If you can do: if you can’t teach.

ImageLast August I published a report for the Pearson Think Tank[1] concerning teacher supply issues.  Although there is not a present crisis, I warned of the coming together of a number of factors that might produce a perfect storm. These are increasing school rolls that will deliver around 800,000 more pupils to be educated by the end of the decade; falling interest in some areas of teaching that may be associated with the increase in tuition fees; and worryingly low morale in a profession that is facing a pay freeze.

Now long-term forecasting is not an exact science, but as the US National Hurricane Center demonstrates, it can have its uses. Hurricane Isaac was first noted over a week before it hit New Orleans, and the discussions of its possible effects were available for all to see. By contrast, the DfE response to my report was along the lines of, everything is fine and recruitment this year is actually up on last year. Indeed, for many years regular monitoring of trends in applications was suppressed in case it ‘might worry the horses’.

Of course, Mr Gove has done much to prevent a crisis emerging, not least by his announcement after the start of the parliamentary recess that academies along with free schools could employ anyone as a teacher. Well academies always could, if they couldn’t find a qualified teacher, but now they don’t even have to worry about fulfilling that test. Anyone can be a teacher. It was the last Labour government that first hoodwinked parents by reclassifying what had been termed instructors as unqualified teachers. On top of Mr Gove’s earlier changes, to allow certified teachers from anywhere in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand automatic Qualified Teacher Status, and granting QTS to many who have qualified in the FE sector, this latest move, unheralded and never discussed in public, should mean enough bodies on the ground to prevent any teacher supply crisis in terms of numbers.  My anxiety is that teaching in the twenty first century isn’t the same as it was in single-sex selective schools half a century ago. Teaching will now join politics as one of the few areas where no training is necessary before employment. Indeed, I shortly expect to hear claims that businessmen should be brought in to become heads. As I always say to journalists who ask my view about this issue, if you will let me be your editor, no doubt you can become a head. Curiously, most want someone who has been a journalist as their editor: I can’t think why.

However, I do now expect to see schools starting to list the qualifications, and training routes of their staff in their brochures or prospectus. Imagine cameos such as ‘fresh from a PhD on the Higgs Boson’ or ‘degree from a leading university, teacher trained at Cambridge and with a higher degree from Manchester’.

Of course, we are going to need more teachers if schooling becomes an export industry. Marlborough’s new campus in Malaysia is just the latest in a growing trend of overseas schools exporting UK education overseas. It will be interesting to see whether they use unqualified teachers?

Professor John Howson runs a company called DataforEducation.info. His collection of columns from 2011-12 can be found as an e-book on Amazon under the title: Please Miss. “Do pigs have wings?”

[1] The Future Teacher Workforce: Quality and Quantity

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