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A qualified teacher in every classroom

Comment 3rd July 2010

The previous government allowed unqualified staff to be able to take charge of a class to deliver lessons where teachers are absent due to sickness, attendance on training courses or for other reasons.  There was no requirement for any level of education or training nor any limit on the numbers of support staff employed in any school. 

These unqualified members of staff are termed "cover supervisors" or "learning managers" or some other term.

Some schools have as many as 10 members of staff covering lessons.   The work provided is invariably poor in quality consisting of textbook exercises or "do a poster" because the staff concerned are not expected to teach the lesson but simply supervise.

The impact on learning is disastrous.  Pupils can have several lessons of this kind in a week, losing significant chunks of their learning.   Behaviour deteriorates due to the lack of challenge. 

Qualified and experienced supply cover who are able to deliver lessons and not merely "babysit" a class are finding it extremely difficult to find work and large numbers are leaving the profession altogether, a waste of training and expertise.  Many supply teachers are retired senior teachers who have taking early retirement and who want to work on a casual basis but many are professional supply teachers who are too old to compete with newly qualified teachers and for whom supply teaching is a way to stay in the profession.

With the move to academy status there is a grave danger that heads will resolve their budgetary issues by employing more unqualified staff. 

We need to return to the simple principle of a qualified teacher in every classroom.   

Why does this matter?

This coalition seems to be committed to raising educational standards.  It cannot do so if a significant part of the teaching workforce have no qualifications to teach at all.  This country has invested heavily in training its teachers.  If qualified and experienced teachers cannot get work because their jobs are taken by unqualified support staff then this is a waste of expertise and investment.


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