Should all teachers be qualified?

The Telegraph, 29.05.15, should all teachers be qualified in order to teach? HMC member Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College says 'no'.

At the beginning of May, Labour warned of widespread teacher shortages, with figures revealing that applications had declined in the last 12 months.

Despite these shortages, Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, attacked David Cameron for permitting unqualified teachers in the classroom, saying that it had led to a decline in standards in the profession.

It's a view supported by various teaching unions, including the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), who previously stated that qualified teacher status (QTS) is a "necessary part of the job".

But what do you think? There are currently around 17,000 unqualified teachers working in state schools; do you think there should be a requirement for them to train? Do you think all teachers should be officially qualified to teach?

Read the arguments, vote in our poll and have your say in the comments.

Richard Cairns is head of Brighton College, East Sussex; named UK School of the Year 2013-14 at the Independent Schools Awards

Few people in our lives have a greater impact on us than our teachers: the teacher who nurtured within us a life-long passion for history or music or French, the sports master who convinced us that we could play cricket or netball, and the form tutor who picked us up when we were feeling down and made us feel better about ourselves.

Good schools are only as good as their teachers. And, unsurprisingly, every international survey tells us that the single most important factor in educational outcome is the quality of teaching.

Little wonder, therefore, that we heads see the appointment of teachers as one of the most important things we do. Get it right and our pupils fly. Get it wrong and our pupils flag and fail.

So how do we find the teachers who will educate and inspire the next generation? The Labour Party would have you believe that we do this by insisting on all teachers having a formal postgraduate certificate of education. For them, that is the acid test of whether a teacher is suitable or not. I take a different view.

I am looking for two things: firstly, strong subject knowledge and secondly, an ability to connect with, and inspire, children. The first seems self-evident to me. I cannot see how anyone can teach a subject they have little knowledge of themselves. How can you challenge and inspire young people intellectually if your own understanding of the subject matter is shallow, patchy or non-existent.

Yet politicians who rail against unqualified teachers seem blind to this, ignoring the shocking reality that in England, 50 per cent of maths teachers and 70 per cent of physics teachers do not even have a degree in the subject they are teaching. Yet, because they have a teaching qualification, they are ‘qualified’.

The second factor in any appointment is the ability to connect with children and to inspire them. Do you really need a certificate of education to do this effectively?

Far better, as we do at Brighton College, that we employ charismatic people with strong subject knowledge whom we then support and train in the classroom in accordance with their needs.

And it is that approach that has allowed me to recruit so many brilliant teachers, many of whom have had valuable experience in other professions: a lawyer with a First from Oxford in history and politics, now inspiring children with a love of both subjects; a nuclear physicist giving his pupils an insight into how physics is actually applied in the real world; an economist with degrees from Cambridge and the LSE whose pupils regularly tell me how inspiring he is; an aid worker turned geography teacher who can talk with authority about reconstruction in Nepal because he has seen it with his own eyes; and a drama teacher who has appeared in Game of Thrones.

These are just some of the 47 teachers on my staff who would not be allowed to teach in most state schools; knowledgeable, inspirational, ‘unqualified’ men and women who are changing children’s lives.

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