With an election looming, Mr Laws was speaking at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ (ATL) annual conference in Manchester last week.
He reiterated his view that QTS should be a requirement for all teachers and told SecEd that this issue was one where he was never likely to reach compromise with education secretary Michael Gove, hinting that it would become a key election issue.
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has also said that Labour will reintroduce a requirement for QTS if they win at the next election.
It comes as a survey of 7,000 teachers by the NASUWT union ahead of its annual conference in Birmingham last week revealed that more than half report working alongside unqualified staff in their schools, the majority of whom are regularly teaching lessons.
The government removed the necessity for QTS for teachers working in academy and free schools in 2012. It has also removed the requirement for unqualified teachers employed in maintained schools to train for QTS.
Recent workforce figures from the Department for Education show that in 2013 the number of full-time teachers working in schools who do not hold QTS reached 17,100, up from 14,800 in 2012. This comes after a “steady decline” in recent years and means that 3.8 per cent of teachers do not have QTS (up from 3.3 per cent).
Secondary schools employ the majority of these, a total of 9,900, while the figures reveal that 13.3 per cent of the 1,500 full-time teachers working in free schools do not hold QTS – more than three times the national average.
Speaking at ATL, Mr Laws said: “You will know that teacher qualifications is one area where the coalition has different views. My own view is that all teachers in all state-funded schools should have QTS, or be working towards QTS.
“Teaching is … not just about subject knowledge but about knowledge of how to teach well. Our plans for all teachers to secure QTS will be set out clearly in our General Election manifesto.”
Speaking to SecEd afterwards, Mr Laws admitted a “deep divide” within the coalition over the issue. He said: “There is a deep divide over QTS which is not looking like being bridged by the coalition in government. I think both parties will need to put their policies in their election manifestos and put the issues to the British people. Not only most teachers, but most members of the public want properly qualified teachers.” Asked if it was likely a compromise would be reached in the final year of Parliament, Mr Laws added: “There are some things that I can stop and some things that are more difficult.”
ATL delegates approved a motion calling for all classes in England and Wales to be taught by qualified teachers and attacking the pressure placed on support staff to teach whole classes. At NASUWT, delegates unanimously supported a motion denouncing the abolition of the statutory requirement for QTS and instructed the union to continue its campaign for its reintroduction.
The NASUWT found that 53 per cent of respondents have worked alongside unqualified staff, rising to 61 per cent in academies.
In 90 per cent of these cases, unqualified staff were “regularly teaching lessons”. The survey also found instances where non-qualified staff were teaching GCSE and A level groups.
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Parents no longer have the certainty of knowing that when they send their children to school they will be taught by a qualified teacher. The decision to remove QTS had nothing to do with raising standards and everything to do with reducing costs, depressing teachers’ pay and feeding the free market.”