The foreword to the Government’s White Paper on Educational Excellence Everywhere says that “Access to a great education is not a luxury but a right for everyone”, so it’s surprising that many of the proposals in the White Paper could be very detrimental to the quality of education that students receive.
One of the most significant areas of concern is the growing number of teachers who have no formal teaching qualification. In 2012, the Government removed the requirement for teachers in academies to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), meaning that the number of unqualified teachers has risen from 16,000 to over 20,000. Whilst having a Qualified Teacher Status doesn’t guarantee a great teacher, and someone could be a fantastic teacher without having gone through the formal qualification process, overall standards of teaching will be higher if we can guarantee that everyone has reached a basic level of training.
The White Paper is going to extend the previous reforms to teacher training and professional accreditation by scrapping QTS entirely, and replacing it with a new accreditation. However, the Government so far has failed to come up with any details whatsoever about this new method of accreditation would involve. What’s more, this new, unknown accreditation would still not be required in academy schools. Forcing trainee teachers to jump through ever more hoops in order to get accreditation simply doesn’t make sense when ever increasing numbers of schools don’t require it – in fact, making the accreditation more arduous might even deter some from working towards a qualified status as they know they can work without it in academy schools. It’s hard to see how an increase in unqualified teachers could raise standards in schools, and I really fear for the education of children, especially of those from deprived backgrounds, if these changes do go ahead.
It’s not just children who will be affected by the changes proposed in the Government’s White Paper. Headteachers are increasingly feeling the pressure of having to train staff, as the White Paper proposes a move of almost entirely school based teacher training, with some limited involvement from universities. At a time when funding to schools has been cut, and headteachers are stretching their resources ever more thinly, it’s unfair to place another burden on them in the form of teacher training. I’ve spoken to a number of headteachers from across the UK on this issue, and they are united in saying that having the responsibility for teacher training is an unwelcome burden which makes it harder to deliver the highest quality education for their students.
Furthermore, I do not think that the Government has fully thought through the implications of moving towards an entirely school based training system. Durham University is one of many universities around the country which provides exceptional and academically rigorous teacher training, based on up to date research. By moving to a school based system, I fear that the expertise found in universities like Durham would be lost, and would be replaced by a system where standards from school to school could vary considerably. Our priority should always be getting the best teaching for children in the UK. This White Paper’s proposals will drive standards down, not up, and could be really detrimental to the quality of education students receive.