Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

If your toilet broke, would you want a qualified plumber to fix it? #teaching #qualifications #gove

How much does a bit of paper matter?

In Scotland, all teachers in all schools have to be qualified and registered with the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

In England, apparently, the equivalent of this is not the case.

I find myself stuck with my jaw in “dropped” mode thinking “that would ‘so’ not happen here”, while also allowing myself to consider whether maybe it would be better if there were unqualified teachers teaching in schools.

It is so weird watching the debates on shows like “Breakfast” with people saying, “So, if you say teachers need to be qualified, do you mean to say that you would prevent all of these people from working? You’d put them out of a job?” The answer given, repeatedly ignored by the questioner, is that they would like all people working as teachers to be actively pursuing a teaching qualification for them to retain their post. This strikes me as fair enough.

But really – the idea that there are total randomers being paid professional salaries to deliver state funded education is worrying.

But are they total randomers?

Some of these people are talented, committed, experienced and successful as teachers. They just don’t have a bit of paper. Some of these people, especially in “free schools” come from wider walks of life and have different career/professional backgrounds and can perhaps offer today’s young people more relevant content presented in more outside-the-box ways.

Is demanding a qualification just a way to squish people into a government friendly box?

Well, if the government is paying for it, why shouldn’t it be a government-friendly box?

I have learned a lot from fellow-blogger Katharine, over at “Home’s Cool”. She is, as the title suggests a passionate home-schooler, with decades of successful teaching (not in school, obviously). The freedom within a home-school context to have relevant, individualized teaching is limitless. I imagine, if I were to home school (this is unlikely to ever happen – Scotland is, at present, an educational Utopia), I would invite a great many of my non-teacher friends to teach my kids. Who better to teach them snippets of accountancy, vegetable growing, smelting, entrepreneurship, photography…?

By having non-teachers teaching, the content, style and delivery would be infinitely richer.

But still, I’d rather have the bit of paper.

Not that having a qualification makes someone a great teacher! No doubt there are teachers with qualifications coming out of their ears that cannot teach. *desperately says nothing about the concept/reality of “Chartered Teacher”* Everyone who has attended school can remember the bad teachers: the ones who didn’t actually like children; the ones who missed out huge sections of the course figuring that the tutors would mop it up in the end; the ones who shrieked like banshees, escalating every non-event into a lion-taming spectacle; the ones who blamed the children for their lack of control aka preparation… We all remember them.

But still, with a qualification, you have at least a standard. There is a baseline; there is a measure by which you can be hired and fired. There is as near as we can get to a guarantee that the person is aware of the duties and responsibilities and professional standards that any parent should expect when they hand their child over to the state for their education.

I am lost for an analogy but here goes: if you have a couple co-habiting who say that it is just as good as being married – why not get married and have the certificate – if it is just the same? If you are a brilliant teacher – why not get the certificate that ‘proves’ it? But why should we have to? This is when the analogy breaks down for the co-habiting couple, but for the teacher – they should have to because they are funded by the state.

So, here are my conclusions on the English education situation: teachers should be qualified and should have a certificate and a membership of a professional body so that they can be struck off, should the need arise, as in other professions. People who are currently unqualified and are working as teachers should have the opportunity to get their skills and experience accredited so that they are not lost to the profession but gained by it. There could be short conversion courses for people coming in from business/industry etc and again, accreditation given for past experience. There could be other roles created that are not “teachers”. Perhaps free schools and academies could have mentors involved in the school’s life that need not be classed as teachers and therefore more free to break away from the National Curriculum.

In so many ways this is not my problem. The Scottish state education system surely has faults, but the question never arises, “Should we have qualified teachers or unqualified ones?”. It sounds daft. Of course they should be qualified. Do you want to go to an unqualified doctor? Do you want an unqualified lawyer defending you? Do you want an unqualified plumber to fix your toilet? …

Again, you may answer – I’d rather have a plumber who could actually fix toilets than one who was just qualified to fix toilets.

Tell you what: let’s have BOTH.


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13 thoughts on “If your toilet broke, would you want a qualified plumber to fix it? #teaching #qualifications #gove

  1. An excellent, well thought out, and constructed post. I agree with your position completely, I wish that the U.S had an educational utopia. 🙂

    • Yes, the blogosphere does seem to paint it in a varied light! Scotland has a very flexible curriculum so the needs of each child have a fighting chance of being met, at least in principle.

  2. theotheri on said:

    I would be more in favour of requiring teaching qualifications if there was any strong evidence that teachers with official qualifications are better teachers than those without. But as someone with qualifications and who has researched this question as well as worked with teachers of all stripes, I have reached the conclusion that the insistence on formal qualifications is almost 100% political.

    Of course there is a huge difference between good and bad teachers. But qualifications are not what sorts them out. I am particularly unsympathetic with those teachers unions who on one hand insist on qualifications and on the other refuse to accept to any kind of assessment based on student results.

    I do appreciate that teacher assessment is a difficult area, because students do not all come into the classroom on the same footing. Nor is the same kind of teaching necessarily best for everyone. But before you jump on the bandwagon for official student qualifications, I would suggest taking a close look at exactly what these qualifications involve.

    You ask if the government doesn’t have a right to insist on qualifications if its paying their salaries. Well, the government is spending our tax money, and it does not have the right to insist on irrelevant paperwork. What is does have is the right to insist on is good teachers.

    As an addendum, can I say that I have found teaching to be rewarding beyond all measure. It is equal for me to the fulfillment I have in a marriage that has worked. Students think that it is they who benefit from their teachers, and I can say that I have had teachers who have literally changed the course of my life. So teachers can make a profound, everlasting difference. But I could write a book about what teachers, in turn, can gain from their students.

    Oh – and can I also add that when I see what really good education is sometimes on offer here in Britain, I am envious. What I wouldn’t give to have had that kind of education as a young person. On the other hand, I am also familiar with some teaching here in Britain that is so destructive that it can make you weep. Though my sense is that some of the worst abuses have been reduced in recent decades.

    Well, I guess you can see that your post has got me thinking, Sanstorm. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for the link, Sans! and the thorough compliment! I know the dilemma you are trying to sort, in this post. I’ve had good and bad teachers in the public system, here, and before we began home schooling, my children had good and bad. Hey, there truly is a bad apple in every basket.
    The bad, though, were so far gone, that one of my children was 2 full years behind her peers and I was not even made aware of it. We felt forced to step in, and were so delighted with the change in our children in only 2 weeks of being home, that we never once considered looking back.
    We discovered what we did not know about them: that they were nervous in the public system. What a lovely, unexpected change in their personalities, immediately!
    I have long thought the real difference in teachers lies in their motive for taking the job. There are millions of glitzy gals who love a job that gives the entire summer off, plus many, many holidays, and figure anyone can stand up there and do what their teachers once did for them: read out of a teacher’s book. There are also probably (let’s hope) as many or more lovers of children who live to see the lightbulb come on, and dream of the day they inspire a child to turn his back on ignorance.
    Trouble is, they both get the same pay. Both get the same tenure, given enough time. Teachers usually are let go only in instances of sexual abuse, and not always even then, we have recently learned. They have a piece of paper that says they are teachers. Who messes with a teacher?
    I could go on and on.
    However, about home schoolers, I definitely can say we do have that liberty to include anyone we want as teachers for our children. It is such a happy thing for us. Often we have found that almost every non-teacher has at least one GREAT lesson inside, one special gift to impart, that they cannot believe someone actually wants to hear. It is always the cream off the top of their entire existence.
    As examples, my friend who cannot conceive children and who teaches math at a college just loves to answer my algebra 2 questions. Our accountant helped our son with a stuck place in his bookkeeping course and it took him all day because he was so happy to have this kid who really wanted to learn. Our dentist was thrilled I wanted the kids to view a video on tooth decay (and he had a real doozy, a really scary one that would make anyone start brushing–yay!)
    They all have PhD’s and they all do this for free, for the joy of it.
    It’s about the joy. It’s about seeing your kids grow up bright and clean and free. It’s about helping the world along, giving, seeing improvement and thinking “hey I did that!”
    It’s about knowing that you know how to pull a toilet and put it back right, and truly desiring to do the best you can about it.
    All this to say “thank-you”. Didn’t mean to highjack your site! 😳

  4. In answer to the question in your title… if my toilet breaks, I generally try to fix it myself. And I have no plumbing qualification. But plumbing is not rocket science, and I actually do have qualifications relevant to that field…

    In general, I expect teachers should be qualified to teach, but on reading your post I realised that I actually teach (at a University) and have no relevant teaching qualification… Erm… Then again, being a lecturer has led to the discovery that the large part of the job of a lecturer has nothing to do with teaching anyway.

    • I feel I am about to enter another philosophical loop… “What is teaching?”…. as your job, I imagine, is to do with imparting knowledge – whereas these days school teachers are more expected to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge… ho hum…

      • All the courses I have been on regarding university teaching emphasise that its really all about facilitating the students’ own “learning”, not about “teaching” or imparting “knowledge”. Which is odd as “knowledge transfer” is one of the three primary functions of the university, according to its own mission statement…

      • theotheri on said:

        Some years ago, I did research asking several hundred adults between the ages of 30 and 70) about teachers who had greatly influenced them and/or who they would say changed their lives. I found that good teachers are those who have two characteristics: they were enthusiastic about the subject they were teaching, and they cared about the student. I did find that in some cases, very high marks in just one of those characteristics were life – changing. EG: teachers who communicated to the student that he or she really cared about helping the students and who often went that extra mile. In rarer cases, teachers who were simply wildly enthusiastic about their subject were game-changers. I remember to this day the story of one lawyer who told me about a university professor who had very little empathy for his students but who taught a course in law with such passion that it decided the course of this student’s career.

        I also learned a few characteristics about destructive teachers. You will not be surprised to learn that they were often sadistic, sarcastic, cruel, using humiliation and physical punishment as motivators for learning.

    • Aye. Maybe its mission statement was drafted before postmodernism banned the concept of knowledge (as it is a bit too close to being a synonym with ‘truth’ – and, well… we can’t have that! 😉 )

  5. Teaching is hardly more than standing up and presenting stuff.
    Causing learning to happen is another subject, entirely.

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