Unqualified staff can teach in free schools, says Gove

26th November 2010 at 00:00
But unions claim relaxation of rules will 'de-skill' profession

Unqualified staff will be able to work as teachers in free schools, education secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.

Heads of the new state-funded independent schools will not have to follow the same regulations as local authority schools when it comes to recruiting - in the same way that independent school heads are free to take on anyone they please.

They will be able to employ people without qualified teacher status (QTS), which is compulsory in mainstream education, and other professional qualifications.

Mr Gove, who has been criticised by teaching unions for the move, told the House of Commons last week that the lack of regulation would create "dynamism".

"Innovation, diversity and flexibility are at the heart of the free schools policy," he said. "We want the dynamism that characterises the best independent schools to help drive up standards in the state sector.

"In that spirit, we will not be setting requirements in relation to qualifications. Instead, we will expect business cases to demonstrate how governing bodies intend to guarantee the highest quality of teaching and leadership in their schools.

"Ensuring that each free school's unique educational vision is translated into the classroom will require brilliant people with a diverse range of experience."

But union leaders said the move would mean the "de-skilling" of the profession. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the decision "diminishes and devalues the professional experience and expertise of qualified teachers".

"It shows disdain and disregard for the teaching profession and denigrates their hard work and commitment," she added. "The secretary of state is now not only allowing anyone to run a school - he is also turning children into lab rats to be experimented on by anyone with a half-baked idea."

At present, staff without QTS in state schools are only allowed to act as instructors or unqualified teachers. They are paid less and are not allowed to be in sole charge of a class.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of education union ATL, said: "We are delighted that Michael Gove wants schools to employ "brilliant" people. Is he going to extend his ideas to other professions and encourage hospitals to employ brilliant people without any medical qualifications too?

"Brilliance is only an advantage if the teacher can teach, understands how children learn, can engage the class in lessons and can manage children's behaviour. A double first from Oxbridge does not make someone a good teacher. This sounds suspiciously like the de-skilling of a profession."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We believe that talented people who don't necessarily hold QTS should have the opportunity to be involved in free schools."

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