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Category Archives: Teaching
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg to issue challenge over free schools as party joins battle with Michael Gove
More than 5,000 untrained teachers who have been allowed to work in academies and free schools under Michael Gove’s education reforms will be sacked if Labour wins the next election, unless they gain a formal qualification within two years.
The proposal is one of several to be announced by the shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, as the opposition joins battle with Gove.
In a speech in which he will say he will work to ensure that every child has a place in a good school, Twigg will also say it is “unacceptable” for a government that professes to be driven by a desire to raise standards to allow teachers with no training to work in state-funded schools.
“It is shocking that this government is allowing unqualified teachers into the classroom,” Twigg said. “High-quality teaching is the most important factor in improving education. We need to drive up the quality of teaching, not undermine it.”
If Labour forms the next government, it will ensure that unqualified teachers get access to training in the first two years and will encourage heads to make time for them to become qualified. But if they have failed to do so by the end of that time, they will lose their jobs.
The move was welcomed by teaching unions, who said Gove’s approach had devalued the profession and let down both pupils and parents.
The latest figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) show there are now 5,300 unqualified equivalent full-time teachers in academies and free schools.
Gove announced in 2010 that the country’s free schools – which now number 80 and are outside the control of local authorities but funded by the state – would be allowed greater leeway over appointments, meaning that teaching qualifications were not necessary.
Last summer, he extended this to academies – now more than half of all secondary schools – claiming that, by removing the requirement for staff to have qualified teacher status, schools would be able to show the same “dynamism” that he believes drives success in private schools.
The DfE under Gove has also announced that former soldiers without degrees will be fast-tracked into teaching in England under a programme called the Troops to Teachers scheme.
A DfE source dismissed Twigg’s arguments and insisted greater flexibility meant the best state schools could hire gifted people. He said: “We are raising the standards required to qualify for taxpayer-funded training. However, we also need flexibility to allow brilliant teachers from private schools or abroad to teach in state schools.
“It would be stupid to stop brilliant teachers who want to be able to switch from private to state schools from doing so. Having qualified teacher status and being qualified to teach are very different things.”
However, the teaching unions countered by saying it was just a cost-cutting exercise that delivered state education on the cheap. Chris Keates, general secretary of the largest teachers’ union, the NASWUT, applauded Twigg’s intention to reverse Gove’s policy. She said: “Quite honestly, it was a gross betrayal of parents and children when this government removed the requirement for teachers to be qualified.
“People would be horrified if they had done this for lawyers, doctors or dentists. Most parents would expect their children to be taught by people who are qualified, and it is a good move by Labour to reaffirm the importance of qualified teacher status. We have been shocked how widespread the use of unqualified teachers is now. We should never have been put in this position.”
Mike Griffiths, headteacher of an academy in Northampton and vice-president of the Association of School and College Leaders union, said he also welcomed Labour’s acknowledgement that teaching was a skilled profession.
Earlier this year the Observer revealed that Pimlico free school in Westminster, which is due to open in September, had employed a 27-year-old who had not completed her training as headteacher. Annaliese Briggs, a former thinktank director who advised the coalition government on its national primary curriculum, is understood to have been receiving training in preparation for the start of the new school year.
She has 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.
Twigg, who has been accused by some in the Labour party of being slow off the mark to challenge Gove, added: “Labour wants to see more talented people come into teaching. That’s why in government we invested in improved conditions for teachers and funded initiatives like Teach First.
“Michael Gove damages standards by allowing unqualified teachers. Under Labour all teachers in all state-funded schools would have, or have to acquire, qualified teacher status.”
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