Qualified Teacher Status


  • No education system can be better than the quality of its teachers. 1The most successful countries, from the Far East to Scandinavia, are those where teaching has the highest status as a profession. These countries have demanding initial teacher education programmes which require successful completion in order to enter into the profession. 
  • The rigorous criteria involved in achieving Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) ensures that teachers possess solid knowledge and understanding of educational values and subject matter, and high standards of planning, monitoring, assessment and class management. QTS represents a formal set of skills, qualities, and professional standards that are recognised as essential aspects of an effective educator.
  • Education Secretary Justine Greening, speaking in February 2017, said that she valued QTS and that the DfE will be working with the sector to introduce a newly strengthened QTS from September 2019. The Secretary of State said that she hopes, “all school leaders will want all their teaching staff to achieve [the new QTS]”.2 However, this stated desire for a qualified teaching workforce is undermined by changes the DfE have made to requirements that allow unqualified individuals to work as teachers in academies and free schools.
  • Unqualified teachers may have difficulty coping with pupils with behavioural issues and special educational needs. They may be an expert in their subject specialism but they will lack the classroom experience and pedagogical background needed to maximise children’s learning potential and properly support their educational development.
  • It is impossible to guarantee consistency or quality of teaching unless the merits of QTS are universally recognised.  All schools, regardless of their status, should adhere to the same criteria and requirements when appointing teaching staff to ensure that all pupils are afforded the same high standards of teaching.
  • Allowing academies and free schools to hire unqualified teaching staff may lead to a decline in educational standards. Schools need a properly resourced team of qualified teachers and support staff, not lower investment presented as freedom of choice.
  • Unqualified teachers are cheap alternatives to trained and qualified staff. They may be expected to perform the same duties as qualified teachers but they do not receive the same financial remuneration.
  • DfE figures show that the percentage of qualified teachers (those with Qualified Teacher Status) in all state funded schools was 95.1 per cent in 2015; a decrease from 95.5 per cent in 2014 while the total number of teachers without QTS increased over the same period from 20.3 thousand full time equivalent staff (FTE) or 4.5 per cent in 2014 to 22.5 thousand FTEs or 4.9 per cent in 2015.
  • The proportion of FTE teachers that do not have QTS varies by school type: 3.1 per cent of teachers in all nursery/primary schools do not have QTS; compared with 5.9 per cent in all secondary schools. Within the nursery/primary sector: 2.8 per cent of FTE teachers in maintained primary schools do not have QTS. This rises to 3.9 per cent in primary academy convertor schools, 5.3 per cent in sponsor-led primary academies and 12.5 per cent in primary free schools.
  • 4.8 per cent of FTE teachers in maintained secondary schools do not have QTS. This rises to 5.3 per cent in secondary academy convertor schools, 9.4 per cent in sponsor-led secondary academies and 10.3 per cent in secondary free schools.3
  • In Sweden, free schools introduced in the early 1990s have made profits by reducing the number of qualified teachers they employ and the country’s educational standards have declined.4
  • An NUT-commissioned YouGov survey of parents’ views on education showed that the overwhelming majority (80 per cent) would not want their children to attend schools that did not require their teachers to have professional teaching qualifications.5 The survey also showed that 73 per cent of parents believed that employing unqualified teaching staff in free schools was designed to save money, not improve standards.

1 McKinsey & Company (2007). How the world’s best performing schools come out on top. Available: here

2Justine Greening’s Vision for the Teaching Profession 20th February 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/justine-greenings-vision-for-the-teaching-profession

3 DfE (June 2016), School Workforce in England: November 2014. p. 7.

4 OECD (2014). Resources, Policies and Practices in Sweden’s Schooling System: An in-depth analysis of PISA 2012 Results. Available: here.

5 NUT/ YouGov poll Parents’ Views on Education (March 2013)