Is the UK a sign of things to come in teaching?

I just caught this article from the BBC.  I’m amazed at how many countries out there are in an education panic.  It makes it seem that no country is out front leading … or maybe nations are panicking for no good reason.

What are the British panicking about:  a lack of qualified teachers!

Much like the US, the British have been cutting funding for education, and have imposed some new evaluation systems that have made teachers unhappy.  The difference is that the UK was ahead of the U.S. in doing this, so we might (might) be able to use the UK as something of a crystal ball.

According to their DFE (Department for Education), there is some alarming data:  The poll notes that 61% of teachers noted that at least some of their colleagues were under-qualified, and 66% felt the situation was getting worse instead of getting better.  To top that off, the DFE published the actual numbers (not percents, unfortunately) of teachers who are teaching and who do not have the minimum qualifications to teach.

On the one hand, the number of unqualified teachers in public schools has actually gone down since 2010 (17,800 to 17,100 in 2013).  On the surface, that seems like a good thing.

Here’s the real kicker though:  When you look at the British academies (these are the British equivalent of American charter schools: public funds, but privately run without local control), the number of unqualified teachers has jumped alarmingly (2,200 to 7,900 in 2013).

Since these aren’t percent figures, it is difficult to tell if this is due to an absolute increase in teachers teaching at academies, or if academies are having a much more difficult time hiring qualified teachers.


As we start up the tall crest of the upcoming teacher shortage, one prediction was that private an charter schools would be the first to see this problem.  I know that many charter schools are starting to have problems with turnover and teacher replacement, and based on some anecdotal evidence, even in Chicago where teacher shortages are not yet a thing, some private schools have been having a harder time finding people to teach.  This means that parents sending their kids to private and charter schools might want to start investigating a little further in regards to their staff.  Remember:  these schools are not required to publish their teacher qualifications, and private schools are not required to have any certification whatsoever.  Parents really need to decide if it is worth plunking down $20k a year to send their kid to a school where the biology class is being taught by someone without any college degree or practical science experience (let alone any classroom experience).  This is far more common than parents think, because they jump to the assumption that “if I am paying all of this money, I must be getting a higher quality product”.  That might be the case with cars and wine, but it is not necessarily the case with education, since the money you pay to the school does not always get translated into better staff.


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