Help schools to hire unqualified teachers, says Eton head

18th May 2015 at 16:13
Eton headmaster unqualified teachers

The outgoing headmaster of Eton College has described teacher training as “a mess” and said it should be easier for unqualified teachers to get into the classroom.

Tony Little, who is preparing to leave the boarding school this summer, called for a national system that would open up teaching to people “without professional qualifications but with good subject knowledge”.

Those who wanted to become “career teachers” would have to work towards a “charter mark” that would have to be refreshed, he said, adding that his own school recruited unqualified teachers because it could “train them better” than others would.

"In the future I would like a new national framework which would open up teaching initially to people without professional qualifications but with good subject knowledge," he said. 

In an interview that will be published next month in Insight, the magazine of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, Mr Little also called for it to become compulsory for teachers to carry out research.

“We need to make the leap from a pretty hit-and-miss affair, to a structure of professional competency in which research is obligatory and becomes a state of mind, allowing teachers to develop their own practice on the basis of evidence," he said.

Mr Little added that successive governments had “spent a lot of money on structures and systems” but that money would have been “better spent on teacher training”.

“It doesn’t really matter what type of schools we have if we do not have really good teachers,” he said.

In the interview Mr Little also expressed frustration with the exam system, which he said had created a “silo mentality” at his school and at others. 

“Each subject is very well taught in itself, but I am exasperated by an exam system that makes it difficult for teachers to make links and pupils to see things in different ways,” he said.

“The exam system is like an egg timer. There is a wealth of experience and learning at the top, then it is all squeezed through the narrow bottleneck of exams and pushed out of the other side." 

He added that he was “not against exams or rigour” but wanted to see changes to “the way exams are designed”.

Eton College has set up a Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning that aims to “promote a wide range of ways to think about how we learn,” Mr Little said.

Mr Little said changes to the way in which young people accessed knowledge using technology meant that schools risked appearing “irrelevant” to teenagers. Schools needed “a new way of teaching young people the precision of thought needed to interact with new robotics and artificial intelligence,” he added.

He said he felt ready to leave the school, which he has led since 2002, but that he would miss “listening to wonderful music in chapel” and being part of the school’s “strong sense of community”. 


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