Can qualifications guarantee that teachers always make the grade?

The Conservatives last week announced provocative plans to raise teaching standards by preventing anyone with a degree lower than a 2:2 from entering the profession. But what do those within the sector make of the party's new 'elite' vision of education? Kerra Maddern finds out

Kerra Maddern

Cherise Duffy

Newly qualified teacher, Penketh High School, Warrington

The most important thing is that trainee teachers get as much experience as they can, rather than their qualifications. People spent years telling me my academic achievements weren't good enough, so I started as a classroom assistant for children with special educational needs. Now I'm a teacher and I absolutely love my job.

I soon found out that teaching is not for the faint-hearted. Teachers face enough challenges without being thrown in with no experience. Everyone must experience working in a challenging school.

"Golden hello" bonus payments can act as a real sweetener for those thinking of becoming a teacher, and I think they make a real difference in encouraging people into the profession. But nothing makes up for experience.

Mike Welsh

Vice-president, NAHT, and headteacher at a Swindon school

I would like to give the example of Carmen, a teacher I know. She was a young mum who became involved in her children's school and then started working as a teaching assistant there. Her talent was spotted when she started doing NVQs and a foundation degree, and the school encouraged her to do a BEd course. She's now an assistant headteacher.

This is just wonderful lifelong learning, which is what teaching is all about. If we only go by people's academic qualifications we will miss an awful lot of talent, and we need the best teachers we can possibly find because we've got the most accountable education system in the world.

Schools are not a place for people from other professions looking for shelter on a rainy day, it's a tough job and you need to be part of a team rather than dipping in and out.

Anna Fazackerley

Head of education, Policy Exchange

More than 70 per cent of people are accepted on to teacher training courses in some subjects - it's such a high figure you must assume people are getting in with lower qualifications then their tutors would have wanted.

We have found the two biggest deterrents to teaching are often a perceived lack of glamour and low salaries. Of course it's important we give teachers more autonomy, but that alone won't make teaching a high status profession.

Teaching should be reconfigured to make it easy for good graduates to move in and out of the system at different points in their career. Instead of being horrified that people might leave, why don't we emphasise the opportunities it provides to acquire transferable skills?

I think the PGCE is a big issue. It puts older professionals off because they face a year not earning before often taking a salary cut. People know enough about the other routes into teaching.

Dr Tiina Nevanpaa

Head of teacher education, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

Primary education is one of the most popular courses in my country - to get a place graduates have to show a strong commitment to work. We have a system where teachers are highly educated, viewed as experts and given power.

Teachers research their own work and they have masters level qualifications in their own subjects. We think only people with the top degrees are going to be good teachers, but we also know they need other qualities, so we have a rigorous selection process for training courses. We use aptitude tests, face-to-face interviews and psychometric testing.

We also have research schools, which are linked to universities - very much like teaching hospitals - where academic staff are appointed to train teachers.

Keith Bartley

Chief executive, General Teaching Council for England

On one level, who could argue against the intent of the Tory plans - everyone wants teaching to be a high status profession and I think there has been huge progress in this in recent years.

There has been an improvement in the numbers with good degrees, particularly among women, who make up three-quarters of the profession. As we don't expect a gender revolution in teaching I think this will continue.

I'm less impressed with the plans to judge potential teachers by their GCSE grades. I doubt many have the motivation and commitment to be a teacher at that age. There are 32 routes into teaching, which is the most diverse system in the world. This is a good thing, but it's not OK to put graduates in challenging schools after six weeks and expect both to thrive.

Trevor Averre Beeson

Founder of Lilac Sky Schools and former headteacher

Over time I've come to see the importance of teachers having good qualifications, so I agree with the Tory stance on this. I think an academic record is a very strong indicator of their potential success in leading learning for young people.

This is because if you have good exam results you will have the intellect and understanding of how to learn well yourself. If you have got good qualifications then you have been through the process of understanding your own ability and this helps you create strategies and enthusiasm for learning.

But it's not an absolute link. I've known very good teachers who don't have brilliant qualifications for one reason or other, and some very highly qualified people who have been poor teachers. But 90 to 95 per cent of the time qualifications are an indicator of how good people will be in the classroom.

We found it very hard to judge people by their degree result because it involves comparing universities. So we looked at A-levels, and preferred to interview candidates who had three above a C grade.


- Those hoping to become a teacher will have to have a B grade in English and maths, and at least a 2:2 in their degree, in order to qualify for state-funded training.

- Headteachers will be able to pay "good" teachers more.

- "Top" science and graduates will have their student loan repayments funded by the state as long as they teach.

- Two new training programmes - Teach Now for career changers and Troops to Teachers for army professionals - will be introduced.

- Teachers will find it "easier" to use reasonable force to deal with violent incidents and remove pupils from the classroom without the threat of legal action.

- Teachers will get strong protection against false allegations and will be able to ban any items causing disruption in the classroom.

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Kerra Maddern

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