UK schools have 20,000 unqualified teachers

Numbers have risen seven-fold since Labour came to power
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Thousands of schoolteachers across England have no teaching qualifications, it emerged yesterday.

The number of unqualified staff, who include those currently in training on a "fast track" into the profession, and foreign teachers whose qualifications are not recognised in the UK, has mushroomed from just 3,000 when Labour came to power in 1997 to more than 20,000 last year, government figures have revealed.

The revelation comes after the Children's Secretary Ed Balls last week claimed that 16-year-old trainee teaching assistants could be put in charge of fellow teenagers.

In some parts of the country, more than one in 10 teachers do not have the correct qualifications to teach their subjects, with Inner London boroughs reporting the highest proportions in all 159 education departments in the country.

Ministers claim the higher percentage corresponds to a wider increase in teachers across the board – but that they are now acting to limit the number of unqualified staff in the profession.

In the London Borough of Hackney, which the Government's figures show had the highest proportion of staff without UK-recognised qualifications, at more than 15 per cent, officials said: "We have a small proportion of highly qualified overseas trained teachers whose qualifications are not recognised in the UK.

"We support all our overseas trained teachers to gain qualified teacher status and most achieve this within a year. These teachers, like their peers, bring valued skills and experience."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has confirmed that more than 17,500 regular teachers are listed as "unqualified", and in many areas more than one in 10 does not have any formal UK qualifications. The teachers will have passed a Criminal Records Bureau check to be able to practice in schools, but will have little else.

A survey last year found that computing, religious education, business studies, classics, design technology and drama were the subjects with the largest number of unqualified teachers, with each subject being taught by teachers, more than 45 per cent of whom had not passed a post-A level qualification. Subjects with the least unqualified teachers were physics, biology and chemistry.

Last year, research found that pupils from poor homes are more likely to be taught by unqualified teachers than those in well-off areas.

Guidance by the DCSF published last year stated that, from 1 September 2008, anyone who has qualified as a teacher in the UK or countries in the European Economic Area can request that the General Teaching Council for England recognise their qualifications without further training. But, crucially, overseas-trained teachers are allowed to work unqualified in England for up to four years without the need to gain Qualified Teacher Status.