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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?

Phineyj Sat 26-Oct-13 20:41:41

I started as an unqualified teacher and then trained on the job (which was very hard work but my school supported me to the best of their ability, and paid). I wanted to have the piece of paper and to be better paid, and felt that if I went to the independent sector later I would then have the option of coming back to state & would also be qualified to work abroad should I want (although I had to pay towards an MA and write extra essays in order to achieve that - as the on-the-job routes don't equal PGCE).

Sadly, I learnt very little that was useful from the training, because they insisted I focus on teaching a KS3 subject that I have never studied (apart from at school) because my main subject is a sixth form only one. As I teach at a selective school I was also persona non grata at all the training sessions and ended up sitting there in silence at most of them, rather than be lectured about the evils of selective education (again). It was a really depressing and irritating experience - especially given that the taxpayer/school were forking out for it.

I learnt and continue to learn an enormous amount from talking to and watching more experienced colleagues, however. I also find the transferable skills I brought from previous careers very useful, and likewise the time management skills from working in other pressured jobs. I had taught and trained adults and HE students. IME secondary teaching is a little easier as there are sanctions for bad behaviour so you don't have to put up with students texting in lessons etc.

I considered waiting and doing Assessment Only but was concerned that the route would be withdrawn before I could go on it.

My DM did an HND in teaching adults in the 1970s and thought it was a great course - she then taught her subject successfully for 25 years until being told that she was unqualified and would have to do QTLS (at her own expense and content was identical to the HND more or less). Needless to say, she gave up local authority teaching at that point as there was plenty of private work.

The system is quite mad, the rules change all the time, many of them are simply ignored or got around and I'm not surprised non-teachers find it baffling. Incidentally, it took me 8-9 months research, networking and general detective work to find ANY training route I could do without leaving my job.

Missbopeep Sat 26-Oct-13 20:50:32

rabbit it would be really good if you could put all your thoughts into ONE post instead of posting loads of posts one after the other which make it hard to read and respond...just saying smile

My sticking point with all of this is that QTS doesn't necessarily make you a good teacher any more than being a qualified doctor means you never diagnose incorrectly or god forbid, kill your patients ( which happens far too often.)

It's a starting point for a career imo. As I have said throughout this thread, I think there are people who are currently teaching and who don't have QTS who are excellent and who should continue. I also think that people like those interviewed for the Telegraph feature are excellent examples of this.

That is why I prefer to give schools the freedom and responsibility to choose the right person, taking not only a piece of paper into consideration but their experience.

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 21:02:00

Misbopeep - if only my thoughts would come all at once, then I'm sure I would only post once. I'm too impatient to wait for them all to arrive before I post. grin

My sticking point with all of this is that giving schools more freedom and responsibility does not automatically make them better at choosing the right person. Whilst it could potentially make some outstanding schools even better, it has every opportunity to make bad schools even worse. PhineyJ's experience just makes me think - improve the quality of the training and have more commonsense when it comes to recognising pre-existing qualifications (rather than a lack of them). It does not make me think: scrap qualifications altogether.

Talkinpeace Sat 26-Oct-13 21:04:06

QTS for free schools has nothing to do with academic excellence or ability
It has everything to do with lower pay grades reduced pension provision weaker employment rights and easier sackability

which is a real shame as teachers were starting to embrace proper CPD and the idiot Gove has thrown it all away.

Missbopeep Sat 26-Oct-13 21:07:42

I don't think anyone is saying scrap qualifications.

The problem with threads like this is that some posters want to polarise the whole argument rather than accepting that in everything in life there may be exceptions to the rule, and it's worth having a system which permits some freedom where necessary.

BTW- are you a teacher or are your opinions and points here based on rumour and anecdotes? I am not being rude but as a teacher experienced across both sectors I don't recognise much of what you claim.

Missbopeep Sat 26-Oct-13 21:08:23

Oh FGS can we stop this silly crossing out and just use the words!!!!!

Talkinpeace Sat 26-Oct-13 21:11:43

Made you look, made you stare : job done.

No, I'm an accountant. Never made any bones about that using this name for the last nine years.
Because of DHs work my knowledge of the whole education sector in the British Isles is better than even the fragrant Wilshaw's

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 21:12:45

PhineyJ - I think you will find that most teachers in selective schools went through some sort of teacher training. The idea that you would automatically have been persona non grata with everyone on the course with you doesn't come across very well. It somewhat gives the impression that if EVERYONE was like that, then maybe part of the fault was your own? Maybe they didn't appreciate the dissatisfaction you radiated at having to endure the course merely in order to be paid more?

straggle Sat 26-Oct-13 21:21:18

The Telegraph article doesn't mention that Batley Grammar School (mentioned as a place of excellence) was another free school rated Requires Improvement. As a private school it was selective so a wider range of teaching skills will be required in a mixed ability school. Similar, the reference to Westminster school and the question posed, 'If private schools can hire unqualified teachers, ask some, why should free schools be constrained?' do not address the issues of selection, social background or special needs, or how schools can themselves be accredited to train teachers.

It cites a university lecturer teaching sixth form psychology as a an example of an untrained teacher. This is disingenuous as most free schools are primaries or 11-16. Similarly, army trainers have only taught adults and have never had experience with children so if it is a 'sick joke' that a two-week army instruction course is better than a QTS perhaps he has similarly irrelevant and unproven points to make about World War Two planes disappearing from the moon.

All in all, very poor journalism. But perhaps as a mere reader, and not someone who has ever been in the army or gone to Westminster school, I'm not in a position to criticise a Telegraph article.

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 21:30:38

Oh, and don't forget you aren't a journalist, straggle. (Presuming you aren't?!).

Misbopeep - I'm a school governor, have been involved in interviews for teachers, headteachers and support staff, and had to deal with issues over competency, constructive dismissal and bullying behaviour; have family members who are teachers; have friends who teach in both sectors; have friends with experience of having children in both sectors; have children of my own. I was even educated in a selective school, so have experience as well as opinions on that... I think I am as qualified as anyone else to comment, particularly on my own experiences.

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 21:37:09

Oh, and I didn't mention the family friends who are headmasters. grin I am the grateful recipient of information and opinions from all sorts of people.

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 21:38:28

Mind you, they are headteachers of selective schools... grin

straggle Sat 26-Oct-13 22:31:36

No, not a journalist either! Several friends and relatives have trained as teachers (but that doesn't count, does it? A bit like David Cameron once having met a black man in Portsmouth understanding racism?) I read newspapers and blogs because I'm interested in news. I read Mumsnet because I am a parent. I read the education posts because I have a DC of school age. I comment on threads about state schools and what standards I expect of them because I spent 13 years in comprehensive state education (would that make me more qualified than Michael Gove then?).

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 22:51:05

Well now, when it comes to Michael Gove, he seems to think his lack of experience of state secondary education and teaching is what makes him qualified to make decisions. grin

ReallyTired Sat 26-Oct-13 23:05:19

I have not read the entire thread. Different schools need different type of teachers. I believe that strong communication skills is far more important than degree classification. I think that insisting on an upper second degree for teacher training is a mistake, however selection proceedures should be more rigorous. There is not enough effort with a PGCE to ensure that students have a high standard of verbal, written communication skills and natural PRESENCE.

I would like to see pychometric testing to check that someone has the right personality to enjoy teaching. I gave up a PGCE because I hated performing 5 times a day. I had excellent subject knowledge, but I was not a natural extrovert. I am a natural perfectionist and found it hard to cope with lazy kids who had no interest in my subject.

There are outstanding teachers with a third class honours degree. Sometimes people are immature at university rather than stupid. I suspect that someone with strong A-levels and a third class degree would have no problem with the subject knowledge needed for the bottom set.

rabbitstew Sat 26-Oct-13 23:08:46

Schmedz - I apologise for the tone of my posts, by the way. I do actually understand where you are coming from. I do think, however, that allowing some schools (namely those which don't even have to employ experienced headteachers to run the school and do the choosing, albeit choosing with others who also don't have to have experience in these things) to employ unqualified teachers, whether they be unqualified because of a quirk of history rather than a lack of experience and other proof of expertise, unqualified because their overseas qualifications are not recognised in the UK, or unqualified because they actually have no relevant teaching experience, is a weird idea. Surely there could be some kind of mechanism for allowing rare exceptions to a general rule, rather than scrapping a general rule which, in general, makes sense? The notion that you could, technically, employ a Biology graduate straight out of university, with no teaching background, and let them teach without supervision or extra support straight away, is frightening. That's not training on the job, that's just giving someone a job without training. I already know of schools which fail to provide adequate support to NQTs and at least they have had that notional year of the PGCE, first (and are supposed to get additional support in the first year afterwards, too...).

straggle Sat 26-Oct-13 23:09:33

I think he once watched a Royal Institution Christmas lecture on TV so he is eminently qualified to prescribe the science curriculum.

Oh, forgot, he's already done that ...

He is of course an expert in Newton's laws of thermodynamics.

straggle Sat 26-Oct-13 23:14:44

'Surely there could be some kind of mechanism for allowing rare exceptions to a general rule, rather than scrapping a general rule'

Yes, exactly. Just like bringing in the argument over army trainers and part-time A-level tutors when talking about primary school teachers, the government misleads and confuses by bringing in irrelevant and simplistic arguments rather than tackling shortage skills subjects specifically and how to retain teachers.

cleofatra Sun 27-Oct-13 01:46:17

I don't know if anyone has considered/discussed the issue of "qualified" teachers teaching subject areas in which they have no qualification.
My acquaintance has a psychology degree (arts) and teaches A level chemistry, as well as her subject area of A level psychology. I wouldnt be too happy with my children being taught by someone with no chemistry backgound.

abbiefield Sun 27-Oct-13 06:14:49

Good Morning. I know its early, I forgotto put the clocks back last night. But I am up now, so that is that.

*I don't know if anyone has considered/discussed the issue of "qualified" teachers teaching subject areas in which they have no qualification.
My acquaintance has a psychology degree (arts) and teaches A level chemistry, as well as her subject area of A level psychology. I wouldnt be too happy with my children being taught by someone with no chemistry backgound*

This I think, hitsa big nail on the head. Its at least one of the resons a lot of teaching is poor. It is common practice too in my experience of state schools. I have not been aware of it so much in independents.

The problem here is that being qualified to teach (QTS and any numbber of its pre decessors) means you are qualified to teach pupils not subjects. That means that any qualified teacher is considered able to teach any subject to any child in any level of education ( except FE and university - oh the irony there , the only two places where a teacher qualifies to teach who is classed as unqualified in school).

Psychology is a very specific and interesting case.; It was not for any poor reasoon that the Telegraph article cited a psychology graduate.

Back in the old days most teachers who had non curriculum subjects
(like psychology ) would qualify by picking up their strongest A level or part of their degree which was substantially degree level and also school curriculum. For psychologists this was often maths as a Psychology degree had a substantial element of degree level maths and most psychology undergraduates back then had maths A levels - although not all. Similarly a Classics graduate (Latin and Greek) would select English as their main subject.

Then that was stopped with the bringing in of QTS . It was not coincidental that Ed Psych training was de coupled from teacher training around this time too. Prior to QTS, all Educational psychologists had to spend two years working as a qualified teacher before they could continue training as an educational psychologist. They also had to have an appropriate and recognised degree in psychology ( ie single hons BPS registered psychology degree). After the rule changes it became almost impossible for anyone with a psychology degree to train as a teacher, so the BPS removed it as a requirement from Educational psychology training.

But the issue of qualified teachers teaching subjects they have no idea of continues. I have worked with PE teachers who having got to oldfor PE have moved to RE without any background at all (one page ahead in the book) similarly, biology ( which later became "science" - so such teachers taught any science). History teachers teaching maths , geography - any " humanities".

You would be surprisedat how many teachers in schools are teaching subjects they have little or no background in ime. I do think that is a much bigger problem in poor teaching.

rabbitstew Sun 27-Oct-13 07:24:26

Yes, abbiefield. I agree, expecting a teacher to teach a subject they are not actually comfortable with, just because they are a trained teacher, is not a good thing. You have to be both good at teaching and sufficiently knowledgeable in the subject you are teaching.

I think there is a huge difference between the expectations one has of a primary school teacher and a secondary school teacher. I would not be remotely happy with an unqualified primary school teacher for my primary school aged children. I also think there is a big difference between what you might be fine in some classes up to the age of 16 and what you would hope to be the case at A-level. There also ought to be a difference in the style of teaching at the different levels, anyway. I enjoyed my tutorials at university, but wouldn't have appreciated that style of teaching at age 11... To think that because you had some degree of success teaching undergraduates at Oxford means you can teach 11 years olds without further training and support is somewhat odd logic, imo.

Having gone to a grammar school, I have more experience of teachers who are highly qualified in their subject but nevertheless incapable of teaching an inspiring lesson than I do of teachers who can put together a good lesson, but can't answer the class's more difficult questions. I was very lucky not to have experience of teachers who neither had a good grasp of their own subject, nor any ability in teaching. I do know that such teachers do exist in schools, though, along with teachers who could be good teachers, but who are stuck teaching the wrong subject some of the time, because the school has directed them to. I just don't think the answer is to say it's OK not to be a qualified teacher any more - that was tried and had its faults, too. Why swing back to something else that didn't work, either?

rabbitstew Sun 27-Oct-13 07:27:23

Still, I guess improving teacher training costs more than scrapping the requirement to have it... Why not leave it to the schools which employ inappropriate people to teach the wrong subjects?... I'm sure that will work. hmm

CeliaLytton Sun 27-Oct-13 07:42:58

I haven't read the whole thread, just skimmed.

I hate to break it to you, but there are loads of children in state schools being taught by unqualified adults. PPA covered by TAs with no teacher training or significant level of subject knowledge, cover supervisors at secondary level.

There will of course be some excellent natural teachers without training, and some excellent teachers with training. But on a PGCE you are taught so little in such a short space of time. You can specialise in an age range at primary, say KS1 and then go on to teach 11 year olds the following year. The difference between how to explain things to a 5yo and an 11yo can be vast.

So don't be too quick to condemn private schools for employing someone with a high level of subject knowledge and a natural affinity with children. State schools could be using unqualified staff with no level of knowledge to teach your child.

I am in no way making a judgement on qualified teachers, lecturers, subject specialists etc btw, just pointing out that this can happen anywhere, not whether it is a good or bad thing.

straggle Sun 27-Oct-13 07:46:09

Yes, also agree that having non-specialist teachers at secondary level, particularly higher up the school, is a problem. That's precisely the point of my previous post, that we should be addressing teacher retention. One reason why independent schools have more teachers with relevant degrees to the subject they are teaching but without QTS is because they transferred immediately after their PGCE and didn't complete their probationary year. The aeticle below gives many reasobs why:

The areas of most acute shortage are maths, science and MFL. What did the last government do? Well, they introduced Teach First and more school-based teacher training. And they introduced bursaries. But they also dropped MFL from the National Curriculum because they knew language teachers didn't enjoy lower sets and/or unmotivated pupils because of the particular nature of language learning requiring pair work etc. and active participation - a skills-based subject, not one you could get away with chalk and talk and worksheets. Those continuing at 14 were in the higher ability sets. But that has led to a disastrous decline in language graduates and newly trained teachers.

But this government's policy on teacher training is leading to unfilled places and uncertainty over the future of university PGCE courses. Which would be a catastrophe, real baby out with the bath water situation. So rather desperately they pretend it's all under control, no one needs training anyway and have allowed a blanket exception to accreditation in new schools. And that has resulted in untrained and inexperienced non-specialists at primary level and even headteachers. Talk about unintended consequences and cover-up.

straggle Sun 27-Oct-13 07:56:16

The situation must have been similar in sciences but a little more subtle - more schools (especially academies) doing general science, or easier exams (BTEC, NVQ). Fewer Physics graduates. It masked the problem of shortages. There is no shortage of qualified teachers in English, the humanities or at primary level because there are so many graduates with English or History degrees.

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