By Harry Phibbs
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Yesterday the Daily Mirror reported that the Labour Party had dropped its opposition to free schools. One would think that faithfully regurgitating the Labour Party line would be one area where the newspaper is reliable. Toby Young welcomed the news at a conference at the West London Free School, held to offer advice to others starting new schools.
However, a Party spokesman said the Mirror's report was:
Misleading, speculative and ill-informed.
This morning the Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, was back on the attack telling The Observer that a Labour Government would sack 5,000 unqualified teachers from academies and free schools.
Mr Twigg said:
"It is shocking that this government is allowing unqualified teachers into the classroom. High-quality teaching is the most important factor in improving education. We need to drive up the quality of teaching, not undermine it."
A Department of Education source responded:
"We are raising the standards required to qualify for taxpayer-funded training. However, we also need flexibility to allow brilliant teachers from private schools or abroad to teach in state schools.
"It would be stupid to stop brilliant teachers who want to be able to switch from private to state schools from doing so. Having qualified teacher status and being qualified to teach are very different things."
If Mr Twigg really feels that allowing "unqualified teachers damages standards" then why doesn't he propose banning the thousands of unqualified teachers from independent schools? I suppose its because he would feel a bit silly pretending that these outstanding, highly experienced, teachers whose pupils get some of the best exam results in the country aren't up to the job.
Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College, says:
"I pay absolutely no heed to whether someone has a teaching qualification or not."
Wellington's teaching is rated outstanding by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. The exam results are fantastic. Oxbridge colleges like what they see. Yet if Mr Twigg means what he says, the teaching must be dud.
Mr Twigg says if you don't have a Qualified Teaching Status, you must be a bad teacher. If Mr Twigg really believes that then shouldn't he impose this restriction on the independent schools too? Alternatively, if he concedes that it is possible that there might be some good teachers around in the independent schools without a QTS, then should they really be prohibited from switching to state schools?
Labour's education policy seems to be to allow the good teachers to carry on in the independent schools, teaching the children of the rich, to ensure the boss class stay on top. Any of them that switch over to an academy or free school with an idealistic belief in promoting opportunity for others, should be warned that Mr Twigg wants to force them out of a job.