'State school teachers should have QTS. Disagreeing cheapens the profession and jeopardises education'

5th November 2013 at 12:01
Matt Shurlock, PGCE student at Queen Mary’s University College, Twickenham, writes:
"As I was at home during half term I was able to watch the House of Commons debate on qualified teacher status last week, in which Labour put proposed a change to the law that would have enforced all those teaching in state-funded schools to have or be working towards QTS. The Tories and some Lib Dems opposed it.
Having the time to watch the debate helped me clarify my thoughts on the question, ‘Must teachers have QTS to teach in state schools?’.
I understand arguments for both sides, and can sympathise with those who seek to use the extensive knowledge of experts to improve the learning within their school.
However I cannot understand why the government would not generally expect teachers to hold or be working towards QTS. In some ways it is laughable to think we are discussing this matter – it is another example of how education is a football, kicked about Westminster for political gain.

What other profession would stand for such a debate? Pilots? Firefighters? Surgeons?

One of the arguments from the Tory side was that heads should be left to decide who is a good teacher and therefore who should be allowed to teach in their school. But without a qualification how can a head know whether a teacher is any good until he puts them in front of a class? By this logic a head would risk the education of a class to assess whether a non-QTS teacher is any good.
At least with a qualification a school leader has some kind of assurance that the individual has be trained, assessed and been deemed fit to teach.
I am also uneasy about where the abandonment of QTS as a prerequisite for teaching leaves the profession. I can understand that there are cases where it may be unnecessary or impractical for an expert to gain QTS, however these are surely in the minority. A wide acceptance that it is not necessary to have a qualification leaves the profession in limbo and cheapens all teaching qualifications.
One Labour MP, Sharon Hodgson, made a great point in her speech to the House. Using the example of Mr Burton in the recent episode of Educating Yorkshire, she pointed out that it wasn’t his knowledge of poetry that got the pupil through his English speaking exam, it was his pedagogic ability. This is what a teaching qualification provides and without it most experts will fail to teach effectively.
The impression I was left with was the Tories base their opinions on the schools they likely attended.  I can see that access to leading experts would be of great use in the independent school environment, where behaviour management, SEN and EAL considerations and motivation strategies would be less of a requirement. It could also apply to the top performing state schools.
However it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen if the abandoning professional qualifications were to be realised across the country. But perhaps this is my Romford roots skewing my opinion.
There is also a difference between a visit or series of visits from an expert, brought in to add value to the learning of a certain subject.  Who wouldn’t want David Sharkey teaching history, David Attenborough geography and biology and Paul McCartney music? This, though, this is different to an individual responsible for setting learning objectives, delivering teaching and then assessing the results. It is to these people I refer and for these people that the QTS must be a standard.
Watching the debate and subsequent reflection have added another value to my education beliefs. Teachers in state schools should have or be working towards QTS. To disagree with this is to cheapen the profession and jeopardize the education of young people.
I am aiming to be the best teacher I can be and I know the PGCE has helped me realise this."


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