Should academies and free schools be allowed to hire unqualified teachers?

In Sweden - the first country to introduce the controversial programme - they now have to hire qualified teachers and follow its national curriculum

Richard Garner
Thursday 19 February 2015 01:00

To a conference of those opposed to academies and free schools and news that, in Sweden – the first country to introduce the controversial programme – they now have to hire qualified teachers and follow its national curriculum. This could fuel the debate in England over whether Michael Gove's decision to allow free schools and academies to hire unqualified staff should be abandoned.

It is likely to feature as a major education issue in the election, with both Tristram Hunt, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, and Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws insisting all teachers should be qualified.

Linda Norrby, from the Swedish teachers' union, Lärarförbundet, told the conference: "All teachers in every school must be registered. There was a big campaign for this over many years. If you look at it from the child's perspective, it is an individual child's right to have the best education they possibly can."

She said that the country's free schools "had a large proportion of unqualified teachers", adding, "if you had a medical problem you wouldn't want to be seen by an unqualified doctor."

She also added that, when the free school scheme was introduced in the 1990s, it was "a little bit romantic, a little bit cute". Now, though, private companies were in charge of the lion's share of the schools.

Legislation had been introduced insisting all schools had to teach to the national curriculum – or face sanctions. "They can be given a warning or, if they persist, they can be closed down," she said.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he found it "very interesting" that Sweden had moved towards employing only qualified teachers. "We do think," he said, "that the concept of a family of schools has much to offer." It was preferable, he thought, to individual free schools acting unaccountably.

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