The Labour Party has just reported that 5 per cent of state school teachers (24,000), mostly in free schools and academies, do not have qualified teacher status. Between 2012 and 2016 the number rose from 14,800 to 24,000. According to Labour, this means that unqualified teachers teach around 600,000 pupils. It is shock horror all round within the educational establishment, the Blob. Their political backers are banging the war drums.
Instead of being alarmed, however, these new statistics should be seen as a cause for celebration. 24,000 teachers have not been through the ‘brainwashing’ process in political correctness or indoctrinated in ineffective teaching methodology that constitute much of teacher training.
The extent of our teacher training failure is evident not only in the mediocre performance of UK pupils on international OECD tests. In survey after survey, it is also starkly apparent to employers seeking new recruits. Around 20 per cent of school-leavers are, effectively, unemployable. Universities, too, are having to face up to deficiencies in the standard and quality of school teaching. Many now run remedial ‘catch-up’ courses for ‘freshers’. If we seek a monument to teacher training, we need only look around us.
This is not to say that we do not have a crisis over insufficient qualified teachers. We most certainly do. It is not, though, how the Labour Party would have us see it. It is far worse. The real crisis is in the lack of subject expertise that teachers bring with them to the classroom.
The majority of teachers who are teaching maths do not have a qualification beyond GCSE C/B. Rather than being a qualification to teach the subject, this would be regarded as a certificate of incompetence in the Asia-Pacific superstar education systems. According to Government statistics from 2011, a time recruitment was easier than now, even at secondary school, 26.6 per cent of maths teachers did not have a degree in the subject. Matters were worse in geography (28.7 per cent), physics (31.4 per cent), religious education (55 per cent) and business and economics (63 per cent). Among secondary school teachers of English things were better but not by much with 21 per cent not having a degree in the subject.
These days governments try to mask the true figures by providing statistics relating to a “relevant degree” such as a biology degree for teaching maths, an engineering degree for teaching physics or a media studies degree for teaching English. Even on that basis the most recent figures (2016) show that 28 per cent teachers of physics in secondary school are ‘unqualified’. Overall, 20 per cent of subject teachers do not have a relevant degree.
None of this seems to matter in the latest burst of outrage from Labour and from the Blob. It is the ideological indoctrination process that concerns them, not subject knowledge. On a BBC Radio 5 Live ‘phone-in’ programme on teacher training in which I was a participant, a trainee maths teacher claimed that his year-long course allocated only two-and-a-half hours to providing instruction on how actually to teach his subject. Most of the ‘training’ was devoted to ideological correctness – gender, race, equality, diversity and so on.
Ironically, it is often in our very best independent schools that one finds the most so-called ‘unqualified’ teachers. I recall the former head of Eton, Eric Anderson, once being asked how important it was for applicants for teaching posts as his school to hold a teaching qualification. He replied that he tried, with difficulty, not to hold it against them.
I possess a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) with ‘distinction’ from a Russell Group university. This means that I am ‘qualified’ to teach any subject. This is nonsense! What a strange world it is where I, as a graduate in history and English with a PGCE, qualify to teach, say, tennis in PE lessons but Andy Murray and Jo Konta do not.