Academy use of unqualified teachers ‘widens inequality’

Academies employ more unqualified teachers than maintained schools in similar areas, new research shows

Academies with poorer pupils are more likely to use unqualified teachers, research shows

Academies have been accused of widening class-based inequality after new research found that those serving poorer pupils employed more unqualified teachers.

Previous research has found that academies, which have more freedom to employ unqualified teachers, are more likely to use those who do not hold qualified teacher status (QTS) than maintained schools.

Today’s research from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield College and published by the British Journal of Sociology Education seeks to establish whether this is due to contextual factors affecting academies more than maintained schools.


Quick read: Number of unqualified teachers rises 62 per cent since 2012

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The study says: “Academies have hired over 1,500 more teachers without QTS than otherwise equivalent LA-maintained schools. Many thousands of pupils have been taught by teachers without QTS as a result.

Poorer pupils 'more likely to have unqualified teachers'

“This has likely undermined the quality of their education because teachers without QTS have less pedagogical training and less subject knowledge than their qualified colleagues.”

The research also finds that schools with more pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds tend to hire more teachers without QTS, and that in secondary schools “this relationship in academies is almost double that in LA-maintained schools, revealing a role for academies in widening class-based inequality in access to qualified teachers”.

The study also examined how the proportion of unqualified teachers varies between converter academies and those that are sponsored, and academies that are part of multi-academy trusts and those that are not.

It found that for both primary and secondary schools, “there appears to be an important role played by the combination of sponsorship and MAT membership in increasing the percentage of teachers without QTS in academy schools”.

Lead author Nicholas Martindale, from the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford, said: “More than a third of unqualified teachers in primary schools do not have an undergraduate degree and nearly a quarter do not in secondaries.

“Neoliberal policies that outsource the management of the education system and undermine professional accreditation are degrading the teaching workforce and widening inequality in access to qualified teachers.” 

The report acknowledges that the trend for academies with poorer pupils to have a greater percentage of teachers without QTS “could be the result of a greater number of employment-based teacher trainees in these schools”.

It says that a lack of data meant this could not be assessed, but that “it is unlikely that a disproportionate number of trainee teachers is wholly responsible for the effects found here”.

A DfE spokesperson said: “More than 95 per cent of teachers in state funded schools – which includes academies – have qualified teacher status. All schools are held accountable for the quality of teaching through Ofsted inspections and the publication of school performance data.  

“We want all children to have great teachers who can inspire and excite them. That’s why schools have been given the freedom to employ experts, such as scientists, sports people or musicians, to add value and improve the learning experience for pupils.”

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