Unqualified teachers plan concerns heads

Banbury Cake: Simon Spiers Simon Spiers

HEADTEACHERS in Oxfordshire have expressed doubts about allowing unqualified teachers to work in academies.

Free schools and independent schools are already able to employ teaching staff who do not have qualified teacher status (QTS).

Now Education Secretary Michael Gove believes extending that flexibility to academies will help get more professionals, such as engineers and linguists, into schools.

But some Oxfordshire headteachers believe it is aimed at addressing teacher shortages.

Simon Spiers, headteacher of King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage, said the school had no plans to start employing teachers without the benchmark qualification.

He said: “We have a system in place for a reason.

“The qualification system for teachers is like the driving licence, it gives you basic information that someone has gone through training.

“There are some incredibly well-qualified professionals out there in their chosen fields but it doesn’t mean they are any good at all in imparting that information to anyone, particularly teenagers.”

Mr Spiers said he suspected the move was more to do with dealing with teacher shortages than freedom to employ the best possible people.

Andrew Hamilton, headteacher at Bartholomew School, Eynsham, said the academy could already employ people without the qualification as instructors.

But he added: “Teacher training is first class in this county and I would want to be employing the most highly qualified people I can to be able to teach the children in school. I think it is a sign there is a shortage of well-qualified teachers around.”

But Jolie Kirby, headteacher at Cheney School, Headington, which is in the process of converting to an academy, said there might be occasions when the school would look at employing teachers without the qualification, for vocational subjects.

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But she added: “We would still be seeking qualified teachers as the norm.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got QTS.

“We are extending this flexibility to all academies so more schools can hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before. We expect the vast majority of teachers will continue to have QTS.”

Gawain Little, of the Oxfordshire branch of the National Union of Teachers, said the decision was “absolutely mad”.

But Oxfordshire County Council education cabinet member Melinda Tilley said she thought it was a good idea.

She added: “It’s trying to get the right person in front of the children.

“The benchmark will be Ofsted and the exam results.”

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