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Schools and academies are no longer required to employ teachers with QTS

17 September 2012

In this article, Heather Mitchell and Katie Michelon set out the implications of the government’s removal of the requirement that all teachers in schools must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).


Over summer, the DfE made two announcements. They issued an updated version of their model funding agreement removing the requirement for academies to employ only qualified teachers to teach. They also removed the requirement for unqualified teachers employed in maintained schools to train for QTS.

The consequence is that schools can now employ unqualified teachers on a permanent basis.

Below, we answer key questions around changing the funding agreement and employing unqualified teachers for those who are considering taking advantage of this controversial change.

Are there any restrictions on who we recruit to teach? Do they need a degree?

No, there is no minimum level of qualification required. This means that it is at the discretion of the school how you assess whether an applicant is suitable to teach in your school. The DfE’s statement is that the change will allow academies to employ ‘great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before’. Clearly the intention is that unqualified teachers will have a high level of technical expertise. It is anticipated that Ofsted will keep a close eye on the standards of teaching where unqualified teachers are used and schools should have this in mind when appointing and reviewing staff.

Do unqualified teachers have to be paid on the unqualified teacher scale?

If they are being employed into a maintained school then, yes. The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions document 2012 requires that unqualified teachers are paid on the unqualified teacher scale. However, academies and free schools have the freedom to employ new staff on different terms and conditions and may well consider putting staff on a higher salary to attract the level of expertise required for the post. Schools will need to think carefully about salary scale applied and the impact on qualified teachers.

Can unqualified teachers be part of the Teachers Pension Scheme?

Yes, the TPS have clarified that to be part of their pension scheme, the requirement is that the employee is teaching. This is not linked to qualification status.

What is the funding agreement?

The funding agreement is the key document which all schools converting to academy status need to enter into with the Secretary of State. It includes a number of conditions that the academy must comply with in order to receive funding from the Secretary of State. Previously, one of these conditions was the requirement for any staff carrying out 'specified work'; to have Qualified Teacher Status. Specified work is essentially the type of work teaching staff are employed to carry out. It includes planning and preparing lessons, delivering lessons, assessing the development, progress and attainment of pupils, and reporting on the development, progress and attainment of pupils. However, the latest version of the funding agreement has removed the requirement for staff carrying out such work to have QTS.

What does the new version say about qualifications for teaching staff?

In relation to employing someone to do specified work, the academy trust may employ 'anyone it deems is suitably qualified or is otherwise eligible'. The academy trust is bound to do so in accordance with any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on the qualifications of teaching and other staff in academies. However, at the time of writing, no such specific guidance had been published.

This relaxation does not however apply to SENCOs or a designated teacher for looked after children. In addition, the latest version of the master funding agreement is clear that although mainstream and alternative provision academies have the freedom to decide whether someone without QTS is suitable, it is still a requirement in a special academy that anyone under a contract to carry out specified work has QTS.

Does this change in policy automatically apply to all schools that have already converted to academy status?

No. Schools that converted before November 2012 are likely to have a funding agreement which reflects the previous position that teaching staff are required to have QTS. The DfE’s change in policy does not alter the terms of this existing contract between the academy trust and the Secretary of State. Therefore, these academies are still under an obligation to ensure their teaching staff have QTS in accordance with the terms of their funding agreement, unless they agree a variation of their funding agreement with the DfE (see below).

If our funding agreement reflects the old position, can we vary its terms to adopt the new position so we have more flexibility?

Yes, the academy can seek the consent of the Secretary of State to vary the terms of its funding agreement. To do this, the academy should contact its Education Funding Agency (EFA) advisor, who will have been allocated upon conversion. We advise making the request over email so that it is clear and in writing. If consent is granted, the DfE should require the academy trust to enter into a Deed of Variation, to which the Secretary of State will also be party. This is a short document which confirms the variation of the clause in the funding agreement which deals with QTS. If you require any assistance with amending your funding agreement or if you have any more questions about employing unqualified teachers, please feel free to contact us for further advice.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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