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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?

soul2000 Mon 21-Oct-13 19:43:32

When. I think we are talking about the same program. After a sticky start
due to the obvious differences in terms of attainment and classroom manners of pupils, she managed to get control. The low attaining pupils
actually benefited from her in fact she picked out one underachieving pupil
that the school had not seen his academic potential. The Schools were
Benenden, and the comprehensive was called Forest Gate I think

soul2000 Mon 21-Oct-13 19:55:33

I have just been on to the Dept of Education website. Forest Gate is achieving Miracles, despite having 76% who's first language is not English
and 37% F.S.M "SOMEHOW" achieved 62% A* to C including English/Maths. That is fantastic. The wages seem to be very high though.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Mon 21-Oct-13 20:06:32

Completely agree with Chubfuddler that is horses for courses. HTs should be free to recruit the right person for the specific job, and if an unqualified teacher happens to be great a communicating to a small high ability group of A level students, why not hire her just for that, part time as required? Nothing to say every teacher everywhere has to be good at crowd control of 30 bottom set Y8s - by all means use the person for that job whether qualified or unqualified - that person may not be the best for a few Oxbridge hopefuls needing extension work, and so equally the best person for the high level small group stuff and so on... the freedom to recruit the unqualified give extra flexibility, doesn't mean that an HT will not recruit a 'qualified' teacher if that person has the qualities they need.

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 20:08:05

What about heads who are not qualified or experienced teachers ?
(admittedly two such have left their posts already this term)

MrsSalvoMontalbano Mon 21-Oct-13 20:29:49

No opinion on HTs other than that HT role is essentially these days running the equivalent of a business with all the budget/PR/management skills that that entails. If they hire well - ie people with the right skills for the various roles - no need for them to teach as well.

Lemonsole Mon 21-Oct-13 21:28:58

They do need to know what good teaching is, though - and it's not always obviously. The Free Schools now in Special Measures thought that they had appointed good teachers, too...

Arisbottle Mon 21-Oct-13 21:42:06

I think we should be aiming for bright teachers who are outstanding classroom managers. Most secondary teachers do not just teach one type of class.

Today I have taught bottom set Year 11. I need to manage their behaviour and probably rely more on my personality and ability to control a room with an arched eyebrow than my degree .

I then taught sixth form, a class of fifteen, at least two or three of which are potential Oxbridge students. My degree from a top university comes in handy . However so does me teacher training .

I then had a lovely but excitable Year 7 class who need managing. I need my degree and further qualifications because they ask such oddball questions.

I think teachers can be made rather than born . I was shockingly shit when I started. My training time ( which need not be a traditional PGCE , that was not my route) allowed me the time to observe, imitate, try things out . It was such an important time and if we just chuck teachers in front of a class and hope they get it right , they will miss out on that valuable time to refine and enhance their craft. They will never have that time again .

I think schools benefit from having trainee teachers and having to train teachers . Every time I have trained a student I have been able to reflect on and improve my practice .

SanityClause Mon 21-Oct-13 22:06:05

Private schools are allowed to employ unqualified teachers. But, do the successful private schools tend to do so?

And as for HTs not actually teaching - it is used as a selling point at DD2's school, and at DS's that the head teaches every Y7 pupil, in order to get to know them a little.

Every new appointment of a teacher is heralded in a newsletter with a glowing short description of their qualifications and previous experience.

holmessweetholmes Mon 21-Oct-13 22:22:41

I don't think it would be a worthwhile experiment for various reasons. Yes you could probably make an entertaining tv programme about it but it would almost certainly be ridiculously skewed/sensationalist/not representative. Because otherwise it would not make 'good tv'.
What people would WANT to see would be hilariously posh, old-fashioned and ineffectual private school teachers being ripped apart by difficult comprehensive school classes. Or highly academic private school teachers throwing up their hands at the ignorance of non-private school kids, or similar. Because that's what tv is like these days.
As many have already said, the great majority of private school teachers are qualified. Many teachers (like me) have taught in both state and private schools. Anyone teaching in a new type of school might find it difficult to adjust for a while. This isn't news. In addition, many teachers now train 'on the job', so kids and staff in state schools are used to having untrained teachers teaching classes.

holmessweetholmes Mon 21-Oct-13 22:27:24

Oh and also, state schools may not be allowed to employ people untrained as teachers (except trainees) but they certainly quite often employ teachers to teach subjects they aren't trained in. My 'outstanding' school has just employed 2 trainees and 2 non-subject specialists all in the same department. I'm one of them and I don't even have an A level in the subject!
Sorry - bad day at work. Am feeling a bit ranty!

Talkinpeace Mon 21-Oct-13 22:29:36

but as Arisbottle says, much of teaching in non selective state schools is management skills rather than degree level subject knowledge

Arisbottle Mon 21-Oct-13 22:31:16

Talkinpeace that is not what I said at all.

In most of my lessons I will draw one degree(s) even if it is just to answer those oddball questions .

holmessweetholmes Mon 21-Oct-13 22:32:25

Some of it. Doesn't really feel like that when I am delivering a syllabus I'm unfamiliar with, assessing according to criteria I have never seen before and sharing classes with other totally inexperienced people. Not what I would want for my own child in their school! The private school I worked in would never have done that.

Arisbottle Mon 21-Oct-13 22:51:04

I would like to think many state schools wouldn't either. I certainly haven't approved the employment of anyone without a linked degree , at least a 2:1.

prh47bridge Tue 22-Oct-13 00:47:52

Private schools are allowed to employ unqualified teachers. But, do the successful private schools tend to do so?

Yes they do. Some will have trained and worked in the independent sector and therefore never needed to gain qualified teacher status. Others may hold overseas teaching qualifications that are not recognised in this country or may be specialists in subjects where qualified teachers are rare.

Norudeshitrequired Tue 22-Oct-13 07:10:22

Private schools are allowed to employ unqualified teachers. But, do the successful private schools tend to do so?

I know of one local (very successful) private school that employs ex England footballers and ex England cricketers to teach as socialist sports coaches. They don't have teaching degrees but are able to get the best of the pupils in their sports classes. They have a real passion for their sports and the pupils have a real passion for improving at the sports.
I don't know if the school also employs staff without teaching degrees for other subjects, but if they do then the results are not suffering.

holmessweetholmes Tue 22-Oct-13 07:42:18

I think it happens quite often, Arisbottle. Dh has also been required to teach various subjects over the years that he's not qualified to teach. It's usually causes by timetabling problems, staff leaving unexpectedly or just a lack of decent people applying for posts. I'm sure schools wouldn't do it unless they had to.
I just think that private schools employing people who don't have a PGCE is not really a problem. There are people with no PGCE who make excellent teachers, and plenty of people with a PGCE who are terrible teachers. And given that lots of trainees learn on the job now, what's the real difference between that and starting at a private school and learning as you go along? The only bits of my PGCE that really taught me how to teach were being in the classroom and observing experienced colleagues.

holmessweetholmes Tue 22-Oct-13 07:42:44


AntoinetteCosway Tue 22-Oct-13 08:24:12

Haven't read the whole thread, but OP bear in mind that a PGCE is only one year-many unqualified teachers in private schools have years of experience. So yes, in your hypothesis I think if you put a load of unqualified and inexperienced teachers into a state school they would find it very difficult, but someone who had been teaching for 5 years shouldn't do.

I have a PGCE and trained in state schools but have taught in private. I barely ever think about my training year-it was a decade ago-and my experience since then has been cumulatively far more useful.

AntoinetteCosway Tue 22-Oct-13 08:25:54

Also, private schools I've taught in (big, extremely reputable ones) only hire non-qualified staff when they are experts in their field and bringing something new and brilliant to the table. They also train them, pronto.

wordfactory Tue 22-Oct-13 08:42:32

I wonder if the real issue is not whether a teacher has a certain pice of paper, but whether they are good at what they do, given good training on the job and lots of continuing professional development?

I also wonder if another issue is how easy it is for governing bodies to deal with teachers who are not doing a good job, whether they hold said pice of paper or not?

musicalfamily Tue 22-Oct-13 08:44:20

I wouldn't have a problem with it.

As a comparison, we had lots of different music teachers for my children but the best one was a guy who did not hold a teaching qualification or even a music degree but came highly recommended. He is so passionate about his music though, and is brilliant with children, all of mine progressed hugely with him as opposed to the other massively qualified ones they had before and since him.

Also at the Junior Conservatoire my DD attends, many of the teachers are successful musicians but not qualified teachers and their teaching style and effectiveness is variable, depending on experience of teaching and personality.

straggle Tue 22-Oct-13 08:54:54

schools benefit from having trainee teachers and having to train teachers

Exactly. But it requires investment and time, and schools need to be accredited to get teaching school status. Private schools benefit from having teachers mostly trained and experienced in the state sector, just as they benefit from a pension scheme funded by the state, and it helps them reduce costs. Teachers may prefer the working conditions - smaller classes and more high ability classes - not possible in the state sector. But teachers who do not have qualifications cannot transfer back to a state school. And now within the state sector, teachers will not be able to transfer to schools that do require QTS if they started off in a free school. So it's all a benefit to those wanting to run and profit from free schools as a business but a career limitation for employees themselves.

I was talking to someone who knows the legal sector. There aren't enough training contracts, but an endless supply of bright Law graduates, but many end up working as paralegals in new, non-traditional companies set up under new legislation, on £17,000. Fine for a year or two - but there is no career structure while all the senior managers are over 40 who had a more traditional route with relevant training, CPD, practising certificate, etc. Those paralegals can't easily move to another firm and prove how experienced they are, either.

Missbopeep Tue 22-Oct-13 09:48:09

The vast majority of private schools employ teachers with a PGCE and QTS. Those who don't are in the minority.

Having taught in both sectors ( with QTS) I did encounter some colleagues who didn't have QTS. But their subject expertise and enthusiasm more than compensated.

Having QTS is not a guarantee of 'good teaching'. There are plenty of well-qualified teachers ( on paper) who are crap teachers- poor discipline, lazy, poor communicators etc.

Equally there are great teachers who may not have a PGCE or QTS.

The other point to take on board is that private school hire and fire far more easily than state schools- if you don't perform then you are asked to leave. In my first year as a teacher in a private school, 3 teachers were told ' they might be happier elsewhere or in another profession.'

straggle Tue 22-Oct-13 09:59:52

Private schools hire and fire more easily but it's not always done fairly. At the same time headteachers in private schools can by abysmally crap at HR, whether in fair appraisals or following transparent and objective recruitment practices. I've heard stories of teachers resigning en masse over bullying accusations, and it is often linked to the fact that family members have been given jobs, or the headteacher is married to the chair of governor or someone else on staff. And this as been the problem in the free schools in special measures where relatives of governors have been either given supply contracts or the headteacher job without experience.

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