From education to employment

Government condones teaching without the PGCE

What makes a good teacher? The ability to inspire, motivate, encourage, and reason with difficult subject matter to an entire classroom? To impart knowledge on diverse platforms in the hope of reaching a child through well-designed teaching methods?

The answer is all of the above, and that’s on top of a complete knowledge, not only of your own subject, but also of an ever-changing curriculum, fluctuating exam rubric, and occasional duties as counselor/boxing referee.

The government’s move, which is already in practice, to allow experts and subject professionals to teach in academies and private schools as teachers, without the national PGCE qualification and NQT status is a fiercely debated issue, as are all governmental reforms of education.

We’ve all had them, incredibly intelligent, slightly awkward geniuses in their subject area who have absolutely no idea how to impart that knowledge, leaving most students upset, confused, bored, distracted and failing. Individual subject teacher experiences probably define the future careers of almost the entire working population.

Teaching takes years to master, and what makes a good teacher might not necessarily rest upon the result of a 1-year PGCE, but it is certainly built upon this foundation. Without the rudiments of a PGCE course, the fundamental point of classroom learning is missing: the taught element. Without this, all students may as well read all they need to know online, a popular option for many, I imagine.

There is some thought to be given towards the involvement of experts in the classroom. They provide a change in atmosphere, a different, professional perspective on a topic with the respectable accolade of having actual hands on experience in the careers towards which these subjects are driven.

There is no doubt that students should be looking towards the final result of their studies, the prospect of actually putting their knowledge into practice in a full time job. Many subjects lose their appeal when students do not have the faintest idea how important certain knowledge could be. An expert or professional might provide some insight or provoke interest in a particular career by explaining how fulfilling it is, or how much job security or earning potential there is in pursuing a certain path.

Yet professional guest speakers are nothing new. Schools, public and private, and academies, with a certain amount of self-awareness have already implemented this tactic with some success. These same experts however, given the responsibilities as full time teachers, are quite another thing.

It certainly appears to be a fairly insulting legislation for teachers, that a teaching qualification, which until recently was a prerequisite, can now be deemed unnecessary. It also requires some arrogance, not only to nullify the training and qualifications of a respected career, but to further assume that being an authority on a subject has any bearing one’s ability to teach.

Above all there seems to be no logical reason to lower the qualifications for teaching. There is no clear incentive besides a reduction in staff costs, where the alternative would be to hire experts with an additional teaching qualification with greater return but at far greater expense.

Contrary to how it may appear at times, teaching is extremely tough terrain to inhabit, where many who can’t, fail. There is no reason to believe an expert in their field, or anyone for that matter, with no previous experience, to have the expertise to handle a child with particular difficulties with learning.

The government should be asking more, not less, of teaching, if it genuinely wishes to improve the state of education. There is nothing wrong with upskilling the education system, with a demand for more and better proof of subject specific knowledge from teachers, as well as a thorough background in teaching practice. If the government believes there is a deficit in expert knowledge in the classroom then a revision of the curriculum is required, and not many would welcome another one of those without solid proof of its success.

It is important to remember that this legislation involves schools, not universities, places which, as well as requiring greater learning opportunities, must exercise discipline, understanding and routine. A pack of teenagers are not going to respond, let alone respect, someone who cannot convey their knowledge unless they can do it through tireless teaching methodology, and do so 6 hours a day, 5 days a week and come out the other side still standing.

Overall it seems little is going to be achieved through this measure, and little should naturally be expected from a reduction in qualification. This summer however, after the annual claim that exams are getting easier because too many students are achieving high grades, there also seems little need for this expert knowledge in the classroom, unless the government plans on changing its stance on exams too. This new, untested legislation, like all government test runs, has been implemented for better or worse, at the expense of those who need the most help, the students.

Daisy Atkinson

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