DERBYSHIRE ACADEMIES: Is your child being taught by unqualified staff?

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As many as half of all lessons in some Derbyshire academies are being taught by unqualified staff, it has been claimed.

The allegations have emerged after the Derbyshire Times revealed that 22,000 teaching days have been lost in the county over the past six years due to teachers calling in sick.

Teaching unions warned that the figure represents the ‘tip of the iceberg’, as many schools are now run as academies and are controlled by central government - not Derbyshire County Council.

Now, teachers have come forward to describe the reality of life in the classroom in some academies - claiming that educators are ‘leaving in droves’ due to a massive increase in red tape and examination demands.

But the Department for Education has refuted the allegations - claiming that the number of teachers is at an “all-time high”.

The Government also says that the staffing issues in academies are the responsibility of individual headteachers.

Speaking anonymously for fear of repercussions, teachers have claimed:

-As many as half of all lessons in some academies are being taught by cover supervisors - ‘babysitters’ often employed via agencies who do not have any teaching qualifications.

-Many academies have significantly reduced or done away with teaching assistants, who would typically deal one-to-one with more challenging students.

-Experienced teachers are being placed under observation for misdemeanors including using the wrong colour pen to mark work, or not tidying up textbooks.

-Long-term staff are being driven out in favour of younger teachers who are more likely to tow the line.

One whistle blower, who is not being named, said: “The public sector and the business world do not exist naturally together and because of this many schools are literally haemorrhaging teachers.

“There are some kids who are having between three and four cover supervisors per day because of staff shortages and this is fundamentally detrimental to their education.

“The students won’t say anything because they’ve had a great time - they’ve learnt very little and they’ve enjoyed themselves messing a cover supervisor about. There is a chronic shortage of qualified supply teachers as well as people leaving the profession.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We expect head teachers and academy trusts to plan their staffing properly. It is wrong to suggest that there are chronic shortages of teachers or that the profession is ‘haemorrhaging” staff – the number of teachers is at an all-time high and the number of teachers returning to the classroom year on year is also rising. In fact, despite the challenge of a competitive jobs market, more people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it.”

- Schools can and do use a range of staff to cover absences including roles such as “cover supervisors”. These are typically members of support staff employed to provide short-term cover. They work under the direction of a qualified teacher and would not normally be required to plan or prepare lessons or assess pupils’ work.

The DfE Added:

- Supply teachers are usually qualified teachers, employed by supply agencies or LAs and fill known teacher absence.

Derbyshire County Council’s deputy cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Caitlin Bisknell said: “We want all pupils in Derbyshire to achieve their full potential, including those in Derbyshire’s 17 secondary academies.

“We challenge and support our schools and hold them to account for their achievements. However, academies are directly accountable to the Government.

“That’s why we believe the local management of schools is better for our communities.

“We are continuing to work hard in partnership with our schools to drive up achievement.”