A #QTS letter to @EducationGovUK: Dear DfE by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Dear DfE,

I have remained silent on this issue, but I cannot keep my hands off the keyboard any longer! I am writing this article to support and showcase, why Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) must remain a prerequisite for teachers new to the classroom.

You may choose to ignore this, but many teachers won’t.

Only a confident and qualified teacher, dare enter the classroom: Photo Credit: dcJohn via Compfight cc
Only a confident and qualified teacher, dare enter the classroom: Photo Credit: dcJohn via Compfight cc

From the onset, I am declaring the need for a ‘status’ of sorts; not to recklessly abandon QTS in our throwaway society. I argue that the current QTS system must be updated and modernised, not shunned by a few deluded souls who do not understand the pedagogical values of teaching.

I argue, that the QTS proposals are a further example of cutbacks, and nothing to do with raising standards, or providing headteachers with freedom to employ unqualified teachers in their school. For some strange reason, I have only heard from headteachers who do not want to see QTS abolished and argue that they can already employ unqualified staff to teach (coach) students.

This letter, or perhaps I should say, my case-study, is to everyone at the Department for Education who informs educational policy.

  • Forget the budget!
  • Forget the politics!
  • Keep in mind, quality …

I fully expect a smarmy politician or office-based-research-advisor, who has barely stepped foot into a classroom, to point out flaws in what I present. But yet, what I do know, is that I will have the backing of thousands and thousands of teachers regarding what is presented here.

I can only bestow information worthy from my own teaching and leadership experiences, nothing more. This also includes 12 years of training other teachers to become qualified under the countless incarnations of teacher-training models we have adapted to work with. For example, Training Schools (hubs) and now the tiz-woz that is Schools Direct.

During this time, I have worked with children, under the leadership of four ‘different’ governments; and no less than 10 different Secretary of State for Education leaders. I have explained more about my political views here during the shape-shifters and policy-maker movements of the 90’s and 00’s.

Policy makers – post 1992:

Secretary of State for Education
Secretary of State for Education

I call upon the evidence!

I present no hard data. So, if you are one for hard-data and graphs, this article is not for you. Look away now! However, if you are someone, who believes in valuing a profession, that supports children succeeding; teachers who are professionally trained; and schools that employ qualified adults, then this discourse is for you. My evidence is based on grass-roots practice; few of what any of our politicians actually have!

How can you expect any adult to enter the classroom with an interest in children and their subject, if they are not qualified in ‘pedagogy’?

"And where is your evidence?"   Photo Credit: cali.org via Compfight cc
“And where is your evidence?”
Photo Credit: cali.org via Compfight cc


Allow me to explain. When teacher training in the late 1990s, I was unqualified. I studied the traditional (BAEd) Bachelor of Arts and Education degree over 4 years in order to study and practice ‘teaching’. Every academic year, I completed a ‘teaching practice’ for 6-8 weeks in a variety of schools. I progressed specifically into this degree to become a teacher. During this training, it was a requirement for me to meet specific standards; evidence them and be judged against them.

Being judged has continued for the past 20 years I have been teaching. I have always been judged against a criteria. I know no different.

The status of ‘Newly Qualified Teacher’ (NQT) did not exist in 1997; or at least the induction programme did not exist in the format we know today, until the (now abolished quango) GTCE was formed in 1998. I received no formal coaching and mentioning in my first year of teaching. Thank goodness for the pedagogical qualification and experiences of my BAEd prior to 1997!

From 1998, the NQT structure was put in place to support all teachers who had recently qualified to the profession. Pathways into QTS consisted of:

Unfortunately, the course I followed to gain QTS, no longer exists in the guise I describe below. The pathway was reduced in length, from 4 years to 3 in 2004 and was finally culled in 2010 due to Coalition cutbacks and reduction of funding for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) places and courses. You can read early indications here from Lord Browne’s report, regarding Goldsmiths College in 2010, and most recently from The Telegraph: ‘Teacher training faces crisis’ that states:

“Standards of education are being threatened by a serious and growing shortage of school places and an emerging crisis in recruitment to teacher training … Parents should be seriously concerned not only that their child gets a school place but also whether they will be taught by a well-trained, qualified teacher.”

@WarwickMansell also presents recent evidence here, from ‘Cambridge academics baffled by teacher-training shake-up’.

Yes or No? Photo Credit: The Open University (OU) via Compfight cc
Yes or No?
Photo Credit: The Open University (OU) via Compfight cc

The argument ‘For’ QTS:

  • To benchmark and raise standards. (Simple)

The argument ‘Against’ QTS:

  • QTS standards are too variable and open to interpretation. This sounds very familiar!
  • Having QTS does not guarantee you to become a ‘good’ teacher. Practice does.
  • Not having QTS should not hinder putting a ‘good’ teacher in front of students.
  • And not having QTS – but having sound knowledge in your field – should be seriously considered when embarking on a teaching career.

The Pedagogic evidence:

The following information is taken from the BAEd Secondary D and T Regs circa 1995 (Circa 1995) from Goldsmiths College, University of Arts London. I have removed much of the content and highlighted only text that relates to ‘qualifications in pedagogic practice’ alone. I hope it represents the breadth of qualification required in order to become a qualified teacher; not just the theory and practice.

1. General 1.1
The University grants a BAEd Degree. Holders of this Degree may, subject to satisfying all other necessary conditions, be recommended for qualified teacher status to the Secretary of State for the Department for Education and Employment.

2. Conditions of Admission to the Degree

2.1.3 have been examined in all parts of the examination prescribed for the Preliminary Course, Part 1, Part 11 and Part 111 and have shown a competent knowledge in the examinations for the degree as a  whole, including satisfying the examiners in Professional Practice and School Experience.

3 Period of Study
3.1 The period of study extends over a minimum of four academic year of full time study.

4 Course of Study
4. 1 The course of study will be as follows. Preliminary course (Year 1) comprising:
4.1.1 Professional Practice

  • School experience*
  • Education Studies
  • Subject Study Application

4.1.2 Design Practice

  • Design Studies (Projects & Communication)
  • Design Technology
  • Design in society

4.2 Part l (Year 2) comprising

4.2.1 Professional Practice

  • School experience*
  • Education Studies
  • Subject Study Application

4.2.2 Design Practice

  • Design Studies (Projects & Communication)
  • Design Technology
  • Design in society

4.3 Part ll (Year 3) comprising
4.3.1 Professional Practice

  • School experience*
  • Education Studies
  • Subject Study Application

4.3.2 Design Practice

  • Design Studies (Minor project & Major project)
  • Further Technology
  • Design Innovation

4.4 Part lll (Year 4)
• School Experience* • Professional
Practice Report • Personal Design Study

* School experience in each year will be specified by the school-college Partnership programme and will consist of a total of not less than 32 weeks in conformance with DfEE requirements.

5. Scheme of Examination

5.1 The Scheme of Examination will be as written in the full document here: BAEd Secondary D and T Regs circa 1995.

Post 2000:

I started to mentor and welcome undergraduates to my department. The teachers that arrived on my doorstep, were a mixture of undergraduates from the same programme I studied myself; ranging from 1st to 4th year placement trainees. Other trainees shipped in, were to complete training at @APSchool, from Middlesex University; the Institute of Education; and Brunel University to name a few. ALL students were expected to meet all of the ‘core’ teacher standards in order to be granted full QTS. This was part and parcel of the 4-year BAEd programme outline above.

Some teachers passed. Some failed. It was exactly the same for PGCE students. Pass or fail and that they did!

Post September 2004:

This is the year my former BAEd programme changed and presents essential reading.

1.1 What is the rationale for introducing the (new) proposed programme? Goldsmiths College currently supports a four-year BA Education (Secondary) with Design and Technology programme that provides opportunity for attaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and this enjoys a high reputation in and beyond the education community. However, due to the perceived or real debt burden for students that is associated with four year courses, recruitment is currently down (application figures 2003/04 and those received to date) on previous years and is projected to continue to fall. A recent survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers confirmed that “funding and debt were a major concern for trainee teachers.”  (200 post graduate and BEd students were surveyed in March 2004.). Amongst a number of conclusions arising from this survey was that “burden of debt fell heaviest on students following a traditional four year BEd course …” and suggested this resulted in students seeking qualification on a shorter programme or pursued a  non-education degree programme (industry sponsored) with a view to embarking upon a one year PGCE programme.”

Under this new teacher-training degree programme, I mentored teachers using the same Core/QTS  teacher standards. For the PGCE teachers I mentored, they were still required to meet the same QTS standards as outlined by the Core Standards. All 41 of them!

Some teachers passed. Some failed. It was exactly the same for any teacher-training pathway. Pass or fail and that they did!

Core Standards
Core Standards – do you remember all 41 standards?

Teaching post 2008:

In my first leadership post, I took on whole-school responsibility for staff development and Initial Teacher Training. My school was part of a hub of 6 schools in Brent, leading and sharing teacher-trainee placements. The nature of the job, included an even wider range of trainees from mainly SCITT pathways and OTT (Overseas Trained Teachers), already qualified to teach overseas, but looking to acquire English/Welsh QTS. A possible case to argue here. I also start to encounter the first influx of Teach First trainees.

Some teachers passed. Some failed. It was exactly the same for any teacher-training pathway. Pass or fail and that they did!

Teaching post 2010:

There is a massive shift in the landscape. The White Paper: The Importance of Teaching is published and The DfE sets out their stall for the future. Unbeknownst to us, the catalogue of countless changes on the horizon, have hardly been documented.

Teaching post 2011:

In my second leadership post, I begin work at Tony Blair’s first ever academy and embrace a continued (CPD) school development leadership role. My Principal is recognised for his support of Teach First placements and we even have a Teach First ‘five’ plaque delivered to my office in recognition for supporting 5 trainees (in one year) on the job. Note, they are still expected to meet QTS standards ‘on the job’.

Some teachers passed. Some failed. It was exactly the same for any teacher-training pathway. Pass or fail and that they did! Same-same.

Consider the following:

  • Changes to teachers terms and conditions.
  • Performance Related Pay.
  • Subject knowledge without practice.
  • Why our closest neighbours insist on a qualified profession?
  • Why the education systems we aspire to, insist on the highest qualifications for their teachers?

Removing the requirement for QTS absolute; would be another gut-damaging blow to the profession and further reduce the reputation of teachers/teaching in the UK and overall academic standards. It really does appear, that the decision-making principles barked down from the top, and echoed from our well-beloved political twollops, seem to be contradicting our ideology, of ‘raising standards’ and improving the future chances of our students.

I entered teaching for life. I know this is no longer seen as a lifelong vocation by many, and those who do embark on this path, will not last long in the battlefield if the profession is bludgeoned between (political) party-to-party.

Meanwhile, our Scottish counterparts (the GTCS), snigger from a distance and Finnish-hinterland seems even further away …

Finland seems further away! Photo Credit: Dave_S. via Compfight cc
Finland seems further away!
Photo Credit: Dave_S. via Compfight cc

Further Reading:

There is an excellent article by @HuntingEnglish (Alex Quigley) on “Why Michael Gove is Wrong about Qualified Teacher Status” and perhaps an alternative here; “Raising the status of the teaching profession”, with a Royal College of Teachers.

@Miss_McInerney has offered “Having vs. Getting: Don’t Believe The Falsities in the QTS Debate” and @TomBennett71 in his “Warlords of QTS- who runs education, and do we need training?

As Tom states in his quirk-essential style:

“The only place we have any chips to play, are on social network platforms where, like Tron or Second life, we can megaphone and posture and wrestle in a glorious digital fleshpit. What an odd demographic to allow itself to be ignored so easily. Maybe we should do something about it.”

And if you ever need a proper and sensible debate, move over here to my former colleague @HeadGuruTeacher (Tom Sherrington) and read his sensible QTS argument. It won’t be long before Tom is shaping national policy for us all and that politicians start to note his well-seasoned advice. Thank the Lord!

Oh, and don’t forget to read the right-wing piffle, written by @ToadMeister (Toby Young), another one of our ‘education experts’, over here if you fancy reading quite the opposite to what is written here.

QTS: Qualified Teacher Status, not Quash The Standards!

5 thoughts on “A #QTS letter to @EducationGovUK: Dear DfE by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Plenty of evidence of a decline in standards driven by government tinkering. An insightful and considered dicyment.
    Thank you

  2. I totally agree with your comment about raising the status of the teaching profession – the only way is to have a Royal College of Teachers – it is these institutions that maintain the professional status of our medics etc. Now is the correct & probably the last opportunity to address the imbalance of respect that the current government show our teaching profession.

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