Training is overrated

I've taught and lectured quite a bit here and there on various subjects in my time and so today's news that Labour intend to "sack" "untrained" teachers in free schools made my eyebrow twitch:

"It is shocking that this government is allowing unqualified teachers into the classroom," Twigg said. "High-quality teaching is the most important factor in improving education. We need to drive up the quality of teaching, not undermine it."
Just a quick question here, Stevie. Isn't the whole idea of school inspections and regular exams to ensure that objective observers outside the school can determine whether the school is failing to provide either good quality teaching or help its pupils attain the required level of performance. If this is the case, what does it matter whether a teacher is trained (by which they usually mean the 1-year Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, if not a full B.Ed) or not? How exactly has Mr. Twigg leapt from "unqualified" to "poor quality"?

I note in passing that Stephen Twigg doesn't seem to have much if any experience in teaching so one wonders where this idea of eliminating "unqualified" teachers has come from. Perhaps the teaching unions who don't like the idea of the free or independent schools where some of these teachers are found? Perhaps the lifer educrats in the Department for Education, who would prefer that all teachers be directly subjected to their influence. Perhaps those in the profession of education of educators are concerned about their waning influence and job security. I'd love to know.

Outside the formal education system I've met some fantastic teachers, in and out of the classroom. For sure, some of them had previous teaching qualifications before they branched out - but by no means all. The ability to connect with a class, to deeply understand your subject and be able to explain and convey it in an interesting way, are all a) learned over time and b) strongly rooted in personality and ability. I'm sure PGCE gives you useful insight into methods of education, but the most useful part of it is the practice teaching time - this lets students know whether or not they're really cut out for teaching.

I'd be a lot more impressed if Labour promised to fire bad teachers whereever they were found, whether trained or untrained, state or independent schools, union or non-union. But I think we all know how likely that is.

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