Hundreds of trainee teachers who failed to gain qualified status are working in classrooms, official figures reveal.
Statistics published by the Department for Education show that more than 300 trainees who were unable to achieve QTS still managed to find work in schools, with nearly half employed in the primary sector.
“Of the trainees who were not awarded qualified teacher status in the academic year 2012 to 2013, 328 were in a teaching post. The highest proportion, 44 per cent, were non-specialist primary teachers," the document says.
Under government reforms, academies and free schools can hire staff without QTS – a move that ministers were keen to claim would allow such schools to employ talented individuals who were experts in their field.
Labour has made the issue a key area of education policy in the run-up to next year’s general election, pledging to ensure that every teacher either has or is working towards QTS. The Liberal Democrats have followed suit.
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "David Cameron's government has changed the rules to allow unqualified teachers into the classroom on a permanent basis.
"This policy is damaging school standards and is more evidence that the Tories have gone soft on standards."
Mr Hunt said that Labour would end the policy if elected.
Back in April, a survey by the NASUWT union suggested that nearly half of schools were using unqualified teachers to prepare and deliver lessons, with 53 per cent of respondents saying that non-QTS staff were employed in their school.
In a statement, the DfE claimed that the number of teachers without QTS had fallen since 2010.
“The overall quality of our teaching workforce continues to rise, with a record 74 per cent of new teachers holding 2:1 degrees or above,” a spokesman added.
"Nonetheless, we believe that it is headteachers who are best placed to decide who to employ in their school. It is only right that they should have the choice of complementing their teaching staff by bringing in experts from the world of science, literature and art to enrich pupils' learning."
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