There is clear water developing between the three main political parties at Westminster over the need for teachers in state funded schools to be qualified only after a period of training. Regular readers of this blog will know where I stand on the issue as I have made clear my belief in the need for QTS to be backed by a preparation course – see my last blog ‘Teachers are made not born’.
This afternoon the Labour Party at Westminster have an opposition day debate in the main chamber around the topic. This is the sort of debate that normally passes relatively without comment, but what is interesting is the amendment put down by the government in the names of the prime minister and his deputy; and Michael Gove and David Laws. I have reproduced it below with the key section underlined:
Line 1, leave out from ‘House’ to end and add ‘notes that this Coalition Government is raising the quality of teaching by quadrupling Teach First, increasing bursaries to attract top graduates into teaching, training more teachers in the classroom through School Direct and providing extra funding for disadvantaged pupils through the pupil premium which schools can use to attract and reward great teachers; notes that the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister believes all schools should employ teachers with Qualified Teacher Status, and the part of the Coalition led by the Prime Minister believes free schools and academies should retain the freedom to hire teachers without Qualified Teacher Status; further notes that funding agreements with academies and free schools will not be altered in relation to Qualified Teacher Status prior to the next election; and regrets the findings of the recent OECD skills report which revealed that those young people educated almost entirely under the previous administration have some of the worst levels of literacy and numeracy in the developed world, underlining the need for radical schools reform and demonstrating why nobody can trust the Opposition to protect education standards.’
Of course, the really disingenuous of you may reflect that QTS could be awarded after a period of service in the classroom untrained, and that period, as in the past when it was the route into teaching I used, could be two years. The subtle change to the Staffing Regulations in 2012 allowed for schools to confirm that there had been no competency proceedings against a teacher in the past two years. This might permit an unqualified person to be granted QTS as in the past after two years of successful service or at least develop a career in different schools. So long as QTS can only be granted after a period of prescribed training, by an approved route, this is not an issue, but as ever the devil is always in the detail. The real issue is not QTS, but how it is achieved.
There are also matters for those in favour of QTS needing to be backed by training to resolve, especially around training for specific types of school now funded by the State that follow a particular philosophy of education not covered in the present training arrangements. But that should be possible to resolve once the key principle of mandatory preparation has been agreed.
Finally, the Liberal Democrat position on Qualified Teacher Status owes much to the motion passed at their Spring Conference that David Laws thought last week he had proposed – actually it was Lord Storey that proposed it, and Baroness Brinton who seconded it – that had its genesis in the work of Liberal Democrat education activists including the late Andrew Bridgwater who had a hand in the drafting of the motion’s wording. It would be a nice gesture, and a fitting memorial, if a Lib Dem MP recognised that fact during the debate this afternoon.