Rethinking teacher training: Can principals just pick good teachers?

In the US and UK, public school teachers must be 'certified,' which requires a long and strictly regulated process. In American charter schools, and in private (or 'independent') schools in both countries, principals can select teachers without this background.

Pat Sullivan / AP
Brandon Gunter, left, a senior at YES Prep North Central, meets with a college recruiter in this 2009 file photo. YES Prep, a charter school, expects to send 100 percent of its to college, though over 90 percent have parents who never went to college. Charter schools like YES Prep can employ motivated teachers regardless of their formal education training, but public school principals are still limited to 'certified' teachers (or teachers working on their certification).

This week Minister for Education Michael Gove cut seven educational quangos, partially scaling back Whitehall’s interferences into schooling. This is good news, but there is still much more to be done to reform schooling in the UK. One area that needs to be focused on is the liberalisation of the teaching profession, allowing different routes into the profession and more choice for schools over who they employ.

As things stand, anyone who wants to teach in a state school in the UK must have a QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), which means that they must have undertaken some form of government-led teacher training in the form of a PGCE or GTP. Having taken a PGCE, I can vouch for the fact that attaining the QTS is largely a time-consuming paperwork exercise, as potential teachers attempt to prove their ability to achieve things such as ‘promoting equality and inclusion within teaching’ and other abstract ideas created by the TDA. Far more valuable was the hands-on training I received placed within a school, where I had the advice of fellow teachers and a mentor who could share best practices with me.

In light of this, I really don’t see the argument for the continuation of centralised teacher training to achieve QTS. Training should take place within a school, with state schools allowed to recruit graduates and train them on the job without the involvement of a higher education provider. But more than that, I believe the QTS should not be a necessary requirement to teach. Independent schools within the UK often choose to employ teachers who have not undergone formal teacher training, recognising that other factors make a good teacher, such as previous professional experience and an expertise in their subject area. In fact, some of my most inspiring teachers had never taken a teacher training course, but were passionate about education with an infectious enthusiasm for the subject. However, today too many potential teachers are driven away from teaching in the state sector by the continual interference of government, their lack of freedom to teach what they want and the heavy paperwork and planning requirements necessary when working towards their QTS.

So it's time the government got serious about giving teachers more freedom by giving the schools more autonomy. They need to let the schools take charge of teacher training once more, let them make their own judgement calls on who to employ and train, and remove the barriers of entry into teaching created by the compulsory QTS.

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