Recent figures about the number of unqualified teachers in schools today seem to sit awkwardly with the Government's proud boast that teaching is now "an all graduate profession", but I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised that, although teacher numbers have risen by eight per cent this year, only one per cent of these are qualified.

After all, teaching doesn't seem to be much of a profession.

Historically, teaching has never been seen as being on a par with, say, the legal or the medical professions, partly because for so long entry to the profession was allowed by ill-qualified people.

In the 19th century, for example, many clever children were allowed to be "pupil teachers" and teach the rest of the children in their class, and even in the 1960s it was possible to enter a Teacher Training College with only five O-levels.

Nowadays, entry to a four-year BEd course can often be effected with no more than a D and E grade at A-level. Much higher grades are required for a course in medicine or law.

One might argue also that teaching is seen as an inferior profession because it lacks a single, strong union - a tough, professional body that not only protects the interests of its members but also restricts entry to the profession to the best candidates and roots out shoddy or unprofessional practitioners.

This is particularly true of the teaching profession, for teachers are represented by a whole alphabet of unions: NUT, NASUWT, PAT, etc. who are all too often in conflict with each other and whose main concern seems to be to defend the incompetent and cut out of the curriculum anything remotely academic.

You'd never get the BMA, for example, agreeing that medical students don't need to study anatomy or the symptoms of common diseases, but in education we have unions throwing doubt on the need to teach reading or whether in fact reading and writing skills will be necessary to children in the year 2015.

Now they are launching attacks upon the testing of children in schools and the practice of, as they put it, "teaching for exams", which they deplore.

Many sensible people might well ask: "What's wrong with teaching for exams, as long as they test things that children really ought to know?"

Could it be that the unions have watered down the syllabuses for the exams so much as to render them useless, or, could it be that governments, horrified at the lack of knowledge that is expected of children, has introduced tests, to force teachers to teach the basics and they don't like it?

As for the foolish assertion that if teachers teach for exam syllabuses they can't teach anything else, any teacher worth their salt can teach for exams and more besides.

If the unions say they can't then perhaps Chris Woodhead's assertion that 10,000 teachers are incompetent might not be wrong.

Instead of attacking governments for trying to raise the standards of what is taught, the unions might well gain more credibility if they got to grips with the question of the large number of teachers who are teaching subjects they are not qualified to teach (a quarter of maths teachers have no qualifications in maths at all), or teachers who can't spell and who cover up the profession's inability to teach the basics by saying they are not necessary.

That's not a profession to be taken seriously.