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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?

Norudeshitrequired Mon 21-Oct-13 13:38:44

Depends what you mean by unqualified.
If a person had a PhD in the subject that they are teaching and as part of that study has given lectures to uni students and therefore has some teaching experience, then I don't see that a pgce is of much benefit.

captainbarnacle Mon 21-Oct-13 13:40:17

Giving lectures to uni students is NOTHING like being a classroom teacher.

heidihole Mon 21-Oct-13 13:41:06

Agree with norudeshit.

Chubfuddler Mon 21-Oct-13 13:42:01

Most private school teachers are qualified teachers. They don't have to be but most are.

Many private schools aren't selective.

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 13:42:31

Do you have a PGCE? My DH does.
Its not about subject, its about learning how children's brains work and learn.
How does a PhD in Physics teach you how to explain gravity to a 12 year old?

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 13:43:31

ALL Private schools are selective.
Either by wallet or entrance exam every single private school is selective.

Chubfuddler Mon 21-Oct-13 13:46:44

You could say all schools are selective by wallet if you want to take that stance. It would be more expensive to get my son into a decent state primary in say, surbiton than it is to live where I do and send him private.

redcaryellowcar Mon 21-Oct-13 13:56:24

I used to teach ( had first degree and pgce) the head of dept at our state sec had a phd in his own subject, he left and was replaced by someone who didn't have a phd but was a better teacher in how he related to and engaged pupils, prev head of dept was then employed by local private school (I suspect in part due to his impressive qualifications) as I would imagine that there were other stronger candidates as far as teaching goes! I don't doubt his subject knowledge could have been excellent, but he was not the best 'teacher' he was fully qualified.

exexpat Mon 21-Oct-13 13:58:42

Most teachers in private schools are qualified, but the ones that aren't are usually carefully selected for the needs of that particular school and their pupils.

For example, DS (now in yr11) did maths GCSE a year early last year (at a moderately selective private school). For two of the four years leading up to that he had 'unqualified' maths teachers - both fresh maths graduates (one Oxbridge, one I think Warwick, which has a very good reputation for maths) who were enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and who were (I think) doing part-time PGCEs while teaching. Despite being taught by unqualified people, all but one of the boys in his set got an A* a year early.

However, while those teachers were perfect for teaching a class of highly able and self-motivated boys who genuinely liked and were interested in maths, they would probably have struggled with a bottom set in a comprehensive, where teaching skills and experience would probably be more important than an ability to understand and explain advanced maths concepts.

Schools should be able to hire appropriate people. In general, I would agree that the best person for a teaching job would normally be a qualified teacher, but occasional flexibility can be a good thing.

wordfactory Mon 21-Oct-13 14:00:53

I think it depends talkin

DC's prep used a number of teachers qualified in other countires. And they were ace grin.

They couldn't get jobs in the state sector of course. Which is a shame.

I also think it depends what you're teaching and what the likely class size and type.

exexpat Mon 21-Oct-13 14:02:24

Meant to say - if free schools want to hire unqualified people for the right reasons , ie they are the best available option for their pupils, then that might be fine, but I suspect that, knowing this government, the main aim would actually be to save money, and possibly reduce unionisation (can unqualified teachers join a teaching union?).

Norudeshitrequired Mon 21-Oct-13 14:02:35

Do you have a PGCE? My DH does.
Its not about subject, its about learning how children's brains work and learn.

I do agree with all of that, but in my opinion a person with a 3rd class (or any class) degree isn't necessarily going to make a great teacher just because he has a PGCE.
A PGCE takes as little as a year to complete - do you really think that somebody can learn everything about how a child's brain works in one year?
As long as my children's teachers are competent to teach and have a very good depth of knowledge of the subject that they are teaching then the PGCE is not that relevant.
There are plenty of useless and uninspiring qualified teachers (those with the magic PGCE).

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 14:19:18

So, is the experiment worth running?
Would the head of Wellington, say, be willing to give it a go?

And indeed, I'm not against unqualified teachers per se - my crammer used them as did lots of schools in the stone age when I was young
as exexpat has pointed out - it should not be about money
it should be about true communication and engagement skills

Habbibu Mon 21-Oct-13 14:21:55

Ha! I have a PhD in English language, and am about to apply for a PGDE (Scotland) in primary. I wouldn't want to go near a job without one. It might be only a year, but it's a year full of stuff I've never learnt teaching adults.

Chubfuddler Mon 21-Oct-13 14:30:11

But why is it necessary to demonstrate that one is better than the other?

I'd make a shit commercial lawyer in the city. I'm great at my job in PI in a regional. I bet a city lawyer wouldn't do so great at my job either. That just makes us suited to different areas of practice.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 21-Oct-13 14:32:36

I have a PgCE and I don't think it taught me how to teach at all. It taught me the various theories around teaching and what methods were available etc, but the real learning to teach was through practice and experience.
I think the teachers in Privates schools appear to be better qualified as the ones I know all have Masters and teach their own subject specifically. Whereas my dcs teachers in state school had GCSE's and a degree often in a subject they hardly taught for e.g Drama, music, technology, art etc. Obviously, some state teachers have degrees in Maths, English, Science etc.

Habbibu Mon 21-Oct-13 14:33:38

But that's rather suggesting that children in private and state schools are wildly different, Chub, and that's not always the case by any means. I'm not sure the areas of practice are so different in school education as your law analogy suggests.

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 14:36:52

Because the Education Secretary says that one set is and I do not believe he has any evidence to support his hypothesis.
If you are in law, you will know that evidence in support of a conclusion is incredibly important.
Gove has no evidence of his assertions about Free School governance.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Mon 21-Oct-13 14:37:17

I have a friend who taught at one of the top public schools for a few years. He has a doctorate in history and was hired to do extension work with the sixth form classes It seemed to work out. I think it depends on the person. To be honest I believe that teachers are born not made.

soul2000 Mon 21-Oct-13 14:39:42

Talkinpeace. the idea was done by "Back to The Floor" in the 90s with
the head of Benenden going in to a inner city school in London.

She did very well. where as the head of the comprehensive did not have a
clue when he tried to teach history to 6th form pupils at Benenden.

one of the things the head of Benenden could not understand though
was teaching assistants. She taught some basic English literacy to a yr9
low achieving class and did very well.

The head of the Comprehensive after teaching A level history came out
saying how hard it was to teach the Benenden Girls because they knew
more History than him.

prh47bridge Mon 21-Oct-13 14:44:39

I don't think I've seen Gove say that teachers in private schools are better than teachers in state schools (or vice versa). His case seems to be purely that independent schools use people who don't meet the definition of qualified teacher used in state schools without any apparent detrimental effect on results. He believes, rightly or wrongly, that knowledge of and passion for your subject is more important than a teaching qualification. He (or his department - can't remember which) also makes the point that teachers are assessed as part of Ofsted inspections so any school that employed NQTs who were not up to the job would soon find itself in trouble.

I am not saying he is right.

Chubfuddler Mon 21-Oct-13 15:01:13

Ok well if he's saying a good teacher can teach anyone anywhere that's rubbish. But I don't think a PGCE is necessarily relevant to someone's suitability

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 15:30:15

But just swapping one teacher makes it about individuals, not systems.
My 'game' is to swap the whole of the teaching staff
so that all of the Maths teachers would still be a team, but in the other school
as then you might see which approaches got results.

You are correct, he has not said that private school teachers are better, but he (and his advisers) have said that as private schools get great results using non qualified, then free schools magically will as well.
I suspect Ofsted may put the kibosh on the plan faster than anything.

whendidyoulast Mon 21-Oct-13 18:27:54

There was another programme too. Can't remember the schools but a headteacher from an independent school tried to teach English in a comp in East London and was indeed eaten alive.

Context is all. Getting the odd specialist rugby coach or choir master or French teacher who does not have a teaching qualification but is highly qualified in to a independent school where kids are well behaved and high achieving and in small classes where people want to work is a completely different scenario from employing teachers who don't have a teaching qualification (and may not have good qualifications at all) in a tough inner city school because you have to or because they're cheap or because nobody else will work there.

It's so typical of the Govt that they don't get the difference and assume that private schools do well because of hiring unqualified teachers rather than selection, money etc etc.

It's a bit like assuming that there's a low mortality rate in the local optician so getting opticians to go in and perform heart surgery.

The example of the head of the free school who had no teaching qualifications and left very quicky speaks volumes.

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