Here’s one that will shock everyone… I think. It is reported in the Guardian today that primary teachers in England are 'among the worst qualified in Europe'. Politeia, a right-wing think tank, claims that all primary teachers should have passed A-level maths and English, as a minimum, before being unleashed on eight- to eleven- year-olds.
At the moment, a primary teacher need only pass GCSE at grade C to be admitted onto a teacher-training course. Elsewhere in Europe, trainee primary teachers need to have studied maths and their L1 language (mother tongue) before being allowed to start primary education courses.
In addition, there’s the problem of wastage. You don’t have to be a right-wing think-tank to worry about the fact that between thirty and fifty percent of primary and secondary school teachers in England leave within five years of starting teaching. In many countries in Europe, the figure is between three and six percent, according to the OECD.
What’s the solution? Two proposals are suggested: pay teachers more to start with and raise academic standards?
Do we really want a situation in which, according to David Burghes, a professor of maths at the University of Plymouth, '[o]ne of the issues that bedevils our teaching profession, and particularly my subject of mathematics, is that of the inadequate subject knowledge of teachers'. Burghes goes on to say of primary school teachers who had only GCSE maths that they often had 'little knowledge beyond basic numeracy' and that, in some cases, 'even basic numeracy scares them'. He also added that the situation was the same for English and science.
By the way, before you scramble for Wikipedia, the definition they give for 'politeia' is 'the conditions and rights of the citizen, or citizenship', which is the equivalent of the Latin 'polis', or the somewhat better known 'constitution'.