Labour accuses the Government of dumbing down with unqualified teachers on the rise


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The Independent Online

The number of unqualified teachers in state schools has shot up by 16 per cent over the past year, sparking accusations from Labour that the Coalition Government is “dumbing down” teaching standards.

Figures show their numbers have risen overall from 14,800 to 17,100 in a year, with the rise most marked in the Government’s flagship free schools and academies - up 49 per cent to 7,900. In free schools, 13.3 per cent of teaching staff are unqualified.

Tristram Hunt, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said parents “would be shocked to learn that David Cameron is damaging school standards by making entry requirements into teaching in this country amongst the lowest in the world”.

“That is why Labour would scrap David Cameron’s unqualified teacher policy and insist on a qualified teacher in every classroom,” he added.

However, a Department for Education spokesman said the number of non-qualified teachers was 700 fewer than four years ago, and added: “It is entirely right that state schools should enjoy the same advantage that private schools have to bring great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists into the classroom.”

Today’s figures also show the overall number of teachers has increased in the past year by 9,100 to 451,100 - the number of teaching assistants also rose by 4.9 per cent to 232,300. The rises are thought to be a result of an increase in the size of the school population.

There was also an increase in the number of teachers qualified in the subjects they teach. 82.7 per cent of maths lessons were taken by teachers trained in the subject, up from 82.1 per cent, and 84.8 per cent of English lessons, up from 82.1 per cent. The number of science specialists fell from 87.8 per cent to 87.6 per cent.

In addition, they show the number of teachers earning six-figure salaries is now approaching 1,000, with the majority working in academies. 300 of these are earning more than £110,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Teachers is claiming age discrimination is forcing growing numbers of women teachers over the age of 50 out of the profession through disciplinary procedures questioning their capability. Its annual conference next weekend will say schools should be more sympathetic to the plight of women going through the menopause who can suffer hot flushes, headaches, tiredness and sweating. In particular, they should ensure access to cold drinking water and be able to work in reasonable rather than high temperatures.