There has been some debate about whether Academies, Free Schools and independent schools should recruit unqualified teachers.
When I started teaching at Eton there were very few teachers with a PGCE and those that did were regarded as being defective. But this nonsense did not mean that the many brilliant teachers were unqualified to teach. It simply meant that they didn’t have a certificate to prove it.
No, what happened was that those of us who lacked a certificate were trained on the job. What did that teaching consist of?
1 We were given detailed syllabuses for each year group together with past papers. In the case of pupil coursework, we were given examples of coursework from previous years, marked. We were told how much of the syllabus had to be covered each half term.
2 We were told to mark work in a particular way, ringing spelling errors for example and insisting that pupils write out each three times.
3 We were encouraged to become public exam examiners – a marvellous form of training the benefits of which outweighed the ghastliness of marking scripts.
4 We were required to set homework for each class by writing the details on a large grid stuck up in the corridor. That meant that if a pupil missed the end of a lesson (because of a music lesson fr example), he could nevertheless find out what the homework was. More importantly, it ensured that every teacher set homework every time.
5 We were required to write a short report on every pupil every two to three weeks WITH MARKS. This meant that marks had to be collected every week. In other words, work was set and marked regularly. Pupils were tested on their work every fortnight at least.
6 We were required to extend our subject knowledge, drawing on notes provided by other teachers and using books provided by the department. Resources were shared.
7 We received specific instruction on the best methods to maintain classroom discipline, to maintain pupil motivation, to make a difficult topic clear, to pull up laggards.
8 We were trained to drive a minibus.
9 We were trained in the basic rules of staff behaviour including child protection.
All of this was very important. But in the end the best teachers were those who had particular personality traits….they were good actors, they were forceful, they had high expectations, they were insistent. They also tended to be intellectually curious and they loved their subject.