Best teachers necessary, whoever they may be
Education Secretary Michael Gove caused a stir at the start of the summer when he suggested that teachers in academies need not have formal qualifications to deliver lessons.
Yet it is not so long ago that Ministers were saying all teachers should not only be graduates with teaching certificates but should also have Masters degrees.
The arguments have raged: Would we want our hospital ops carried out by unqualified surgeons? Why should an excellent engineer not be allowed to pass on his skills to keen teenagers? Are the best teachers born or made?
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We all have tales about brilliant academics who were a disaster in the classroom because they could not simplify their subject enough to explain it to pupils, and, conversely, of natural communicators, brilliant with children, who struggled to pass the exams they needed to get to university.
One thing is for sure: children deserve the best, parents want the best and teachers want to be the best they can be.
So it is no surprise that some of the most successful schools, where teaching and learning are rated outstanding by Ofsted, are those where the staff themselves are continuing to learn. Schools in the Bristol area are tapping in to a number of initiatives to help those with the highest levels of skill and knowledge share it with others and spread expertise across the system.
One of the biggest projects is the Cabot Learning Federation's Teaching School, which launches this month after a year of preparation. The federation has been selected by the National College – which leads on training for school staff in England – to deliver a wide-ranging programme to train fledgling teachers and develop teachers at various stages of their careers. This ranges from sixth-formers, who undertake the CLF's ground-breaking Teachers for Tomorrow course, through graduates and career converters in on-the-job training, to teachers becoming leaders and those aiming to become heads through the National Professional Qualification for Heads. Bristol also has its own Outstanding Teacher Programme, led by Catherine Hughes, principal of St Bede's Catholic College in Lawrence Weston, who has been designated a National Leader of Education by the National College.
A number of successful heads in Bristol and neighbouring local authorities work as Local Leaders of Education, supporting other heads and schools.
And next year Teach First, which encourages the brightest graduates to work in schools for the first few years after they graduate, is coming to the greater Bristol area.