Whatever the merits or demerits of Michael Gove’s plan to introduce tougher tests for trainee teachers, he doesn’t win any marks for consistency. The Education Secretary argues, rather persuasively, that the new exams will ensure that “we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms”, yet just a few months ago he changed the law to allow academies (which now account for more than half of all secondary schools) to hire unqualified teachers. The government announced in July that the schools, like their private counterparts and “free schools”, would be able to employ people who do not have qualified teacher status (QTS). A spokesman for the Department for Education said:
Independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got QTS. We are extending this flexibility to all academies so more schools can hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before.
Yet now, announcing plans to introduce more challenging English and Maths tests for would-be teachers, Gove insists that the “rigorous selection” of trainees is the key to raising standards. He said:
These changes will mean that parents can be confident that we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms.
Above all, it will help ensure we raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap between the rich and poor.
There are good arguments for making it easier to become a teacher and there are good arguments for making it harder. But Gove can’t expect to be taken seriously if he makes them at the same time.