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INSIDE TRACK: Must a good teacher hold a degree? Discuss

In 2010 David Cameron promised a "brazenly elitist" approach to raising standards of teaching in England.

The Conservative leader said he wanted to raise the quality of graduates entering the profession by ensuring no-one without at least a 2:2 degree would get funding to train as a teacher.

The pronouncement sparked a debate about whether it was possible to be a good teacher without a good degree, with considerable anecdotal evidence to the contrary. A degree was even deemed unnecessary by some.

There were plenty of stories, too, of teachers with first class degrees from the best universities who simply could not control a class.

Since then, the debate in England has shifted dramatically with the expansion of the Teach First initiative, where high-flying graduates are allowed to teach in schools after just six weeks of intensive training.

The scheme has been welcomed in some quarters because it targets dynamic young graduates at schools in deprived areas, but there are also concerns about cheap labour and the quality of education on offer.

Officials from Teach First have already held discussions with the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS), the profession's ruling body here, about rolling out the initiative north of the Border.

So far they have been told such a move is impossible because of the requirement for all Scottish teachers to have an undergraduate teaching degree or a postgraduate teaching qualification before being put in front of a class.

Yet despite this cast iron case there are still significant uncertainties over entry requirements to teach in Scotland after a landmark legal ruling involving the GTCS and a science teacher from England called Derek Sturridge.

Mr Sturridge was prevented from working here because he lacked a degree, despite his considerable experience since qualifying as a teacher in England in 2001 with a postgraduate certificate in education from Birmingham University.

Mr Sturridge argued successfully in court that his graduation from the Royal Society of Chemistry was the equivalent of a degree and the GTCS was forced to back down.

While official statements from the GTCS emphasised the continuing requirement for teachers in Scotland to have a degree, a report by Lindsay Thomson, the body's head of fitness to teach, conceded the potential for a volume of new applicants for registration to emerge "particularly from English-qualified teachers without degrees". Crucially, she added: "It could also be considered to be a further step away from the concept of teaching as a graduate profession."

At the very least, the ruling means the body will need to be more flexible in future over qualifications achieved by prospective teachers. That could turn out to be a positive move.

The majority of teachers in Scottish schools currently begin work directly after completing their own studies at school and university. While there is nothing wrong with this, employing teachers from different backgrounds with a wider range of life experiences can only be of benefit to pupils - as long as they are also good teachers.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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