The Price of Freedom

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 Mark Biggins

In March 2016 the government pledged to make all secondary schools academies and free them from LEA control by 2022. After a backlash from the NUT and many conservative back benchers the government last week performed a rather embarrassing U-turn and dropped the pledge. Given that 2/3 of schools are already academies you might wonder what exactly is at stake? It is a question of educational philosophy - the U-turn came the same week as a more head-line grabbing article reporting that the daughter of schools minister Lord Nash is teaching in one of the academies he helped found, despite having no formal teaching qualifications.

The government's U-Turn was rather less stylish that this!
The government's U-Turn was rather less stylish that this!

Setting the nepotism aside, should we be as shocked by a headline that reads “Person with no teaching qualifications hired to teach”. If it were a doctor, dentist or lawyer we would be outraged, but most tutors would identify themselves as falling into exactly this category. Previously on this blog I have suggested that an entirely unregulated industry can only function as a niche and that to become mainstream industry self-regulation/professional accreditation will naturally follow. But this move in mainstream education seems to suggest otherwise.

The government’s desire to allow teachers without PGCEs into the classroom is partly motivated by the success of private schools that are similarly unrestricted in their recruitment. Rather than raise eyebrows, it might be a good moment to remember that teaching, as much as a profession, is a vocation. Whether you are teaching in a comprehensive, a high-flying public school, a tutoring centre in Surrey, or for private clients in Abu Dhabi, most people would agree that great teachers are born and not made - the desire to teach and impart knowledge to others is not one that you can learn. The requirements to teach should be both the appropriate knowledge and vocation - the challenge for the government is recruiting and and retaining people who have both.

What is an academy?

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