to have formed the basis of what school covered with my child in Y2.^

I don't know; the third review is none too positive.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 10:43:18

Buy the book (as I have) and judge for yourself.

Honestly, it is so far removed from rote learning, memorisation of facts etc that the criticisms are laughable.

CecilyP Thu 14-Mar-13 11:14:28

I have no need to. The poster of the third review did and was not impressed.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 11:18:44

Gosh, do you take Amazon reviews as Gospel shock?

CecilyP Thu 14-Mar-13 11:51:45

It's no big deal, just amused me that's all. It did represent 33.3% of the reviews though.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 12:09:53

In a statistically meaningful sample of 3 wink

VinegarDrinker Thu 14-Mar-13 12:20:12

I am no Free Schools fan. But, as someone else has mentioned, there are "unqualified" teachers who are actually highly qualified and experienced, just don't have QTS, as well as those who really are "unqualified".

My DH is an "unqualified" teacher. He's a primary music specialist with a BA, MMus, LRAM and lots of relevant teaching experience. I wish he had QTS because he could earn a lot more (he is essentially paid on the TA scale), but I don't think it would make a jot of difference to his skills in the classroom.

And yes, as mentioned upthread, it is very common in private schools to have unqualified teachers.

bidibidi Thu 14-Mar-13 15:55:42

Having peeked inside, I am unconvinced that the 3 Wise men of Gotham or knowing what a Ziggurat is are that essential skills for modern children/people.

muminlondon Thu 14-Mar-13 19:11:51

I'm sure a well qualified teacher could dip into it, and I like some of the poetry - it seems particularly aimed at home educators and parents. Experienced teachers will have lots of examples of materials that motivate children. But I am a little wary when politicians and thinktanks pile in to promote a certain methodology in schools to the exclusion of other methods - like phonics, good idea, but not neceassarily exclusively, and testing six year-olds on made-up words reminds me of the disaster that was ITA.

She still doesn't seem to have spent a lot of time in classrooms, however, but does seem to be connected to lots of politically influential people (including Boris Johnson's education enquiry where Civitas, Pimlico Academy and the Curriculum Centre were very well represented (more than borough education directors) along with Toby Young, Katherine Burbalsingh, etc.

Bonsoir Thu 14-Mar-13 19:42:26

It is a good thing when outsiders contribute to the education debate. Schools and their curriculum should not be the exclusive preserve of educators.

muminlondon Thu 14-Mar-13 20:07:02

A good debate is fine but I counted about eight associated with Civitas/Pimlico Academy alone (although sponsor John Nash has since been made DfE director) and other organisations only sent one or two representatives.

Lizzzar Mon 24-Jun-13 22:45:00

If teachers have a good degree, I personally don't see why having or not having a PGCE in addition will make much difference to their teaching ability - a lot of it appears to be general classroom management and some other things that unions consider important at the moment, but can be easily learned by a bright teacher while working. A one year certificate that is relatively easy to get on does not make most teachers the equivalent of doctors and lawyers - maybe they should have that kind of status, but it would take more than a PGCE requirement to do it. Teachers ultimately teach well because they enjoy what they are doing, and have reasonable education and abilities themselves. Unfortunately many state schools still have lots of struggling children despite having a QTS requirement for their teachers.

sashh Tue 25-Jun-13 03:21:46


You have no idea do you?

Do you know about special need?
Extension work?
Child protection law / policies / procedures?

Oh and you can convert any degree to be a lawyer in just one year of a course that is easy to get on.

englishteacher78 Tue 25-Jun-13 06:33:34

It is also getting harder (rightly in my opinion) to get on the PGCE courses. Whilst a 2:1 or a first does not necessarily make someone a good teacher, a certain level of enthusiasm and ability should be demonstrated by someone wishing to teach a subject.
In Finland, widely regarded as an excellent education system, teachers need to be educated to Masters level.

muminlondon Tue 25-Jun-13 08:22:17

Whether you train within a teaching school or are based in a teacher training college with blocks of teaching practice, you need proper training and support. A degree is also important - not ex-soldiers without degrees training in two years:

MrWalker Tue 25-Jun-13 12:57:44

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

CecilyP Tue 25-Jun-13 16:58:30

But how would anyone know if they are a natural teacher. A PGCE course gives a people a chance to find this out.

Minifingers Tue 25-Jun-13 19:13:09

As the parent of an unstatemented child with special needs in mainstream schooling, I shudder at the thought of untrained teachers taking him for lessons.

Lots of people can 'teach' in the sense that they are good at explaining things to children, are creative, and are effective planners. Many parents have these qualities or develop them as their children grow up. But delivering differentiated learning to 31 children of different abilities and from a range of backgrounds, with no formal knowledge of theories of learning? Sorry - I'm not convinced.

Minifingers Tue 25-Jun-13 19:22:38

"a lot of it appears to be general classroom management and some other things that unions consider important at the moment, but can be easily learned by a bright teacher while working"

Have you done a PGCE? Do you actually know what the course involves or are you having a wild guess?

And you think it's unnecessary to have some prior understanding of classroom management techniques before starting work as a teacher?

There is NO WAY I could have stepped into a classroom in a rough comprehensive and managed to keep my head above water in the first year without having done a PGCE. Classroom management is the most challenging aspect of becoming a teacher (unless you teach in a nice little private school and have a class of 14 well behaved and hard working pupils, in which case it's pretty irrelevant). Planning and dealing with behaviour issues are the meat and potatoes of a PGCE. I would truly have hated to be put 'cold' into a classroom in my first year and have had to learn these things on the job, while also having a normal teaching workload.

muminlondon Wed 26-Jun-13 07:58:25

Relevant to this discussion is the first free school to go into special measures.

Guardian article September 2010:

The 'business manager' and founder 'believes he is not obliged to employ qualified teachers.' (His wife is also a governor and headteacher.)

Ofsted May 2013:

'The leadership of teaching is inadequate. … Teaching is not checked regularly to make sure it is as good as it needs to be. The headteacher reported to inspectors that she does not have the skills to do this. ... Governance is inadequate. Governors are not knowledgeable enough about the school’s serious shortcomings.'

Surprising incompetence at the DfE in letting a husband and wife team lacking in teaching and leadership skills be both governors and managers of a school.

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