Thousands of school workers will be allowed to qualify as full members of the teaching profession without undertaking any teacher training, the Government has announced.
Classroom staff, many of whom frequently fulfil the role of a teacher, will now be eligible for Qualified Teacher Status simply by providing evidence of their chalkface skills as part of the new route into the profession being prepared by the Teacher Development Agency for Schools (TDA).
Among the groups most likely to benefit are so-called "instructors" - those employed for their specialist knowledge in areas such as PE, design and technology, or music, but who have not been through formal training. Others likely to apply will be independent school staff, who are more likely not to be formally qualified, and further education lecturers.
The move will open up the possibility of lecturers running the government's 14-19 diplomas.
It is unclear how much experience will be required to qualify. However, the TDA said it would be open to graduates working in schools.
Only Gloucestershire University currently runs a scheme of this type, but its candidates must receive training in schools.
There are around 27,800 instructors without QTS, representing 6.2 per cent of the workforce. The number includes 11,400 overseas-trained teachers. Unqualified teachers earn a minimum of #163;15,461 compared with a starting salary for qualified teachers of at least #163;21,102.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said the TDA has failed to "present any rationale" for the changes. It risks undermining other courses and damaging the "integrity" of teaching training, she warned.
"Although it is incumbent on all publicly funded institutions to offer value for money, I do not believe that this should be done by deciding that the award of QTS can be delivered in a cut-price fashion," she said.
James Noble Rogers, chief executive of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said it would be a "disaster" if the new route leads to a "dumbing down".
John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "This route must only be open to experienced teachers who have taught for an agreed minimum period in both their home country and in England.
"It should not be a means by which higher-level teaching assistants and other support staff who have undertaken some 'specified work' can gain QTS without full and appropriate training, however much classroom experience they might have."
A TDA spokeswoman said the consultation it had carried out on the proposal had helped "efforts to ensure effective quality assurance and assessment rigour and take proper account of relevant qualifications and experience".
'There must be loads of people in the same situation as me ... I'm lucky to have got on the course'
Shamin Mussa of Gunnersbury Catholic School for Boys in Brentford, Essex, has a post-compulsory PGCE that qualifies her to teach in sixth form and further education colleges, but not pupils aged under 16.
However, the 24-year-old now expects to remedy this anomaly by qualifying as a full teacher through the TDA's new route into the profession (see main story).
"There must be loads of people in the same situation," she said.
"It (the TDA route) is helping a lot of people. I'm lucky to have got on the course. It's helping a lot of people."