But it matters what teachers are trained in

Usual nonsense from someone inside the cartel about relaxing the entrance rules to the cartel:

The news today that the education secretary is to remove the requirement for academies to employ qualified teachers sent a shudder down my spine. For a teacher like me, who has taught for more than 20 years in various comprehensives and has spent a great deal of time, quite a bit of it my own time, being \”trained\”, I know that pupils get a raw deal if they are taught by an untrained teacher.

Firstly, a properly trained teacher is fully conversant with the various theories about how children learn; he or she understands that you can\’t just stand at the front and bark orders, that you need to engage children in \”active\” learning where they are doing things that assist with their learning. A well-trained teacher knows how to assess their pupils lesson by lesson, and use their assessments to shape further lessons, building upon a child\’s strengths and tackling their weaknesses.

I know I wouldn\’t be nearly as effective as a teacher had I not been trained.

No one at all is suggesting that teachers should not be trained.

The argument is over whether a teacher needs to have a post-graduate course (even a degree at all) in trendy arguments about \”how children learn\” or they need 6 weeks of standing in front of a class and being told what they\’re doing wrong.

I can quite easily find you a current teacher who would say that the 6 weeks or so of classroom practice helped a great deal more than the year of academia (Hallo Shuggy!).

It probably would be a good idea if someone teaching Further Maths A Level had a Maths Degree….or something close to that level of education in the subject. The idea that someone needs a post-graduate degree in order to oversee the finger painting in Year One is rather harder to support.

21 comments on “But it matters what teachers are trained in

  1. Clearly there is a huge difference between teaching an interested A level further maths class and trying to teach an irascible Form 3C on a wet February afternoon.

    No doubt plenty of redundant derivatives analysts with maths degrees could manage the former at the drop of a hat. They might find the latter slightly more difficult.

  2. Private schools (or as we insist on calling them, public schools) don’t require a teaching qualification; they don’t appear to have suffered as a result. But what works in a school with bright well-behaved kids with wealthy parents might not work so well in the inner cities. Worth a shot though.

    Should we extend this experiment to other areas such as law or medicine?

  3. “But what works in a school with bright well-behaved kids with wealthy parents might not work so well in the inner cities. Worth a shot though.”
    Check out Teacher First, Its aimed at people without teaching degrees, getting them to teach in difficult schools, with support of course. seems to have a good reputation.

    “Should we extend this experiment to other areas such as law or medicine?” People with say a medical degree but not a teaching degree teaching kids, sure that could work. Its just that law or medicine aren’t usually taught to kids.

  4. don’t require a teaching qualification; they don’t appear to have suffered as a result.

    As Eddy says, it is about support – from experienced teachers, from teacher trainers, from the discipline system.

    Teacher training – yes. And mentoring. A teaching degree? Why? Training and mentoring, and a bit of class preparation instruction? With a diploma and then an NVQ / SVQ after the appropriate practitioner experience?

    As for medicine, nurses are now prescribing without having to have medical degrees and even doing minor surgery.

  5. Having done it twice – once originally and once as a returner, there’s far more leftie propaganda in the (ahem) ‘academic’ bit but much of it is as useless as it ever was. There’s reams of boxes to tick (no surprise there). Still you learn most from time in school or talking to other students about their time in school.

    What the whingefest is ignoring is that unqualified teachers have been common for years. They hide under labels including “Cover Supervisor” and “High Level Teaching Assistants”, many of these covers going on for rather a long time of course. This happened under Labour. The Unions did nothing because their sole interest is in supporting Labour – this is why there is such enthusiasm amongst the leadership for strikes (most teachers aren’t interested). This is if anything worse, because some of these “teachers” are the Mums army of TAs upgraded, some of whom are barely literate themselves.

    Having allowed it for several years it’s a bit rich to start complaining about it now.

  6. Didn’t realise it was Francis Gilbert.

    Perhaps he should read his own book “I’m a teacher get me out of here” (all his writings seem to ignore his books AFAICS) which wasn’t exactly complimetary about Teacher Training. In fact the tone is that it was a joke.

    In fact both his teaching books (and indeed Yob Nation – title is appropriate) seem to be in the historic past.

    From memory I seem to remember him writing about scamming his way onto the course by peddling a lot of beliefs he didn’t (then) believe because it was what the tutor wanted to here.

    Now he sounds like the tutor.

    I wonder why he sent his child to private school. He later removed the child to the state system because the private school wasn’t any better, which is fair enough, but of course begs the question that if the local state school had been cr*p, whether his child would still be in a private school.

    Of course, persons such as this tend not to live in areas where the state school is cr*p, so this means they can preen themselves without reality (for some) interfering.

  7. Andrew M writes, “Should we extend this experiment to other areas such as law or medicine?”

    I’ve been meeting this argument for years, although usually piloting an aeroplane is included in the list as well. I am always surprised that teachers use it, since it shows a lack of thought about how one learns different types of skill.

    Law and medicine involve large chunks of essentially arbitrary knowledge. No one has any instinct that tells them the right dose for some drug or what clause X sub section Y of some law says.

    Teaching, not so. I was an untrained teacher of physics. (Strictly speaking, an instructor of physics, as they called them in those days.) ‘Untrained’ as in no training whatsoever. I won’t say I could not have benefited from some training, but I did OK in front of the disaffected third years from the start because I was just that sort of person. Some of my colleagues, sadly, were not that sort of person, despite their training.

  8. Oh, and at the time the comprehensive school wherein I plied my unlicensed trade was “improving” in the sense that it had nowhere to go but up.

    It was horrid sometimes, I must admit. But I don’t think a better knowledge of Piaget’s developmental theories would have helped in the least.

  9. Generally agree with what you’re sayiing, but the comment about finger painting in grade 1 is a silly smart arse comment. Grades 1 and 2 are critical to eventual competence in the 3 Rs (or at least 2 of them). I know, I’m married to a teacher of such.

  10. Yes, Geoff, and my wife knows all about running a medium sized business, and I know all about the criminal bar, because we’re married to practitioners in these areas.

    Neither of us is a teacher of grades one or two, but amazingly our kids were numerate and literate before they even set foot in school.

  11. Of course in medicine or engineering one is responsible for the outcome. In teaching?

    I have a postgraduate diploma in teaching, most of it consisted of repeating back the shite I’d be told and massaging the egos of the instructors.

  12. The main problem is the inability of the public sector to get rid of useless staff.

    The requirement for qualifications is a bureaucratic attempt to get round that problem, which doesn’t work because many of the ones with qualifications are also, in practice, incompetent.

    Hiring unqualified teachers in academies will be fine, so long as the heads are willing and able to fire.

  13. I am a teacher in a state school and I will happily agree that the ‘academic’ part of teacher training is an utter waste of time. As mentioned by other posters, it consisted largely of learning fashionable but almost invariably wrong doctrines that the lecturers (all of whom had mysteriously left teaching for academia years previously) had spent their time dreaming up. In one lecture we had on ‘literacy’ the lecturer spent the best part of an hour rubbishing the phonics method of teaching reading, which the then government insisted on and which is proved to work, just because it didn’t fit her dogma.

    As Tim says though, this is not about teachers needing to be trained. As a physics teacher, it is obviously desirable that I have a physics degree (or similar), and I have received plenty of useful training in the form of being observed by others and given feedback (this is ongoing). Really what we are talking about is whether teachers need to jump through hoops to get to belong to the club – barriers to entry.

    ‘Should we extend this experiment to other areas such as law or medicine?’. Yes we should. Before I trained as a teacher (5 years ago) I worked for a couple of years in City law firms. The legal profession is the biggest cartel in the country which is why it is so absurdly expensive to get almost any legal work done. As for medicine, Milton Friedman argues in his book Capitalism and Freedom that medical doctors should not be licensed by the state (note not that they need not be trained in medicine). His argument is pretty persuasive, but try bringing that one up at a dinner party…

  14. Interestingly, one of our friends is an MD who is currently working for a charity but whose immediately previous job was as a TA.

    Irrelevant to the points being made here, but cute anecdata.

  15. 1. Occupation A exists. Ideologues want to change how it is done.
    2. Set up licensing body for practitioners. Amateurs portrayed as ‘dangerous’ or unqualified.
    3. Ideologues seize control of licensing body.
    4. You now control activity A and can make whatever changes you want to it without having to consult end users of Occupation A.

    See nursing, education, social work, child welfare even child-minding now.

  16. Like most occupations in life there are good and bad practitioners and no one single ‘best route’ to competence. I’ve met good teachers with quality degrees from decent universities and equally good back door entry models. There are others whose primary role is simply to keep juveniles off the street between the hours of nine and four. A lot of the kids I went to school with became teachers. Back then there weren’t so many career options for aspirational girls; and teaching was a girl’s vocation. If you weren’t the academic type you took your five O-levels and ran straight to teacher-training college. If you were bright you stayed on for A-levels and trained to become a nurse. I have no idea as regards the current intake, but – whether education, law, industry, commerce or medicine – there are only so many exceptional/talented people to be shared around. If you want them in teaching why put barriers in their way.

  17. I was taught to read, at the age of 4, by my five-year-old sister. She didn’t have any formal “teaching qualifications” nor, at the time, a degree. (When I was allowed to start school my mother felt it necessary to warn the teacher that I could read the Form 1 reading book upside down).
    Interested #10 30-love Geoff #9

  18. Of course we could make it easier for foreign graduates to teach here.
    It would help of course recruit all the foreign language teachers we will need when 7 years old have to learn another language.

  19. @ David
    Certainly; and we might learn to speak a few foreign languages: I learned more of that from the French teacher (married to a local Irishman) I had when I was 12-13 than all the others put together

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