Education & Family

Teachers' union: Support staff taking too many lessons

Teacher in classroom
Image caption Most adults surveyed said children should be taught by qualified teachers

Schools are increasingly using unqualified support staff to teach lessons on a regular basis, a teachers' union says.

The NASUWT union argues that using staff without qualified teacher status in the wrong circumstances is an abuse.

General secretary Chris Keates suggested the government was encouraging the practice to save money.

The government wants its flagship free schools in England to use unqualified teachers to give them more flexibility.

But these schools, set up by parent and community groups, will not be allowed to proceed unless they have sound plans for quality teaching, ministers have said.

The union is debating a resolution on the subject at its annual conference in Glasgow.

The resolution calls on the NASUWT's executive to ensure schools are allowed to use staff without qualified status only to cover short-term absences or allow teachers to plan and prepare for classes, or when all attempts to obtain a qualified teacher have failed.

The NASUWT said one teaching assistant taught a class for three years despite not being qualified.

It also cited the example of another teaching assistant delivering lessons full-time.

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Media captionJerry Glazier, from the NUT said it was "unacceptable" to use unqualified staff to take classes

Teaching assistants are widely used in schools to help teachers in the classroom.

Those with the higher level teaching assistant's qualification are allowed to take lessons but they are not permitted to teach new material, which should always be done by a qualified teacher.

'Flouting the law'

Ms Keates said the government's move to scrap the national negotiating body for school support staff had given schools a licence to misuse and abuse support staff.

She added: "Support staff are valuable members of the education team and do an excellent job, but they are not trained and paid to be teachers."

"Schools are flouting the law and statutory guidance, and compromising standards."

She also warned parents to expect it to happen more frequently in England as Education Secretary Michael Gove's policy to increase the number of academies and free schools progressed.

The comments come as research published at the National Union of Teachers conference in Harrogate suggests two-thirds of adults in Britain believe free schools will undermine the quality of children's education.

Four-fifths of the 2,000 adults surveyed by the company ComRes for the NUT said they would not want their child going to a free school that did not employ professional teachers.

And 86% said they thought any school receiving state funds should employ qualified teachers.

'Drive up standards'

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "This survey clearly shows that the majority of people want children to be taught by a qualified teacher.

"They see no advantage to doing anything other than this and are perfectly aware that if unqualified teachers become the norm in free schools it will simply be to cut costs."

On free schools, Mr Gove has said he wants "the dynamism that characterises the best independent schools to drive up standards in the state sector".

"In this spirit we will not be setting overly prescriptive requirements in relation to qualifications - instead we will expect business cases to demonstrate how governing bodies intend to guarantee the highest quality of teaching and leadership in their schools," he said in response to a question in the House of Commons last November.

"Ensuring each free school's unique educational vision is translated into the classroom will require brilliant people with a diverse range of experience," he said.

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