Does teacher training need to be tougher to earn respect?

“Rigorous” teacher training could change the perception that the profession is not “prestigious”, says a London teacher.

Kris Boulton, deputy head of maths at King Solomon academy in north London, told a packed festival room that teachers needed to “earn the right” to be seen on the same level as other professions such as doctors, lawyers, and barristers.

He said that the Teach First programme, a scheme that placed graduates from the country’s top universities into challenging schools, had partly changed this perception, but “there is much more that needs to be done”.

Boulton told delegates: “I am scared to just say that I am a teacher, I almost always respond with a variant of that. I do that because I am usually looking for some sense of prestige.

Kris Boulton
Kris Boulton

“I live with three barristers and when they introduce themselves to people, they are proud and get a great response.

“Yet when I do a similar thing the response I tend to get is ‘oh, you must really like kids’; the implied assumption is that I must not have had a lot of choice or I am not that smart.”

He added that reality TV programmes helped people to see that teaching was a “tough job”, but one that sat on the same level as coalmining, for example.

“When we talk about prestige we get held up in this idea of talent and accomplishment. But that isn’t there for teaching right now.”

Boulton said that teachers would not “win this battle for prestige” by telling people to stop undermining the job. “It will be won by earning people’s respect.

“It is a difficult truth but I don’t think we have earned it yet.

“I felt that my PGCE didn’t give me any sense of status, because I didn’t need to know anything. The bar is very low and it was too easy to pass.

“Not a lot of trainees learn enough about their subject and pedagogy. When everybody can pass, we will never get that sense of prestige.”

Boulton did, however, recognise that half a million teachers were needed and they would be hard to find.

“But don’t assume that if you raise the bar then we will have fewer people getting through, sometimes the reverse is true.”

He suggested that one way to push teaching to a more “respected status” was by introducing a prestigious route into the profession.

“In Japan they have multiple entrance routes into teaching, there is a really difficult elite route where only a few pass, then there is a more mainstream route and then there is a specialist route.”

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  1. Fran L.

    It would be fine to raise the bar on teacher training, but it seems so obvious that in a society that equates prestige with salary that wages need to rise. The best candidates will consider education when they can also actually afford to live in the neighbourhoods in which they teach. Finland raised wages to competitive levels with similar qualifications and proved that wages entice good candidates.

    • Rachel Carson

      Our school hosts first year students every year. I’ve worked with them, and watched from afar. The students with potential are in the minority. Generally speaking, they are ill- educated, can’t speak the language properly ( I’m talking pronunciation and grammar), can’t spell, have a tiny general knowledge and do the minimum of work required, leaving as early as possible and often have muddled paperwork and lots of excuses! These students should never have passed the interview to become teachers, and our head has commented that she would never employ an NQT who spoke the way these students speak.I have worked with teachers in their second and third years of teaching who can’t read a map ( this was revealed when planning for a year one orienteering unit ), don’t recognise common trees and flowers and are unaware of the names of famous paintings ( “The Fighting Temeraire” and “When Did You Last See Your Father?” both spring to mind). I am constantly amazed at young teachers’ lack of knowledge about classical music. Without knowledge it is hard to plan a varied and exciting curriculum, because you have few inner resources to fall back on. Perhaps, what is worse, is that they make light off their lack of knowledge, and don’t appear to make any attempt to research and grow themselves. Their interests revolve around socialising, keeping fit, reading novels, watching television, glamorous foreign travel and pop music. I’ve questioned myself carefully, because as I’m older I obviously have the knowledge and experience that comes with time. Yet I know I could read a map at school, and know that both my daughters ( in their 20’s, went to the local bog-standard comprehensive school) could do the same. I have books the ages of which show that I had an art education before I left school, and I know I knew a good deal about plants as my landscape architect father taught me.
      I work in a x4 outstanding school with an extraordinary curriculum and a dedicated, creative staff. Some of our young staff are brilliant practitioners, but yet scratch the surface and there is little depth to inform those off the cuff class discussions you should be having; it seems if you can deliver the planning, control behaviour and produce good SEN results that is good enough.
      I trained on a GTP course 11 years ago. We took exams in English, Science and Maths. Again, my fellow (mature) students panicked so much about these tests which were way below O-level standard, and many of them scraped through. These exams were NOT tricky. They were the kind of thing taught to 14 year- olds today, and we had a series of lectures in each subject to prepare us.
      I feel strongly that only the best minds should be teaching our children, and of those, only the ones who also have the talent to relate to children and produce a creative, inspiring curriculum. Such teachers should also be paid a salary that reflects their abilities and talents. As long as just about anybody who scrapes a few A-levels is allowed to teach, our profession will never be respected, and rightly so.

  2. Kallum Alowski

    Who is he again? A teacher with an opinion, well that’s fine but it’s still just his opinion and somewhat unqualified. “I felt that my PGCE didn’t give me any sense of status, because I didn’t need to know anything. The bar is very low and it was too easy to pass”
    It would be useful to know where he did his course, and why he is confusing PGCE and QTS as everybody does. I’m not so sure he was paying attention on his course.
    I assume Mr Boulton doesn’t know too much about the Ofsted Framework for inspecting ITE, but causing fewer people to pass would simply result in QTS accreditation being removed

    And would these “multiple routes” lead to different roles in schools? Otherwise, what’s the point? Why would someone take the hard route into teaching if there’s an easier route? For “prestige”?

  3. I do not know how educated some of the people posting comments on here are, however anyone suggesting that trainee teachers scrape by with a few A-levels… Is clearly not very educated themselves because if they were, they would know you need to have a degree to apply to teacher training.