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Primary Education News
News A good degree isn't the only sign of a good teacher
The recruitment criteria for teachers is becoming too narrow. Well-qualified teachers certainly make a difference, but it's less cut and dried as to what makes for a good educator
The government has set great store by the fact that it is taking a tougher approach to teacher recruitment. Last year, it reported, 71% of trainee teachers had achieved a 2.1 or above, 6% more than the year before. Michael Gove, the education secretary, has pointed to this as evidence of success in the government's determination to raise standards in schools with "a high-quality teacher" in each and every classroom.
Ironically, though, this has all come at a time when the Department for Education has also decided to discontinue its Quality Mark accreditation for recruitment agencies beyond 31 March. This mark had set minimum standards for agencies and local authorities to reach in a number of areas including the way they recruit and interview supply teachers. We believe that the high standards of the Quality Mark ensured schools that used agencies that had obtained the QM were applying highest standards of recruitment practice.
Undeniably, though, teacher quality is essential and as recruiters we spend more time on meeting and interviewing potential candidates than on almost anything else. Few would argue that the most important thing a school can do is to provide its students with good teachers. But our students also need good educators, those capable of delivering a rounded education broader than simply the confines of their particular subject. Against this background it is less clear is whether the quality of a teacher's degree should really be the key determining factor. In other words, well-qualified teachers certainly make a difference, but it's less cut and dried as to what makes for a good educator.
Our worry is that if you restrict criteria for entry into the profession purely to the academic achievement of a degree at 2.1 or above, you would be drawing a very arbitrary line which may not serve teachers or students to best effect over the longer term. A teacher's degree may be the simplest benchmark to use because it is the easiest to measure, but this risks missing out the very human element of teaching and could allow potentially great teachers, with passion for their subjects, to slip through the cracks. After all, Carol Vorderman, for example, a government adviser on maths teaching, graduated from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge with a third class honours degree. Under the present guidelines, she would not be a favoured teaching candidate.
As recruiters we look at everything a candidate has to offer. There are many variables that go into making up a student's performance. These can include individual and family background issues; peer group pressure; obviously the school surroundings, as well as the influence of the teacher. While good teaching is clearly important to raising student achievement, it is not going to be the only determining factor. A good degree will not necessarily show you a person able to motivate students or instil in them the desire to achieve.
This appears to be something that is recognised by the profession. On the TDA blog site, they answer a Twitter question on what qualities make a good teacher. The answers given by those within the industry include spotting each individual child's areas of excellence, and encouraging them in those areas; a good sense of humour; patience and adaptability; a passion for making a difference to the lives and development of children; being able to think on your feet, adapt and be open to constructive criticism. The only reference made to a degree is "someone who doesn't think that having a top degree or being super qualified makes them any better or more knowledgeable than anyone else".
The message is a simple one. The commitment to delivering excellence in teaching in our schools is one that everyone would share and support. Basing entry into the profession on the quality of your degree, as opposed to factoring in your softer skills in what is, after all, a human environment, risks missing out on individuals who still could have an outstanding contribution to make.
Darryl Mydat is managing director of The London Teaching Pool.