Pros and Cons of latest Education reform proposal 

The proposal for no-degree teacher apprenticeships is a neat fit with government policy specifically in relation to education but also in the wider context of the professions which have taken the place of Trade Unions as being seen as an obstacle to market and societal reform. 

The claimed aim of reform as a progressive policy expressed by politicians in the last two decades hides an agenda of removing the defining features of the professions including their autonomy and claim to need a complex set of skills reflected in qualification. In removing these features, governments have sought to reduce costs (wages and pension liability) of public sector professionals to the Treasury while strengthening centralised control of practice. In this context, the proposal to remove the requirement for teachers to hold a degree is a logical step forward. 

The proposal will also open up teaching to more people at a time of a significant recruitment crisis.  Educational change since the 1990s has included relatively simplistic, bureaucratic and punitive methods of accountability contributing to a level of reported unhappiness that has reduced the attraction of the profession to young people. The determination of governments to remove the influence of professions is that the recruitment crisis is seen as a price worth paying to achieve the ideological end. Rather than seeking to redress the situation by raising the status of the profession in order to attract more people, the government may prefer to lower the entry requirement.  Sticking plaster strategies – adverts citing unrealistic pay and TeachFirst are low cost but are designed for short term impact. The best scenario for ministers in the long term is that the reduction in cost to the treasury is achieved without a decrease in nationally reported test results. The political calculation to be made is how far exam results can fall (or NHS waiting lists lengthen or crime rises) before votes are lost in marginal seats.  The problem with this approach is that it is founded on a narrow definition of teaching that ignores the wider role professionals undertake out of commitment to enriching children’s and young people’s lives. It is the complex set of skills that enable a teacher to meet the diverse needs of pupils that defines the profession and may be about to be lost. 


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