Schools rebuff call to use unqualified teachers

The DfE tables in the 2013 Teacher Workforce Survey that reveals the changes in pupil teacher ratios over time. The data also says something about the use of qualified and unqualified teachers by the different types of school. Despite the increase in pupil numbers, PTRs in the maintained primary sector appeared to have improved between 2012 and 2013. However, they worsened in primary academies. This may well be down to the mix of schools in the two groups and it is more instructive to note that PTRs across the whole primary sector remained unchanged for the second year in a row at 20.5 for teachers of all descriptions, despite schools adding to their cash reserves during this period.

In the secondary sector, where more schools are academies of one sort or another, PTRs for qualified teachers worsened from 15.5 to 15.7 after improving in the previous year. The overall PTR for the secondary sector is still 1.5 pupils per teacher better than in 2000, so the support for funding in schools during this parliament seems to have helped, at least with staffing levels.

The DfE also published data on the difference in the ratio between qualified teachers in schools and all teachers, qualified and unqualified. As the latter include Teach First and probably some School Direct trainees on the salaried route ‘unqualified’ isn’t the same as the former ‘instructor’ category. As this data is two recruitment rounds after Michael Gove freed academies to employ anyone as a teacher it is interesting to see what signs there have been of any change in the balance between qualified and unqualified teachers being employed.

In primary maintained schools the difference between qualified and all teachers remained at 0.4 of a pupil between 2012 and 2013. In primary academies it reduced from a gap of 0.8 to 0.7 of a pupil; so no dramatic swing towards unqualified teachers there. In the remaining maintained secondary schools the gap between qualified teachers and all teachers widened from 0.5 of a pupil to 0.6. In academies it also widened by 0.1 of a pupil from 0.7 to 0.8.

Among the different types of secondary academies, in free schools the ratio between qualified and all teachers widened from 1.3 to 2.3, a noticeable change in the ratio in a single year. However, in converter academies there was little change in difference between the PTR for all teachers and for just qualified teachers increasing by just 0.1 of a pupil.

In UTCs and Studio Schools serving the post-14 age-group the gap was largest of any group of schools, with a difference of 3.4 pupils per teacher between the all teacher PTR and the qualified teacher PTR. This was up from 1.7 in a year, possibly because of the number of these schools opening had increased.

Overall, there doesn’t seem to have been a large swing towards the use of unqualified teachers and much of the change may be down to the expansion of Teach First and School Direct between 2012 and 2103. Rejecting the unprincipled use of unqualified teachers is sensible. Whether, as a recruitment crisis develops, there will be enough qualified teachers to go around is another matter. As regular readers know, we are tracking that situation in secondary schools through TeachVac at if you are interested. The February newsletter to be issued next week will reflect our latest finding.


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