Another of Michael Gove's cherished ideas as Education Secretary is now being challenged. A report out today shows that if he gets his way, and only those graduates with at least a 2:2 degree qualify for state funding to train as teachers, many shortage subjects – such as languages and sciences – will suffer disproportionately. This poses a dilemma: is it better for pupils to be taught by an able teacher who has not specialised in the given subject, or a teacher who has specialised, but not done especially well?
Ideally, the general job situation, plus generous bursaries for shortage subjects, will help to attract better qualified graduates. The profession should also recognise that improving the calibre of recruits is a way to raise its status. Our entry standards for teachers are among the least demanding in Europe.
Yet it must also be accepted that there are gifted teachers who did not achieve a 2:2, and that for those wanting to teach some, perhaps less traditional, subjects other sorts of qualification or experience might be considered. These, however, should be the exception. Mr Gove's instinct is right: we need better teachers – even if, initially, this means fewer.