Education Reforms

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th June 1993.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North 12:00 am, 15th June 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what plans he has to visit schools in Norwich to discuss education reforms.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

My ministerial colleagues and I have visited more than 120 schools since taking office.

I and other Ministers from the Department are continuing our programme of visits to schools across England to hear the views of teachers and governors at first hand and we hope that this programme may include Norwich in due course. It is an oversight that we have not been there yet.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

When my right hon. Friend has the opportunity to visit Norwich, he will find approval for his determination to reform teacher training, a reform which has been long overdue since some of the trendy nostrums of the 1960s and beyond. His emphasis on subject knowledge, on practical skills and on discipline in the classroom must be the right way forward. Does my right hon. Friend also accept the need for particular emphasis on the training of primary school teachers, as their job is in many respects difficult, challenging and possibly undervalued?

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and I respect his views because, as I remember, he was a classroom teacher for more than 20 years. The reforms proposed for initial primary teacher training in the consultation document issued last week concentrate on a number of important things. The first is the need for less theory and more practice; the second is to ensure that student teachers spend more time concentrating on the basic core subjects; the third is to ensure that they are given much more help in maintaining discipline in the classroom.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

When the Secretary of State is discussing the so-called reforms in Norwich or elsewhere, will he apologise for his appalling proposals to dilute the professionalism of teachers in our schools by introducing a semi-trained mums' army? That proposal is again uniting parents and teachers against the Government. Does not the Secretary of State recognise the critical importance of education in the early years and the fact that if things go wrong at that stage they may never be put right? Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the highest possible level of professionalism is required for the unique responsibility of introducing our children to formal education? Is he really seeking more confrontation?

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

That was a laundry list of complaints. With regard to the consultation document, the hon. Lady has overlooked entirely that we wish to bring into the profession a greater diversity of people from a wider range of backgrounds, including parents, who have experience in dealing with and educating young children. Many parents who wish to help with the teaching of five to seven-year-olds have good-quality A-levels and much experience in bringing up children. It is exactly such people that we want to bring into primary teaching.