'The quality of teaching makes the biggest difference to learning. That's why all teachers must be qualified'

3rd February 2014 at 12:00

Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute for Learning, writes:

"Should teachers in schools and further education colleges be trained and qualified, as a national requirement? The score, as things currently stand, is 2-1. The Labour party and the Liberal Democrats say yes, while the Conservatives say no. In the view of the Institute for Learning, this is a clear win for the right policy for high standards in education and in the public interest. Trained and qualified teachers are better teachers.

Ironically, until last year, the goal score was different. That no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers is what the prime minister, David Cameron, and his deputy, Nick Clegg, signed up to in a government white paper, The Importance of Teaching, published by the Department for Education in 2010. It seems careless or contrary, or both, that the coalition government should then remove regulations and a national requirement for teachers in schools and in further education to be trained and qualified in their profession of teaching. This deregulation means that pupils and further education learners, wherever they study up and down the country, have no national guarantee that teachers will be qualified to do their job.

Perhaps there is popular or employer demand for this haphazard approach to professionals being qualified. Do we hear the public crying out for unqualified doctors, lawyers, accountants, aeroplane pilots and teachers in schools and further education? Do young people, and their parents or carers, think that access to standards and qualifications is irrelevant in terms of helping their own career prospects?

There is no such clamour. In fact, the reverse is true.

In education, and to ensure successful progress for young people, quality, standards and qualifications are inextricably linked. As Joe Vinson, vice president (further education) at the National Union of Students (NUS), says, “We’re constantly told that we need to get the right qualifications to succeed, that it’s important to continue in education so we can achieve a qualification because that shows employers that we can do the job and that we are professionals.” 

Why then has the government decided to make it pot luck whether individual students can benefit from being taught by qualified professional teachers?

And what of “the forgotten 50 per cent”, the 300,000 or so young people consigned each year to unemployment or unskilled and uncertain work, those described by Mary Riddell in the Telegraph this week as “Tony Blair’s least beloved children”? The Labour party’s proposal that poorly educated jobseekers should be required to learn maths, English and computing skills makes good sense, and since many or most of them will be taught in further education settings, it is vital that their teachers should be qualified as teachers, and also in English and maths, to be well-equipped to help them develop these key skills.

Based on strong feedback from more than 5,000 teachers and trainers across further education and skills to a survey we conducted, IfL as their professional body supports the Labour party's policy and Nick Clegg's recently stated clear position that teachers should be trained and qualified, as a national requirement and part of a parental guarantee. We urge the Conservatives to listen to the evidence that teaching is a demanding, complex and high-level professional role, and that initial teacher training and qualified status are central to ensuring that learners have the best chance of great teaching and success. High standards and excellent teaching is not a game of football.

Shifting the tectonic plates of educational policy can be done quickly when the evidence is clear – young people deserve to be taught by qualified teachers in schools and in further education settings, whether in Bognor, Bristol or Bradford. Let us make the score 3:0, taking England to world-class standard, and match the best education systems in the world.

The quality of teaching makes the biggest difference to learning. That's why all teachers must be qualified."


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