There is continuing unease and concern about the quality of some initial teacher training, which centres on whether some of the producers—the universities and colleges responsible for the training—are providing what the consumers—the schools—will need to achieve, which is higher standards. I announced in June a decisive shift to more school-based training for secondary teachers, following advice from the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. My aim now is to make the training of primary teachers more school based and more closely related to the needs of schools and the requirements of the national curriculum.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. His steps to make teacher training more school based will be welcomed especially by employers in my constituency and, I am sure, throughout the country. Will he consider going further and ensuring that all potential teachers, as part of their training, spend some time working with employers and finding out what it is like for people who work in personnel departments so as to ensure that they are aware of employers' needs in terms of the quality of products of secondary education?
That is a very interesting suggestion and I should like to take it up with members of the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors, with whom I have not discussed it before. A number of schools and groups of schools have told me that they would like to be put in sole charge of teacher training as they believe that they could do at least as good a job as many teacher training colleges in training young teachers at the chalk face.
Can the Secretary of State assure the House that a circular on changes to teacher education in the primary sector will be issued in the near future and that the consultation period—unlike that for circular 9/92 on the secondary sector—will be sufficient to allow colleges to plan for a smooth transition and to allow for proper consultation? Will he also assure the House that there will be no dilution of teacher education for the primary sector by reducing the subject content so as to make courses shorter and cheaper?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman's last question: I want primary school teacher training to be more rigorous, not less, and everything that we do will be to that end. I was slightly surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman suggest that the consultation period allowed for in the circular on secondary school teacher training was inadequate. That circular was widely welcomed—so widely, indeed, that I rather doubted the wisdom of the decision that I had taken. I shall take a decision on primary education as soon as possible. I am awaiting further advice from the National Curriculum Council and Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools.