News story

Academies to have same freedom as free schools over teachers

Details of a change to the funding agreement used by schools converting to academy status.

The Department for Education has today made some minor changes to the model funding agreement to be used by schools in their conversion to academy status.

From today, head teachers in mainstream and alternative provision academies will be given greater freedom over the teachers they employ - giving them the same advantages as independent schools, free schools, studio schools and university technical colleges.

A Department for Education spokesman said:

Independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got qualified teacher status (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. We expect the vast majority of teachers will continue to have QTS. This additional flexibility will help schools improve faster. No existing teacher contract is affected by this minor change.

The funding agreements for all new academies - which are essentially contracts between the Secretary of State and the organisation which establishes and runs the school (‘the academy trust’) - will now state that academies can employ teaching staff who they believe to be suitably qualified - without the automatic requirement for them to have qualified teacher status.

Existing academies can request for their funding agreements to be changed to include this new freedom if they wish.

No existing contracts for any teacher in any academy will be affected by this change.

This policy will free up academies to employ professionals - like scientists, engineers, musicians, university professors, and experienced teachers and heads from overseas and the independent sector - who may be extremely well-qualified and are excellent teachers, but do not have QTS status.

As with the independent sector and free schools, the vast majority of teachers employed will continue to have QTS, as it will remain the highly-respected professional status for teachers - and one that all teachers training in the state sector must continue to meet.

This new freedom for academies will allow them to bring in professionals who will offer a wealth of knowledge and new skills for our state schools.

Ensuring the highest quality of teaching is paramount to the success of each school. Head teachers know this, which is why we trust them to employ staff that they believe to be well-qualified for the job.

All schools will continue to be held accountable for the quality of teaching through Ofsted inspection and the publication of school performance data.

As with free schools, because of their unique and specialist role, SEN Coordinators and designated teachers for looked-after children will still be required to have QTS. All teachers in special academies will also still need this qualification.

The successful independent school sector already takes the opportunity to employ teaching staff who do not hold QTS, as do a number of the first 24 free schools:

Independent schools

Brighton College

Brighton college has risen from 147th among independent schools to 18th and is the only school in England to have improved its ranking every single year for 6 years. It was awarded the Sunday Times Independent School of the year.

Richard Cairns, Head master of Brighton College, said:

I strongly believe that teachers are born not made and I will actively seek out teachers from all walks of life who have the potential to inspire children.

At Brighton College, this year’s Sunday Times Independent School of the Year, we have 39 teachers without formal teaching qualifications, including me!

Some have come straight from university: our History and politics department has three recent graduates, all with Firsts from Oxford or Cambridge and all excellent teachers. Others have come from other careers: an investment analyst, a lawyer, a management consultant, a nuclear physicist and someone from the BBC.

Once teachers are in the school, they have a reduced teaching timetable to allow them to spend time observing other good teachers and are actively mentored. By the end of the year, they are, in our view, better trained than any PGCE student.

Sevenoaks School

Katy Ricks, Head teacher of top independent school Sevenoaks, said:

The key aim for heads in recruiting staff is quite simply to find the best possible person to do the job. While of course qualifications and experience will play a part in the selection process, in the end, I am seeking ability, enthusiasm and potential.

As an untrained teacher myself, my own experience and those of my colleagues around me demonstrates clearly that good classroom practice, of course essential to being an outstanding teacher, can be learned on the job as long as there is a supportive framework within the school.

Studio schools

The Barnfield Federation

The Barnfield Federation is a highly successful education group made up of Barnfield College, Barnfield South and West Academies, the country’s first studio school and Barnfield Moorlands Free School. The studio school and free school have numerous staff without QTS including drama, English and Maths teachers all with degrees.

Sir Peter Birkett, Chief Executive of the Barnfield Federation, said:

The removal of QTS has proven very helpful to us, we are now attracting a broader range and an increased number of applications from people who would have otherwise been denied the opportunity to teach. The removal of barriers that allow us to employ the right people is absolutely critical to our success and therefore welcomed.

Free Schools

Langley Free School appointed a professional actor as a drama teacher, and a professional singer for music. In an interview with The Independent, the head teacher, Jane Sculpher, speaking during the school holidays, said:

Our drama teacher is off playing Cinderella in pantomime. The singing teacher will be away singing in Rome. They’re working at what they do. They’re not qualified teachers but they’ve been taught to degree level and are very, very able teachers.

Batley Grammar School’s head of Geography is an Oxbridge graduate and taught at independent schools before joining Batley.

West London Free School has appointed the former Head of Classics at a renowned independent school, as their classics teacher. They have also appointed an artist with several degrees as an art teacher, as they felt her skills and experience would be a huge benefit to the pupils at the school.

End

Notes to Editors

The new model documentation is available on the Department for Education’s website.

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