Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Muscle, Guts and QTS: The de-professionalisation of teachers

(Richard Burton in Look Back in Anger, 1959)

'It's no good fooling about with teaching you know. You can't fall into it like a soft job without dirtying up your hands. It takes muscle and guts. If you can't bear the thought of messing up your nice, tidy soul, you better give up the whole idea of life and become a saint, because you'll never make it as a teacher' (Jimmy Porter)

Now, those of you who've watched the brilliant Look Back in Anger will know that I've used  a little artistic licence on young Jimmy's lines. But it's true though, teaching is bloody tough; emotionally, physically and mentally. It takes resilience, patience and determination to make it in the classroom. You'll experience plenty of highs and lows. Probably on the same same day. You'll need to constantly reflect, adapt and develop as a practitioner. You'll definitely need to get your hands dirty. This may, of course, take its toll. I spent 12 years at the chalkface and the lines on my forehead are a testament to my time served. That aside, teaching is also a wonderfully creative and artistic craft. If you've had the pleasure of observing a brilliant teacher in full-flow you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The way they move the lesson along may seem effortless but it's no accident. I know many teachers and the effort they put in on a daily/ weekly/ termly basis. Not everyone thinks this is the case mind:

Teaching is a skilled profession. It takes years to master one's craft. Not only do you need extensive subject knowledge but also a detailed understanding of how children learn. More importantly, you need to be able to form meaningful and mutually respectful relationships  with unpredictable young people. That's why we have teacher training though. It's to prepare you for what will hopefully be a long and prosperous career helping young people to fulfil their ambitions and potential. Yeah, there's quite a bit riding on initial teacher training. I currently work with trainee teachers and know the amount of effort and heartache (and financial strife) they go through in order to become qualified teachers. It's a huge and honourable commitment. But sadly one that has been undermined by government policy which seems intent of de-professionalising teachers. 

According to recent statistics, over half a million children are currently being taught in classrooms across the country by unqualified teachers. This figure has been on the rise since the government relaxed the requirements for schools to employ teachers without QTS   back in 2012. This raises worrying questions about the level of professional expertise of some teachers. I'm not suggesting that every unqualified teacher in is incapable of doing the job but, as a parent, I won't my children to be taught be trained teachers in the same way they are to be treated by trained nurses. There is also a wider concern. If we are heading towards a growth in Scripted Direct Instruction and the use of Comparative Judgement then there's no reason why this would need to be done by a highly qualified teacher. 

During these worrying times of school budget cuts there is a danger that more schools will be forced to hire unqualified teachers as a way of saving money (approximately £10,000 per member of staff on the equivalent QTS scale). Relaxing the need for QTS undermines the profession, de-skills teachers and potentially harms children's learning. It is also massively disrespectful to all the teachers who invested so much into become qualified.  Or, as Jimmy would  say, 'you're doing what? When I think of what I did! What I had to endure?!'

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