Academy plan to use untrained teachers is an outrage

Why is Michael Gove instituting this policy when he has praised countries like Finland where teachers are intensively trained? This article first appeared in The Guardian on the 27th July 2012

The news today that the education secretary is to remove the requirement for academies to employ qualified teachers sent a shudder down my spine. For a teacher like me, who has taught for more than 20 years in various comprehensives and has spent a great deal of time, quite a bit of it my own time, being “trained”, I know that pupils get a raw deal if they are taught by an untrained teacher.

Firstly, a properly trained teacher is fully conversant with the various theories about how children learn; he or she understands that you can’t just stand at the front and bark orders, that you need to engage children in “active” learning where they are doing things that assist with their learning. A well-trained teacher knows how to assess their pupils lesson by lesson, and use their assessments to shape further lessons, building upon a child’s strengths and tackling their weaknesses.

I know I wouldn’t be nearly as effective as a teacher had I not been trained. My training has equipped me to deal with both the academic rigours of my subject, and managing hundreds of children over the course of my career. It’s enabled me to draw on a variety of techniques and approaches so that I feel I can constantly innovate and improve myteaching.

A well-trained teacher understands how to nurture good behaviour; they know how to set clear boundaries and understand the complexities of children with special educational needs who may be struggling. They are also specialists in subjects.

Much research shows that the best teachers have been very well trained. Indeed, it is puzzling that Michael Gove should be instituting this policy when he himself has praised top-performing education systems such as Finland’s where teachers are intensively trained.

So why is he instituting this policy? I think there are two major reasons. First, he himself has admitted to disliking the “educational establishment”; he has a covert agenda to “de-professionalise” the profession. He wants to give the impression that anyone off the street can teach, that it is a “craft” – as opposed to an art or science – that can be learned on the job.

Second, he’s got his eye on setting up “for-profit” schools where companies can move into the sector and offer education at “cut price”. This is the equivalent of offering children “ready meals” instead of home-cooked food. If the Conservatives get a majority in the next election, I’ve no doubt this will happen.

It’s time the teaching profession spoke out collectively against this outrage; our children’s future is at stake.


Published by: @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing ( which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network,, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.

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