Dutch schools allowed to use unqualified teachers in a crisis; unions upset

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The Ministry of Education will allow primary schools facing a teacher shortage to let people without a teaching qualification, but with specialist knowledge, teach certain subjects if no other solution can be found. This involves the subjects music, drama, handicraft, art, and world orientation. Subjects like language and mathematics must always have a qualified teacher. The unions are not pleased with this plan, NU.nl reports.

The Education Inspectorate will not intervene if schools put an unqualified person in front of the class that has knowledge of the subject he or she will teach. But this is an ultimate measure - schools must first have tried everything in their power to find another solution, the Ministry of Education said. The measure is part of the Ministry's "Helping hand to the Teacher Shortage in primary education".

The Ministry emphasized that this is not a structural solution for the teacher shortage. "It can only be used temporarily and in an emergency." For example, when multiple teachers are sick during flu season. "If the inspectorate receives signals that the quality or safety is seriously at stake, an investigation will be launched", the Ministry said. "Above all, the safety of pupils and teachers must be guaranteed."

Education union AOB is dissatisfied with this measure. "In this way it is not education, but childminding", chairman Liesbeth Verheggen said to the newspaper. "Unqualified persons in front of the class will increase the workload of the other teachers at the school, so you don't achieve anything. It also makes it look like there is no problem, even though there is." Verheggen is also surprised by the timing of this 'helping hand'. "We are still in talks with the ministry to see how schools can work better together. Through these measures I think that schools no longer want to work together."

Trade union CNV is also displeased with the plan, but adds that at least it provides some clarity. "In this way children get a different teacher in front of the class every hour, which does not promote calm", the union said, but added: "It is good that school boards now know what is allowed and what is not allowed."

Primary education council PO-Raad also thinks it's good that there is now a plan. "This provides clarity and frameworks for schools." The council does not want this measure to be used too often, but thinks it can solve many problems. "It is better to have an unqualified teacher in front of the class, than to send a whole class home. We have to rely on the Inspectorate for enforcement of this."

Earlier this year the government already announced that the tuition fees for all teacher training programs, about 80 in total, will be reduced to encourage people to become teachers. During the first two years, aspiring teachers only pay half of the tuition fees. The government is also trying to get other qualified people into teaching - people with a university degree or HBO diploma can start teaching while they obtain their teaching qualification. Minister Arie Slob of Primary and Secondary Education set millions aside for this. 

Earlier this week the Education Council advised parliament to change teacher training so that all teachers follow the same basic training, after which they can specialize. This will make the teaching profession more attractive, and also make it easier for teachers to switch from one education sector to another, according to the Council.