John Howson

One of the questions that has exercised educationalists during a time of teacher shortages is whether or not there is a growing number of teachers without Qualified Teacher Status working in State School? Mr Gove, when Secretary of State for Education, changed the rules, from allowing all schools to employ unqualified staff only when they were unable to find a Qualified Teacher, to allowing academies and free schools to employ such individuals as core staff members.

Did this change open the flood gates? Data from the School workforce Census for 2019 and previous years suggests probably not, although there is a worrying figures in the data. Overall, some five per cent of teachers, as measured by the Full Time Equivalent number of teachers, did not possess QTS in the 2019 Census. In total, the figure in November 2019, was 25,078 compared with 25,860 in November 2016. Overall, the trend has been downwards. This may be because it is clearer to schools completing the census how to classify ‘teachers’ on either Teach First or School Direct Salaried contracts within schools.

Looking at the different sectors is illuminating. In the primary sector, there were 7,673 non-qualified teachers in November 2016, and 7,528 in November 2019. However, the bulk of unqualified teachers were in the secondary sector. In November 2016 the number was 25,860, but by November 2019 the number had fallen slightly to 25,078.

However, in the special school sector, where many of our most vulnerable learners are educated, the number of teachers without QTS increased from 3,033 in November 2016 to 3,729 in November 2019. By the latter date, such ‘teachers’ accounted for 14% of teachers working in the special school sector.

Now, hopefully, these are experienced teachers that bring special skills to bear to help with the education of these children. Sadly, the data doesn’t allow that to be more than a ‘hope’.  Should this not be the case, and many might lack specialist teaching as well as other qualifications, this must be a matter for concern? It would be interesting to see a regional breakdown of the numbers, to see if certain parts of the country ha percentages even higher than the 15% national figures for England.

Since the term ‘teacher’ isn’t a reserved occupation term, anyone can style themselves as a teacher. Indeed, as I have pointed out in the past, these individuals without QTS when working in schools were once categorised as ‘instructors’. However, the Labour government changed their designation to that of ‘unqualified teacher’.  I still think, in recognition of the preparation teachers have to undergo that the term ‘teacher’ should be reserved solely for use by those with QTS and that a person in training should have a separate designation such as trainee teacher. But, that’s a personal opinion.

Of course, few schools tell parents whether there child is being taught by either a teacher with QTS or one with appropriate subject or other specialist knowledge. Should there be more transparency?

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