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I beg to move,
That this House
believes that no school system can surpass the quality of its teachers;
and therefore resolves that all teachers in all state-funded schools should be qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status, be undertaking ongoing continuing professional development and have their skills and knowledge re-validated throughout their careers in order to support them to excel in the classroom, to improve learning outcomes for all children in all schools, to uphold discipline in the classroom, to tailor their teaching to children with special educational needs and to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
The motion—which flows on from those very powerful words of the Secretary of State for International Development about the power and purpose of education—begins with a clear statement of principles that were first enunciated by Sir Michael Barber.
This should be a moment when—just as in the previous debate—the House comes together, to extol the virtues of a highly qualified, self-motivating and dedicated teaching profession. It should be a moment when we undertake a shared commitment to give teachers the best possible training, so that we equip them properly for the demands of the classroom, and it should be a moment when we unite in praising all the hard work that teachers and head teachers do on a daily basis, while also acknowledging that we currently have one of the best teaching cohorts that the country has ever seen. I see the Secretary of State nodding in agreement and I hope that when he steps up to the Dispatch Box he will acknowledge the last Labour Government’s role in delivering that cohort and in raising teaching standards. We know of his enthusiasm for debating the past. Today should be the perfect opportunity—
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way so early in his speech. Does he agree that it is curious that we have a Secretary of State who wants to micro-manage discussion of the first world war but is not prioritising continuing professional development of teachers who might be able to instruct their pupils rather better?
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, which leads me perfectly on to my first point, which is about education focusing on the professionalism of the teacher in the classroom, rather than being micro-managed from Whitehall. It was the Prime Minister himself who in 2010 said—[Interruption.] I would have thought that Conservative Members would like to listen to the words of the Prime Minister. He said:
“The quality of a teacher is the single most important factor in a child's educational progress.”
Moreover, he said,
“children with the best teachers” learn
“four times as fast” as those taught by the least effective. He was absolutely right. He also offered a solution that drew on international evidence and best practice:
“Finland, Singapore and South Korea have the most highly qualified teachers, and also some of the best education systems in the world because they have deliberately made teaching a high prestige profession.”
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman with considerable interest. Last Friday, I was in a debate with Carwyn Jones, the Labour leader of the Welsh Assembly, who admitted that the Welsh Government had, to use his words, “had its eye off the ball” and for that reason the standard of education in Wales is among the worst in Europe. What advice could the hon. Gentleman give the First Minister of Wales to help improve the standard of education in Wales, which is now lower than that of Hungary?
My advice is to not have unqualified teachers in the classroom and to keep going with the reforms that have been introduced recently on league tables and the literacy and numeracy strategy. We know that the surest way to improve children’s attainment is to boost the status, elevate the standing and raise the standards of the teaching profession. Therefore, today, let us put our differences aside and send a clear message to teachers, parents and pupils that the House understands the importance of teacher quality to improving the performance of our education system.
I saw it first hand last week when I attended the annual prize giving at St Thomas More Catholic school in Wood Green, north London, the most improved school in England. As we saw from last week’s analysis of GCSE results, much good work is being done in schools throughout the country.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether he draws a distinction between teachers who have gained qualified teacher status through the study of a PGCE and teachers who have gained QTS through the graduate teacher programme or Teach First? Do international jurisdictions consider those qualifications gained in a different way? Do they value them differently in international comparisons?
As ever, the hon. Gentleman is a master of his profession. We were happy to introduce, under a Labour Government, the wonderful Teach First scheme, which was about the road to having qualified teachers in the classroom. Gaining QTS, as I will explain, is not the be all and end all of focusing on teacher quality, but it is an important plank of the minimum standards that we would expect. The attainment gap between children on free school meals and those whose parents can afford to pay actually widened in 72 out of 152 areas last year. There remains a worrying attainment gap between less advantaged pupils and those from more affluent families, and current policy is failing to address that. The most worrying disparities were in the affluent areas of Wokingham and Buckinghamshire. There is therefore much work to be done.
When my hon. Friend visited St Thomas More school—the most improved secondary school in the country—did he have an opportunity to discuss with the head teacher, Martin
Tissot, the way in which he had rigorously ensured that teaching in the classroom had raised standards in the school? Did my hon. Friend also hear about the commitment of the staff who come in on Saturday mornings as well as taking part in a great deal of activity after school to raise standards further?
Such examples prove the power of leadership, of purpose and of camaraderie among teachers. It is the teachers and the head teachers who are the real agents of change, as Martin Tissot at St Thomas More school has shown. Labour’s academy programme was about delivering that sense of autonomy and leadership, which can prove instrumental in that regard.
Michael Fabricant mentioned Wales, and my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy has just talked about the importance of leadership. The hon. Member for Lichfield was dissing Wales, but I should like to inform him that Rhyl high school in my constituency, which was a failed secondary school five years ago, is now the best school in Wales. That is down to the leadership of the head teacher, Claire Armitstead. Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to Claire and to Rhyl high school?
I would be delighted to pay tribute to the leadership of Claire Armitstead. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend for promoting mindfulness and attentiveness in the classroom. Those are the kind of disciplines that help to achieve results.
What happens in the classroom is essential, and the point is simple: good teachers change lives. They engender curiosity, self-improvement and a hunger for knowledge. It is they who awaken the passion for learning that a strong society and a growing economy so desperately need. They are the architects of our future prosperity, not the enemies of promise.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be seeking his own teaching qualification if he is still planning to give lessons himself. Both my parents were qualified teachers, and I am very proud of that fact. Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that there are fewer teachers without qualified teacher status in state schools under this Government than there were under Labour?
The hon. Lady admits an important point, on which we can agree. We both want to move towards having more qualified teachers. I am glad that we agree on that, and that she will be supporting that part of the motion tabled by her coalition colleagues. Under the Labour Government, teachers working on a permanent basis in the classroom were working towards qualified teacher status. That is the vital difference: we believed in working towards qualified teacher status, whereas this Government believe in deregulation and de-professionalisation.
The first plank in Labour’s schools policy is to focus on standards and not structures. We do not think that the job is done simply because a school has changed its name to that of an academy or a free school. We think that the most important relationship is between a teacher and a pupil, and we would therefore ensure that all teachers in state-funded schools were qualified or working towards qualified teacher status. We currently have a deregulated, downgraded system of professional teaching standards. Shamefully, under this Government, a person needs more qualifications to work as a burger bar manager than to be in charge of the education of our young people. We believe, as the Prime Minister did once and as the Deputy Prime Minister might still do—it is always difficult to tell—that our young people need highly qualified, highly motivated teachers in their classrooms.
The hon. Gentleman will know that there are many unqualified teachers in the independent sector. If that is such a bad thing, can he explain why so many parents make such financial sacrifices to send their children to those schools?
The most recent evidence I have seen shows that more than 90% of teachers in the independent sector have qualified teacher status, so that is the vast majority. I suggest that the remaining number should be working towards qualified teacher status so that they can transfer their skills to the state sector.
Under a Labour Government, we would not have the scandal of an academy school in Leeds advertising for “an unqualified maths teacher” with just four GCSEs. We would not have the scandal of the Al-Madinah free school where the presence of so many unqualified teachers did such damage to those pupils’ learning. We would not have more than one in 10 teachers in free schools being unqualified.
I have taken the opportunity at the Dispatch Box before to draw to the attention of the hon. Gentleman the fact that the South Leeds academy was advertising for trainees under a provision that has existed since 1982. The letter that acquainted me with those facts was also shared with him. Why has he repeated something that is simply untrue in this House and on other public platforms?
I most certainly did not hear that, and I would have done. As far as I can see, there is a dispute with regard to the accuracy of each Member’s interpretation of the said advert, but the Secretary of State most definitely did not accuse the hon. Gentleman of lying. He has put very forcefully exactly why he is of the view that he is with regard to the said advert. I am afraid that that is not a point of order.
I had hoped at this point in my speech to unite both sides of the House by quoting the words of Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, who said:
“I would expect all teachers in my schools to be qualified.”
However, after last Friday’s remarkable briefing war by the Department for Education against Her Majesty’s chief inspector, I realise that he is not the unifying force that he might once have been. The achievement of qualified teacher status is not on its own a guarantee of teaching excellence; it is merely a starting point. We need to look at new ways of getting the best candidates into the teaching profession and the best teachers into underperforming schools.
Does my hon. Friend agree that a very good chief inspector of schools such as Sir Michael Wilshaw may find such a situation very difficult—I am not making a party political point here. Going back to the foundation of the chief inspector, he is not allowed to look at a chain of schools. If he cannot do that, he has to look at an individual free school and an individual academy. That is restrictive because he cannot see the environment in which that failing school, in some circumstances, can be supported.
My hon. Friend, the former Select Committee Chairman, makes a powerful policy point. It will be policy under a Labour Government that Ofsted will be allowed to inspect academy chains so that we can root out underperformance.
We need to ensure that initial teacher training is preparing teachers properly for the pressures of the classroom, especially when it comes to discipline and behaviour management. Similarly, retention rates are a cause for concern and so too is the loss of talent to the classroom. The second plank of Labour’s drive to enhance teaching quality is effective training and new career pathways for teachers.
In England, the most effective teachers are often encouraged to go for leadership promotion and are therefore out of the classroom within a relatively short space of time. The Labour party will develop pathways to allow teachers to pursue their own particular strengths and interests whether in pedagogy, leadership or in an area of specialism such as behaviour management or curriculum development. Just as the medical profession allows for the development of consultant-level expertise, that must be our ambition in education.
I will give way in a moment.
I must put on the record that we have reservations about whether School Direct, as constituted, has the capacity to deliver that excellence. The story of the programme for international student assessment is that those teacher training systems that have a connection to a strong academic base produce more effective outcomes for learners. We also know that effective training in understanding child development delivers the discipline and attentiveness that many classrooms require. We fear that the important partnership that excellent higher education institutions can play in training teachers is being undermined and nothing I have seen from the international evidence says that that is the route to raising standards.
The most effective teachers are those who can combine excellent practical skills with the ability to understand and use research for the development of their teaching. That is particularly the case when they are dealing with children with special educational needs and troubled learners who are seeking to navigate early adulthood in the modern landscape of social media and the internet.
I declare an interest, as my wife is a special educational needs co-ordinator, and I absolutely support the points that my hon. Friend is making. My wife, like many teachers I know, undertakes regular professional development. It must be right to say, as we propose, that every teacher should undertake such development and that the Government will support that.
My hon. Friend puts his finger on the point. The vital challenge for education reform is trying to keep teachers’ skills up to date. As the Education Committee has said
“successive education ministers have neglected continuing professional development (CPD) and focused overly much on initial teacher training”.
That is why the third plank of the Labour party’s schools policy is a profession-led programme of revalidating teachers on a rolling basis to ensure that teachers are up to date on subject knowledge and classroom technique.
That one-size-fits-all approach does not work across the school curriculum, particularly in arts and music and other such areas. A teacher in a school in my constituency has been a first violinist in an orchestra for all his life and now spends a lot of time in the music department of his school. He has no interest in professional development or in continuing his development, and although I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman is trying to say there are many areas across the curriculum in which expertise other than the development about which he is talking is relevant and useful to children.
The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. There has always been a role for instructors coming into a school—for example, outside experts, lecturers and those who teach sport and music—and we would retain that. However, if someone is permanently in charge of the curriculum outcomes for young people in a class, it seems to me that as a minimum they should be of qualified teacher standard. There is no way that we will block the creativity and excellence coming into schools, but we want the best possible teachers, with minimum guarantees of teaching standards, to look after the education of our young people.
The Sutton Trust and the London School of Economics have concluded that if we raised the performance of the bottom 10% of teachers only to the average we would see a marked improvement in performance in our schools. That is especially the case when we consider that disadvantaged children suffer most from poor teaching. Without home support and social capital to fall back on, children from disadvantaged backgrounds suffer disproportionately from poor teaching.
The hon. Gentleman has been very generous in giving way and I am grateful to him for doing so. May I ask him at the very least to nuance his policy on non-qualified teachers? I do not know whether since the last debate, three months ago, he has sought evidence on the quality of non-QTS teachers in our schools. If he has, perhaps he could share it with the House. If he has not, will he at least undertake to carry out a piece of research to consider the quality of those teachers before putting in train a system that could ultimately lead to their removal, if not sacking, from the classroom?
I thank the Chair of the Education Committee for his intervention, but I am always bemused by his blind spot on this policy. He makes a curious transition from being a rather inquiring, cerebral Chair of a Select Committee to being a rather more partisan figure when he sits up on the Back Benches pursuing party policy. I would welcome research from the Education Committee on the role of qualified teacher status nationally and internationally. I know that his Committee frequently travels to Finland and Singapore, so perhaps on his next trip he could do some research into that policy area.
Does my hon. Friend recall that, very often, a finding of Ofsted inspections is that teachers who are unqualified or who are teaching subjects in which they are unqualified produce the poorest results? Does he agree that people need to focus on the use of teachers in particular subject areas and their need for ongoing training to ensure that they are not unfamiliar with those subjects?
My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. All we are asking for when we talk about qualified teacher status are minimum safeguards to ensure quality.
That is only part of the story. A Labour Government would demonstrate our commitment to elevating the standing of teachers by expecting them to undertake regular professional development, which would sit alongside any internal appraisal structure or the intervention of Ofsted. That is vital to raising standards, and it would bring teaching into line with other high-status, mature professions such as lawyers and doctors. It is also vital for future-proofing our education system. Technology is transforming education—it is remarkable how the internet is allowing access to so much of the artistic and historic creativity of humankind—but I was shocked to receive a letter from Microsoft telling me that, according to one of its surveys, 74% of teachers believe they do not have the skills to teach computing properly because the subject is moving so fast. That is exactly where we want teachers to be up to date with continuing professional development.
Just as doctors are revalidated on their knowledge of new medicines and trials, so teachers have to be up to date with the latest research and pedagogy. We need teachers to share expertise, to observe lessons, and to collaborate across schools and trusts.
I think the hon. Gentleman said—it will be in his script—that successive Secretaries of State have not been interested in continuing professional development. I think that is exactly what he said. Can he explain to me why inset days used to be referred to as Baker days?
Because they were introduced by Lord Baker, as the hon. Gentleman knows.
The best continuing professional development produces remarkable results for young people, and the process needs to be profession-led. If we are interested in serious professional development, it cannot be a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise. I am encouraged by what the Prince's Teaching Institute says in its proposals for a royal college of teaching:
“Certification will be the process by which teachers’ standards are assessed by the College.”
“The idea of a Royal College of Teachers, fast gaining support from all sides, is the obvious organisation to lead on developing the idea” of revalidating or recertifying to ensure that teachers are up to date with their professional development.
I know today’s debate is mainly about teachers, but has my hon. Friend given any thought to the development of teaching assistants, for example, and what sort of future they might have?
Where teaching assistants are used appropriately, effectively and professionally, they can make a transformational difference in young people’s learning outcomes. Again, it is about having the skills and understanding of how to use teaching assistants.
Our idea to revalidate teachers and to promote continuing professional development has been welcomed by head teachers, business leaders and prominent educationalists. Teacher Mike Cameron—I see the Conservative party does not want to hear from everyday teachers working in the classroom—says that
“Teachers would control the teaching profession… and part of that involves making sure, by re-validation, that as an individual, I am still worthy of calling myself a teacher.”
I am decreasingly surprised by the absence of the Schools Minister. When anything tricky comes up in public policy, we have a rather small cohort of Ministers from the Department for Education. As we can see from the amendment to the motion, they are in a neither fish nor fowl place on this.
The CBI has welcomed our policy. Katja Hall said:
“we need to create a culture where teachers are continually developed in the classroom to support them raising standards in schools. A licence system deserves serious consideration”.
From Brett Wigdortz of Teach First to the leading teaching trade unions to Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers, there is clear engagement and support for the idea. Even the Secretary of State’s old employer, The Times—before he spurned it for the Daily Mail group—has called the policy “courageous and correct”. I would hope for similar support from the coalition parties today.
The Opposition’s call is simply put in the first sentence of the motion: no education system can outperform the quality of its teachers. So instead of the relentless energy spent on endless structural reform, instead of the confused tinkering with the curriculum, instead of telling teachers how to teach chunking or whether they should use exercise books or not, our policy is altogether more ambitious—to work towards a world-class teacher in every classroom. I hope that Government Members will join us this afternoon in supporting the motion.
Order. The hon. Gentleman wishes to speak in this debate and he is already putting his arguments on the record. Perhaps he will be a little more patient. That is not a point of order. It is a point of debate and he can make it when it is his turn. I call the Secretary of State.
I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House”
to the end of the Question and add:
“notes that the Coalition Government is committed to raising the quality and status of teaching;
acknowledges the significant progress made since 2010 in achieving those aims;
recognises that the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister believes that all state-funded schools should employ teachers with or working towards Qualified Teacher Status;
also recognises that the part of the Coalition led by the Prime Minister believes that free schools and academies should retain the freedom to hire the best teachers regardless of whether they hold Qualified Teacher Status;
and registers the fact that the number of teachers without Qualified Teacher Status has fallen under this Government.”
I congratulate the shadow Secretary of State on his speech and on securing the debate. I agree with him that there is nothing more important than ensuring that we have top quality teachers in all our classrooms. While I have the time, I also congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Mr Timpson, who has responsibility for children and families, who was last night voted by Dod’s as Minister of the year for the fantastic work that he has done on adoption and child protection. Because that vote depended on support across the House, it is a recognition of the outstanding job that he does. [Interruption.] I will come to the shadow Schools Minister and the West Cardiff question in a moment.
In the meantime, may I also congratulate the country’s teachers. The shadow Secretary of State was typically generous in pointing out that we have the best generation of teachers and heads in our classrooms. Just last week, with the latest GCSE results, we saw that the number of students who were in underperforming schools had dropped in the last year by hundreds of thousands. Across the House there is an appreciation of the superb work done by teachers and head teachers in state education, ensuring that our state education system is better than ever before.
Because I too, like the shadow Secretary of State, am interested in the opinion of teachers, I sent the Opposition’s motion today to a friend of mine who is an English teacher to ask him for his view. He presented me with this analysis of it.
I will name him in due course.
The motion states:
“That this House believes that no school system can surpass the quality of its teachers; and therefore resolves”.
My friend said:
“A clause following a semi-colon needs an expressly stated subject (as opposed to a merely ‘understood’ one, just as a complete sentence does. In other words, either the semi-colon must be replaced by a comma or the clause after it must be changed to something like ‘and that this house therefore resolves’ or ‘and that it therefore resolves’. As it stands, the construction is ungrammatical.”
He went on to the next phrase, which refers to
“all teachers in all state-funded schools” and stated that
“one or other of the two ‘alls’ is redundant and should be deleted”.
He then looked at the phrase
“should be qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status”.
He acknowledged that it was
“better, because less awkward-looking”,
but suggested that “should” as well as “be” should be at the beginning of each of the clauses.
He then pointed out that the reference to “ongoing continuing professional development” was tautologous, because continuing professional development is, by definition, ongoing. He also noted that the claim that that was
“in order to support them to excel in the classroom” was an example of “Shocking grammar.” One cannot support someone to do something—following the word “support” with an infinitive. Rather, one supports someone in his or her attempt to do something. He went on in a similar vein and concluded: “Regrettably, this motion is, in total, a shocking piece of English.”
“the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers” because
“the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… Political language”— of the kind we see in the Opposition’s motion—
“is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Sadly, that is what the Opposition’s case today is—pure wind without solidity.
The Opposition appear to be arguing that there is some sort of crisis in teaching, specifically recruitment to teaching, but the number of graduates with top degrees is up. Almost three quarters of graduates starting teacher training in this academic year have a first-class or 2:1 degree. That is the highest quality of graduates starting teacher training since records began. It is also the case that the number entering the teaching profession from top universities is up. Some 14% of graduates leaving Oxford in the past three years have chosen teaching as their profession, making it the single most popular destination for students from that university.
The quality of teaching has never been better. Ofsted figures show that it has improved significantly since 2010. Under Labour, the percentage of teaching that was “good” or “outstanding” in primary schools was 69%, but recent figures show that it is now 79%. Under Labour, the percentage of teaching that was “good” or “outstanding” in secondary schools was 65%, but now it is 72%. That is significant improvement under this coalition Government.
The right hon. Gentleman laboured heavily on grammar. I would like to know whether, in the recesses of his mind, he sees grammar as something that is fixed for ever. Does he see grammar as being prescriptive or descriptive?
That is probably the best intervention we have had for some time on the question of education, because it actually relates to what is taught. I believe that we need proper grammatical rules in order to ensure that words are used with precision. Like all bodies of knowledge, however, it evolves over time. There is no tension between recognising that there are certain grammatical rules and that they change, in the same way as there is no tension between recognising that there are certain literary works that should always be in the canon and that over time they change. For example, Macpherson’s “Ossian” is out of the canon, but Burns will always be in.
I said, “teachers from our top universities”. Of course, I refer to Oxford university as one of our top universities, but perhaps I should have included Cambridge and Imperial, or Aberdeen and Edinburgh for that matter—there are many. The point I am making is that the Opposition cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that we want teaching to be an elite profession and then, when we congratulate those people from elite institutions who go into teaching, decry us for somehow being snobbish. I have taken the hon. Gentleman’s point. In fact, I have expanded it into a logical argument, only subsequently to refute it.
I know what the shadow Secretary of State will say, because I have heard him say it before. He will say, “Okay, Secretary of State. The quality of teachers at the moment—it pains me to admit it—must be good, but I prophesy that the situation will deteriorate. It will deteriorate because of your open-door policy on teaching.”
Like his fellow west midlander or black countryman Enoch Powell, Tristram sees the Government letting all the wrong people in. As a result of our dangerously liberal policies, he can see torrents of rubbish being taught in our classrooms. His is what one might call the “rivers of crud” prophecy.
What is the truth? The number of teachers without qualified teacher status is going down under this Government. In 2012, unqualified teachers made up only 3.3% of the teaching work force in all schools, down from 4.5% in 2005. The proportion of unqualified teachers has diminished in every year that we have been in power. That utterly refutes the scaremongering of the Enoch Powell-like figure on the Opposition Front Bench. We know that Labour will say, “Well, it’s going up in academies and free schools.” Labour uses a statistic, and I will leave it to the House to decide exactly how accurate and helpful it is: in its proper scaremongering way, it says that there has been a 141% increase in unqualified teachers in academies and free schools since the election. Like the Fat Boy in Dickens, he wants to make our flesh creep.
The truth is that the number of unqualified teachers in academies has risen only because the number of academies has increased so much. In fact, the proportion of unqualified teachers in academies has halved since 2010, from 9.6% to 4.8%, and the number of qualified teachers in academies has increased by 460%—North Korean levels of achievement under the coalition Government.
I am sorry to intervene on the Secretary of State halfway through his assessment of North Korean education. May I take him back to the issue of unqualified teachers under the previous Government? We have heard the repeated myth that they had to be on course to qualification. Will he confirm that under the previous Government schools could employ instructors permanently to teach subjects? As they did in my school, they taught classes and taught subjects on a permanent basis.
Not for the first time and I am sure not for the last time, my hon. Friend hits the nail squarely on the head. It has now been the case for some time that schools can advertise for and employ instructors, trainees or others.
We will come to that.
It is important to recognise that situation, because that is exactly what has happened in the school referred to several times in this Chamber and elsewhere by the shadow Secretary of State—the South Leeds academy. When he first raised the issue, I was genuinely concerned, because he said that unqualified teachers might have been hired with just a few GCSEs. If such people were teachers in the classroom, that would be a genuine cause for concern. He alleged that the academy could do that only because of our changes in policy. [Interruption.] No, absolutely not. The South Leeds academy does not have the power in its funding agreement to hire unqualified teachers, because its funding agreement was constructed, written and agreed before the change in policy. The South Leeds academy has advertised for trainees under a policy that has been in place since at least 1982.
I made that point in this House, and I invited the hon. Gentleman to acknowledge that he had made a mistake. I did so as graciously as I could. [Interruption.] No. I hoped that he would take the trouble to check his facts, but he did not. I have received a letter from the chief executive officer and director of Schools Partnership
Trust Academies, which is responsible for the school. Of the specific case of South Leeds academy, he said: “The post advertised was for the appointment of trainees to support the teaching of mathematics. This was not made clear in the advert, which was placed in error. Once I became aware of the issue, the advert was withdrawn. A statement was placed on our website to clarify the matter.”
Moreover, I drew that matter to the attention of the shadow Secretary of State in the House. I told him that he was persisting in error, and I gave him an opportunity to retract. He chose not to do so. Will he now take the opportunity to apologise to the South Leeds academy and to the House for getting his facts wrong?
I note that he had the opportunity then to apologise.
Alas, Mr Brennan, you are not in the Chair today. [Interruption.] You can sit down, Secretary of State, because I can deal with this. Secretary of State, sit down! This is a serious debate and it would help me enormously if Members behaved within the conventions and rules of the House. Do not shout at each other. Do not try to help me out—I have a Clerk who will do that, should I need it. The Secretary of State has not concluded his speech and he should not sit down until he has.
No. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the conventions of the House do not allow us to accept presents or to eat in the Chamber.
My point was a serious one. I have given the shadow Secretary of State and everyone on the Opposition Front Bench the opportunity to correct the record. I hope that we will hear no more of the South Leeds academy and its policy of hiring unqualified teachers, taking advantage of a policy change that we made, because I have had the opportunity, thanks to your generosity, Madam Deputy Speaker, to make it entirely clear that he was—inadvertently, I am sure—in error, notwithstanding the fact that I reminded him of the facts.
On a serious point, I have attempted on several occasions to get an answer from the Secretary of State and his Ministers on what the qualifications of the teaching staff of the Al-Madinah free school were from September 2013. On each occasion, I have been told that it would be inappropriate to reveal to the public what the qualifications of the teachers were at that troubled school. If the Secretary of State is going to be transparent and open about teaching qualifications, will he promise to publish those qualifications immediately?
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. Absolutely; we will ensure that all the information that can be put into the public domain is put into the public domain, unless we are prevented from doing so for legal reasons. I accept the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman’s point. In return, I hope that he will reflect on the points that I have made about South Leeds academy—that it cannot hire unqualified teachers under its funding agreement, that the advert was for the hiring of trainees and that it has advertised in that way since at least 1982—and in due course, whenever it is appropriate, apologise to the school and to the House. Hopefully we can then make progress.
The Secretary of State has gone to the trouble of getting a letter from South Leeds academy to make his argument. My hon. Friend Kevin Brennan has said that he has been in contact with the Secretary of State’s office constantly to get similar information about Al-Madinah, but he has not bothered to investigate that school in the same way. Why is that?
I am seeking to answer the first of the questions that the hon. Gentleman put to me. The head teacher of South Leeds academy wrote to me, but he also sought to inform everyone through a press statement at the time. Because the shadow Secretary of State wanted to make a political point without taking the trouble to check the facts, he made an error. It is because of that that I have asked him to recant.
While my right hon. Friend is speaking of accuracy, facts and the true version of events, does he recall that Tristram Hunt mentioned in his speech that the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, was opposed to the use of unqualified teachers? In an article in The Daily Telegraph on
“Yes I do. I have done it.”
On the record, the head of Ofsted said that he is in favour of using unqualified teachers. Will the hon. Gentleman therefore retract the statement he made in his speech?
That is a very well made point.—[Interruption.] I should say to the shadow schools Minister, Kevin Brennan, that the credibility with which he speaks on education is undermined by what is happening in his jurisdiction. One reason why Sir Michael Wilshaw and others recognise that it can often be a good idea to employ people who do not at that time have qualified teacher status, as my hon. Friend Chris Skidmore pointed out, is that there are many teachers in the independent sector who are doing an outstanding job and whom we would want to have in our schools.
One of the direct consequences of the policy that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central spelled out would be that any teacher in the private sector who did not have qualified teacher status would not be able to help the state sector. Where would that leave Liverpool college? Its head teacher does not have QTS, yet it is an outstanding independent school that has been taken into the state sector under our free school programme. Would the hon. Gentleman sack the head teacher and say that decades of outstanding academic achievement are worthless because he knows more about education than the head teacher of Liverpool college?
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that, would he say the same thing to the head teacher of Brighton college, Richard Cairns, who was voted the most outstanding head teacher in the independent sector and was responsible for setting up the London Academy of Excellence? That is another free school that was set up under our programme, and it has just taken children from working-class backgrounds in the east of London, represented by Lyn Brown, who is no longer in her place, and guaranteed their accession to our best universities. Richard Cairns does not have QTS, yet he has run an outstanding independent school and an outstanding state school. According to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central, he does not know his own job. Who is better qualified to lead schools, the hon. Gentleman or Richard Cairns and the headmaster of Liverpool college? Should we erect barriers to prevent the excellence that is available in the independent sector from being made available in the state sector? I had thought that the role of progressives was to spread excellence rather than ration it, but it appears to me that the Labour party has abandoned progressivism.
It might, or it might not, but the point is that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central said in his speech that teachers in the independent sector who did not have QTS would have to acquire it to work in the state sector. That means that state schools could not poach great teachers from independent schools, there could be no effective collaboration between them and we would not be able to lift standards in all state schools by using the expertise that others pay for.
I was at the London Academy of Excellence on Friday with Richard Cairns and its excellent headmaster Rob Wilne, both of whom expressed great support for Labour’s policy of focusing on continuing professional development and raising the status and enhancing the standing of teachers. If I were the Secretary of State, before I talked about the London Academy of Excellence I might actually go and visit it.
I note that the hon. Gentleman did not respond to my point about Richard Cairns not having QTS, and that he did not take the opportunity of returning to the Dispatch Box to apologise for stating things in the House that were not true. We will draw our own conclusions about his reliability as an expert witness.
As someone who was educated in the state sector and had the privilege of being able to send some of my children to independent schools at some stages, it has always amazed and upset me that independent school children have had the advantage of a different standard of teaching. I have seen that many teachers in the independent sector have not been formally qualified, but they have brought huge inspiration, expertise and skills from their own field. The children have benefited hugely, as the results show.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Under Labour policy, no state school could poach an outstanding teacher from an independent school. It would put restrictions on getting the best teachers from the independent sector into the state sector, which makes no sense at all.
I know that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central has a passion for independent schools, having attended one, but he says that he also has a passion for what he calls the “forgotten 50%”—those pursuing vocational education. One problem with his policy is that if we were to implement it, we would be going against the Wolf report on vocational education, which his two predecessors accepted. It stated:
“Many schools believe that it is impossible to bring professionals in to demonstrate/teach even part of a course without requiring the presence of…salaried teaching staff” or qualified teaching status.
“This further reduces the incidence of high quality vocational teaching, delivered to the standards that industries actually require.”
What happened to the forgotten 50% when the hon. Gentleman was coming up with his policy? He forgot about them.
This morning, Professor Alison Wolf appeared in front of the Select Committee on Education and said:
“I would be desperately sorry if the result of this…move”— by Labour—
“was to actually make it harder, indeed impossible, to get vocational experts into the classrooms to teach their own subject and show their own expertise, because they are the ones who motivate. The fantastic vocational teaching that you see is done by people who have actually worked in the area, can talk to kids and know what is going to happen and know where it is taking them.”
A direct result of the hon. Gentleman’s policy is to knock one of the principal props of Alison Wolf’s report, which is improving the quality of vocational and technical education for the so-called forgotten 50%—and yet he does not care.
The hon. Gentleman should listen to someone who has been Education Secretary and knows exactly the importance of bringing in the maximum amount of talent and what helping working-class children involves. When Alan Johnson was on “This Week” in October 2013, he spoke to a musician, Nicola Benedetti, about the importance of securing music teachers who had real talent. He said:
“I think music is a specialist subject. My worry is that many children won’t have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. If you find someone who is a great musician but they can’t spend three years getting the proper teaching qualifications, I think you should use them.”
I agree with him.
“I think it’s important to do that and particularly in respect of vocational courses. I remember a case where in Texas they did something similar and the main people who got sacked were, I am afraid, what they call shop-teachers.”
Is there a danger that we will take out those who are re-engaging people in the classroom, re-engaging children and helping them with vocational courses, if the Labour party does not, at the very least, commit to a piece of research before going ahead with this policy?
My hon. Friend is right on both counts. First, the Opposition’s policy would be destructive of high-quality technical education, and secondly, there is not a single shred of academic evidence that could be adduced by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central in support of his policy.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the importance of continuous professional development, but he did not refer to the network of teaching schools that we have established and the brilliant work they are doing. He referred to the Prince’s Teaching Institute, but did not quote what its leader, Bernice McCabe, said this week when she thanked the Government for restoring the status and prestige of teachers, which had been undermined by the previous Labour Government. He made a comparison with what the General Medical Council does with the revalidation of doctors, but what he did not do while talking about professionalism, is his homework. The whole point is that many doctors, like many lawyers, are either self-employed or in partnerships. Where they are directly employed in the public sector under management in hospitals, those who run the hospitals perform the process of revalidation, exactly like headmasters do in schools. That is not by using an external body, but by doing it internally.
I am all for making sure we have employers who are capable of ensuring high-quality continuous professional development, but the truth is that we do have them—they are called head teachers. The hon. Gentleman’s policy does not trust head teachers sufficiently. He want to undermine their autonomy over whom they can hire and whom they can fire, and he wants to undermine their autonomy to choose the type of continuous professional development and evaluation that they believe is right for their teachers.
I know that when I talk about autonomy the hon. Gentleman will say, “Aha. There he is again. Gove is talking about structures, not standards.” Indeed, in his speech he said that he believes in standards not structures. Let me quote from a book called “A Journey”, written by a mutual friend of ours:
“We had come to power in 1997 saying it was “standards not structures” that mattered…This was fine as a piece of rhetoric; and positively beneficial as a piece of politics. Unfortunately, as I began to realise when experience started to shape our thinking, it was bunkum as a piece of policy. The whole point is that structures beget standards.”
How a service is configured affects outcomes. Of all the people qualified to teach Labour politicians how to run and reform public services, there is no one better than the author of those words: Tony Blair. That is why we are implementing Blairite progressive policies, but unfortunately, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central is taking his cue lines from the National Union of Teachers and the educational establishment. That is why everyone who believes in driving quality up, reforming education, and a progressive future for children should reject this nonsensical, ungrammatical and regressive motion.
Order. Would Members like to sit down? I have been in this House for a very long time. In all that time—since 1987—it has been the convention that, when the Speaker is on their feet, Members resume their seats. It helps proceedings enormously.
There is a six-minute time limit on all Back-Bench speeches, starting now.
I, too, have been in the House a very long time, Madam Deputy Speaker. The conventions are what they are. [Laughter.] I respect all of them. They make this a charming place to work.
I am speaking in favour of the Opposition motion, but I will try to be reasonably balanced. My 10 years as Chairman of the Education Committee or whatever it was called taught me that we have made a lot of sound and fury about the differences between the Conservatives and Labour over the years, but an awful lot joins us together in policy development over the period.
I say to the Secretary of State that the debate is an important one. I have a great deal of respect for him, but his speech exemplified the Walter Mitty attitude he puts over to the world. I know that, in his heart and in his brain, he loves education and the job of Secretary of State, and that he is passionate about driving standards up. However, the way in which he often puts his case in the House and outside drives everyone mad. He spoke for more than 20 minutes, and I tried not to make an unhelpful intervention. There were lots of party political jibes and counter-jibes. A lot of people out there who are interested in education want Government and Opposition Members to address the issues. They want us to say, “Look. There are important challenges. Together, we can get it right.” I am getting to the age at which I am intolerant of the argy-bargy that goes on in such debates. On today’s performance, the Secretary of State was the one who lowered the tone—I say that even though I respect him.
Let us concentrate on the quality of teaching. There is a great deal of stuff out there on the priorities. I still go to more schools than most Members of Parliament. My great hobby and passion is going to schools and assessing them. When I became Chairman of the Committee, I did not know how to read a school. Only when I did my first inquiry into primary education did I learn. Really good experts took me into schools and said, “This is how you read a school. This is how you can be conned by the up-front presentation.” I got a kind of Ofsted inspector’s short course on ascertaining the quality of a school and have gained a lot of experience.
There is a lot of codology. I assure hon. Members that they can go to schools where somebody on the staff will say awful things such as, “You realise that we can’t teach here. We’re just social workers.” It drives me mad when they say that. The fact is that all good teachers look at the child holistically. Many of a child’s barriers to learning are found in a bad home environment or the lack of the English language. Children have a complex range of challenges to surmount to learn.
Another thing people say is, “What do you expect us to do with the children in an area like this one?” They suggest that, because there is a great deal of poverty and deprivation, children cannot be taught. One of the great things about Sir Michael Wilshaw as a chief inspector is his ability to say, “When someone says that to you, look to the school.” He can say to the head teacher and staff, “Funnily enough, there is a school not far from here”—it could even be on the other side of the country—“with exactly the same social composition in the neighbourhood. It is doing so much better than you. What is the reason for that?” That is why I am a great admirer of Sir Michael Wilshaw. I hoped that the Secretary of State, in his speech today, would have said what had happened last week to make a modest man, who I have known for a long time and who ran one of the best academies in the country, so angry as to accuse the Department for Education of briefing against him. It has been said outside this House, but I have not heard the Secretary of State explain why the chief inspector was driven to make that statement in The Sunday Times.
We depend on the inspectorate to drive up standards. It is key to knowing the quality of teaching in our land. If we do not have an inspector and an inspectorate that does the job properly we are in trouble. The inspectorate is not perfect. I think it is well led at the moment: the chief inspector is excellent and he has a core team. He still struggles with something that I think goes back to 1972, which is that many people believe that Ofsted inspectors are independently trained within Ofsted. They are actually—
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. One hundred and forty years ago, Benjamin Disraeli said:
“Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.”—[Hansard, 15 June 1874; Vol. 219, c. 1618.]
His words are as true today as they were at the time.
I am glad that the shadow Front-Bench team grasp the central importance of teacher quality to driving up standards in our schools. However, I doubt I am alone in feeling that today we are living through the parliamentary equivalent of groundhog day. Almost exactly three months ago, the Opposition secured a debate on this topic. The House will remember that during the course of that debate I challenged the shadow Secretary of State to supply the evidence showing that employing non-qualified teacher status teachers in our state schools was damaging children’s prospects, or to provide examples of head teachers who were taking on unqualified teachers just to save money or sticking them with low-achieving children. If that evidence was produced, we could then review the impact of non-QTS teachers on educational standards and consider, on that evidence, whether to outlaw them. There was no answer to my question.
Ahead of the speech made by Tristram Hunt, I was confident that he must have uncovered compelling new evidence on the importance of QTS—that he and his team must have been working through the night to provide devastating proof on why QTS is so vital, and why teachers without QTS should be forced out of a job. I challenged him on that again today and he had no answer.
When I asked the hon. Gentleman at least to consider conducting an inquiry to find evidence before making a decision, he suggested that I was partial because three months ago, and again today, I took issue with him on this matter. If I appeared aggressive in doing so, it was not because I sit on the Government Benches. I could list the issues on which I disagree with the Secretary of State and on which I am happy to challenge him in this House. However, when the Government are right and the Opposition are putting forward an irresponsible policy that is wrong, it is my duty to challenge it.
I am very grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee for giving way. If there is an iron-clad link between possession of qualified teacher status and automatic success in pedagogy, why does the part of the country with the highest proportion of unqualified teachers, inner London, have the best state education, and why are two schools with 100% QTS teachers in Stoke-on-Trent in special measures?
I thank the Secretary of State. The point, if the shadow Secretary of State will listen, is that the evidence is anecdotal. To bring in such a change, if one believes in evidence-based policy making, the hon. Gentleman should do the work first, gather the evidence and make sure he is doing the right thing before outlawing these teachers.
Over the past 48 hours, I have asked any number of experts what studies have been conducted into the quality of QTS teachers as opposed to non-QTS teachers. I have spoken to the Education Committee Clerk to see whether the Committee is aware of any studies, to academic experts such as Alan Smithers at the university of Buckingham, an adviser to my Committee, to the Institute of Education and to Ofsted, but none could identify any empirical surveys in this area.
I turned, then, to the teaching profession itself and contacted the principals of several academies in Hull to hear about their experiences. I spoke to people such as Dr Cathy Taylor, the head of the Sirius academy, who told me that her school employed five teachers without QTS out of a total teaching strength of about 87. Those five include excellent teachers in art and maths, both of whom are completing their teaching qualifications, Members will be delighted to hear, but they also include specialists in ICT and salon services. The Sirius academy has a strong professional development programme, and Dr Taylor was clear that she would never employ more non-QTS staff than could be properly mentored within the school.
I also spoke to Andy Grace, the principal of the Boulevard academy. He does not employ non-QTS teachers on permanent contracts, but the academy employs peripatetic, non-QTS staff to provide expert tuition in fields such as sport, art and music, helping to stretch able students.
The hon. Gentleman is calling for research into this subject, but he will remember that the Education Committee’s report, “Great Teachers”, urged the Government, as a matter of importance, to undertake such research. I am not aware of their having carried it out. Will he take this opportunity to repeat that request to the Secretary of State?
I would welcome such research, but the fundamental position of the Secretary of State is that, within a strong accountability system, we should trust head teachers. The number of non-QTS teachers is reducing. There are many fewer now than when Labour was in power, and the shadow Secretary of State’s refusal in successive debates to acknowledge that is mildly irritating. We have fewer of them and there is strong accountability, yet we keep hearing this proposal to get rid of them.
That point echoes the comments by Alan Johnson:
“If you find someone who is a great musician but they can’t spend three years getting the proper teaching qualifications, I think you should use them”.
He gets it; it is a shame that the Opposition Front-Bench team do not appear to do so. When it comes to the evidence for their campaign, the Opposition are quieter than the library of a Trappist monastery.
Is the shadow Secretary of State in favour of evidence-based policy making? I know that he would not want to score political points if it were to hurt our children’s education. He has had three months since the last debate to find evidence that non-QTS teachers are damaging schooling. He has had three months to find evidence that moving a teacher without QTS to QTS on the job improves learning in their classes. Has he found any evidence? If so, where is it? Why does he not share it with us? If he could point us in the right direction, I am sure my Committee would be happy to pursue the matter. If unqualified teachers are doing harm, let us move fast to get rid of them.
The Chairman of the Select Committee will know, from the work of Andreas Schleicher of the OECD, that data from the programme for international student assessment have made it clear that educational jurisdictions with the highest qualified teachers—from Finland and South Korea to Singapore and Shanghai—perform most effectively. Can he give us the evidence that unqualified teachers are the route to improving standards and closing the attainment gap?
Before teachers without QTS, whose number has reduced, are removed from the system, the shadow Secretary of State needs to show why that is a good idea. When Charles Parker, the chief executive of the Baker Dearing Trust, came before the Committee this morning, he said of people who taught in university technical colleges, including those with PhDs: “They’re amazing people, they are highly professional, but they may not be highly professional in the sense of being qualified teachers.” Before they are got rid of, let us check that there are not more good than bad; let us ensure that they are not doing good. If they are doing good and the hon. Gentleman gets rid of them, it will damage not just his conscience, but the education of the children whom he is duty bound to protect.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman has to make an impact in his new brief, and to secure his place in the shadow Cabinet. It cannot be easy having to mollify the resurgent left of his party, let alone the trade unions which bankroll almost every aspect of his party’s actions. However, I urge him not to put politics ahead of the evidence, and I know that he would not put ambition ahead of principle.
For those of us on the Back Benches who are trying to work out how best to improve educational opportunities for our constituents, this debate is bizarre, and I ask the shadow Secretary of State to change his policy.
Although when I was shadow Secretary of State I enjoyed working on a cross-party basis with Mr Stuart, I have to say that his speech was unnecessarily partisan and did not add to the merits of this important debate.
This debate is about how we can both raise the quality of education and narrow the achievement gap. We have all welcomed the improvement in results, and, in particular, the fall in the number of schools that are below the floor target. That is of huge benefit to our society and our education system. However, the Demos report, which was referred to by my hon. Friend Tristram Hunt, is of great concern. It shows that if we take inner London out of the picture, we see a worsening position—a widening of the achievement gap between those from the richest backgrounds and those from the poorest—and that must be of concern to Members in all parts of the House.
How can we change the position? I think that the big challenge for all of us who have been engaged in education policy in the House, in government or in opposition, is to step back as politicians and policy makers, and to empower teachers and school leaders to lead that change. I welcome the motion, because it is about the profession leading change, and in my short speech I want to refer to some of the teaching pioneers who are already doing that.
The brilliant organisation Teaching Leaders is seeking to create the middle leaders of the future who can ensure that our schools improve, particularly those that serve the most deprived communities. ResearchED 2013 was set up as a grass-roots project by people who loved education and loved teaching, but felt detached from the education debate. They came together to create a national conference for teachers, researchers and others who were interested in how we inform the way in which we teach our children, in drawing out the best of policy theory and practice, and in finding out what works in the classroom. Then there is the long-standing and brilliant work of subject associations. When I was an education Minister, I once went to the Geography Association’s Easter conference. Teachers were attending it voluntarily, during their Easter break, and were exchanging in a passionate way their interest in, and information about, their subject. That, I think, must be the way forward, but how can we best get to where we want to be?
There is a great deal of discussion about what happened under the last Government, but I think that we did some fantastic things to empower teachers. The Secretary of State mentioned Teach First. I am proud to have given Teach First the go-ahead when I was a Minister, 11 years ago. Its aim is to attract the best and the brightest graduates to teaching, and then to empower those teachers to use the latest research and evidence to inform their classroom practice. The sponsoring of academies was intended to ensure that the best teachers went into the schools that served the neighbourhoods with the greatest social and economic need. The London Challenge has succeeded in changing a position in which London schools were below the national average, to one in which London has the best-performing secondary schools in the country.
However, we also got some things wrong. Sometimes we were too centralist. We directed too much from Whitehall: there was too much of a “The Department knows best” approach. My former boss, Baroness Morris—Estelle Morris—said this week that the danger of such a centralised approach was that while the policy might be
“designed to empower teachers and raise the status of the profession, it was seen as being owned by the government and not by the profession itself.”
That is why I think that the movement initiated by the profession in favour of a royal college of teaching is vital, and deserves the cross-party commitment that it has attracted so far. I believe that it could represent a significant step forward for the teaching profession.
I am grateful for the extra minute. That is what I was about to do.
It is absolutely right that the movement is independent of Government and independent of politics. I ask the Minister: if, and only if, the royal college comes to the Government to ask for financial help on start-up costs, will the Government consider providing that start-up support? We want something that is independent, but if it needs that help when it is getting set up, can they give it that support?
I want to make a point that I have made before and that is incredibly important. The countries that have been most successful in education have often forged a cross-party consensus and a wider consensus in society about education and its role. Look, for example, at Germany, and at the technical and vocational education system in Switzerland. Switzerland has a national centre for the use of evidence in education. A number of people, particularly John Dunford but also Baroness Morris, have put forward that idea, whose time has come. I called for it two years ago, when I used the title “Office for Educational Improvement” and the Secretary of State’s response was, “We already have such an office—it is called the Government.” I took that in good humour but I do not think that that is a good enough answer.
Part of the problem with education in this country, under successive Governments of different parties, is that the line between education and politics has been drawn in the wrong place. Politicians rightly decide how much money should be available, how it should be divided and the legal structure for education, but I do not think that politicians should get involved in the pedagogy and the curriculum. The professionals should lead on that and I believe that a centre for evidence could play a crucial role in delivering that. I welcome the opportunity today for a serious debate about how we enhance teacher professionalism, and promote greater continuing professional development and the opportunity for teachers themselves to lead that, but let us also say that evidence can play a much bigger role in education policy.
The morale of the teaching profession matters. It is undoubtedly the case—the Secretary of State needs to acknowledge this—that morale at the moment in school classrooms is low. Despite having this fantastic generation of teachers and results getting better, morale is low. He has to accept the point that was made by my hon. Friend Mr Sheerman that sometimes the Secretary of State’s rhetoric, in this place and outside, has contributed to that decline in morale. I hope that that is something that he can reconsider.
As the OECD and Members in the debate have highlighted, teachers are the most important resource of any school. On these Benches, we support greater professional freedom and autonomy for our schools and teachers while also ensuring that every parent has a guarantee that the school their child attends meets certain core standards of teaching and care. Liberal Democrats want every pupil in every state-funded school to benefit from the coalition’s slimmed-down national curriculum and freedom from overly centralised Whitehall regulations. We also believe that parents want and expect their child to be taught by a qualified teacher.
Although our two parties in coalition have differences of opinion in these areas, by working together, we have taken great steps to encourage the best graduates into the profession. We have massively expanded Teach First and made more scholarships and bursaries available to help to recruit the most talented graduates with the potential to be brilliant teachers in key subjects. The teaching schools network will help to support the lifelong learning of teachers. I welcome the fact that more than seven out of 10 new teachers now have a first or upper-second class degree, the highest proportion ever recorded, as the Secretary of State noted. Teaching is attracting more of the country’s top-tier graduates.
More and more teachers are being publicly recognised for their contribution to society. Around one in 10 of all honours last year were awarded to people from the world of education. The rising status of the teaching profession is reflected in the comments of the former editor of The Times Educational Supplement, Gerard Kelly, who wrote last September:
“Contrary to most reports, teaching in Britain has never been in better health.”
“Most encouraging of all are the widespread acceptance that a ‘satisfactory’ education isn't really good enough and the determination of schools and teachers to take ownership of their profession, sharing ideas and best practice in ways unknown only a few years ago.”
Yet there is still more that can be done, led by the profession, to support teachers once they enter teaching. Continuous professional development must be of a consistently high standard and relevance to enable teachers to update and refresh their pedagogy and subject-specific skills. While there is undoubtedly good practice in the provision of teacher CPD—as the Government’s White Paper “The Importance of Teaching” highlighted—too little teacher training takes place on the job, and too much involves compliance with bureaucratic initiatives rather than working with other teachers to develop effective practice. The White Paper states that two thirds of professional development involves passive learning, such as sitting and listening to a presentation.
The teaching profession itself is best placed to develop a system of CPD beyond initial teacher training, and to make clear what teachers should expect throughout their careers. It is preferable for the profession itself to lead and design that process, rather than Whitehall imposing a model, and a royal college of teaching would be an obvious body to do that work. A royal college of teaching could provide a strong voice for teachers to press the case for their ongoing professional development, including promoting time and resources, and perhaps also acting as an accreditor of CPD activity so that high standards could be promoted. The role of the Government in establishing a royal college of teaching should be minimal; its establishment should be driven by the profession. However, the Department for Education could help to facilitate its creation, perhaps by offering discussions over roles that the college could take on from the Department and perhaps by providing arm’s length financial backing.
Another way to support CPD is by ensuring that each teacher has an individual CPD plan, subject to regular review and providing both an entitlement to and an expectation of ongoing training based on their own needs. Schools would ensure that each teacher had such a plan, and Ofsted could play a role in reviewing their effectiveness. We also need to ensure that we get the maximum benefit from the Government’s support for the Education Endowment Foundation. The EEF is supporting important research and practice that could deliver innovation in classrooms to address the needs of disadvantaged children. I would like Ministers to discuss with the EEF whether it could play an even greater role in evaluating and disseminating the application of research to classroom practice.
Teachers want the opportunity to enhance and update their own knowledge base, but I have reservations about a relicensing system on several grounds: I believe it risks being an over-bureaucratic box-ticking exercise; I worry that the focus will be on removing a few of the weakest teachers in our schools rather than on providing positive encouragement for all teachers to become great teachers; and I am concerned about the implications for head teachers if an external body were to overrule a head teacher’s judgment as to whether a teacher was deemed to be suitable.
I welcome the focus today on raising the status of teachers in our classrooms. We must keep that debate at the centre of our thinking if we are to expect all of the nearly 450,000 teachers in classrooms to achieve their very best on behalf of the children they teach, and if we are to build on the positive progress made by the coalition Government.
I very much welcome this debate and the emphasis that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central
(Tristram Hunt) has placed on teaching standards and quality. Teaching is a tough job, and those who devote their lives to helping children deserve our respect and admiration. I think we all remember the particular teachers who inspired us. I remember Jack McLaughlin, my English teacher at Holyrood secondary school in Glasgow, who taught me more about the love of words than anyone else I have ever met. So, good teaching can be inspiring, but poor teaching leads to lack of opportunity and to unfulfilled lives.
Just before Christmas, Ofsted produced its annual report. In it, a table shows the proportion of children in each local authority who go to good or outstanding schools. It shows that primary school children in my local authority area of Wolverhampton have a lower chance of going to a good or outstanding school than those living anywhere else in England. If that is not a call to action, and a call to arms, I do not know what is. Wolverhampton does have some good and outstanding schools, and some excellent, inspirational teachers. In places, it also has strong leadership that is intolerant of failure. As the Ofsted table starkly illustrates, however, it does not have enough of those things. That means that too many local children are not getting the education they deserve and are being denied the opportunity to make the best of their lives.
I am coming on to what I would like from Ofsted in that situation. Nothing is more important for opportunity and social mobility than a good education. Mediocrity, low ambitions and a weary acceptance of failure cut off opportunity for young people. We need a strong determined response to this report and its verdict. What should the elements of that be? First, there is no point in shooting the messenger. We cannot confront a problem if we deny that we have one. We must accept the verdict and vow never to be in such a position again. Improving education standards should be accepted as the single biggest challenge facing the city. It should become a cause that unites everyone—schools, the local authority, the university, employers and the local MPs.
Secondly, we must set this discussion about deprivation and the attainment gap in the right context. There is an attainment gap. Of course teaching kids from a deprived background is tougher than teaching kids from homes full of books and with the social capital to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central referred.
It can never be right to blame deprivation for educational failure. There are plenty of areas in the Ofsted report with deprivation levels as high as, or higher than, Wolverhampton that have significantly better achievement. Apart from the Ofsted table, there is another more fundamental reason why we cannot use deprivation as an excuse—it absolves us of the responsibility to act. It writes off the children and gets everyone else off the hook, and that is a dereliction of duty to children who need, more than anyone, the opportunity that a good education brings.
I do not believe that children in Wolverhampton are any less able than children from anywhere else. They should never be written off or be told, as I have been told, that
“our black country kids are not that academic.”
I will never believe or accept that.
What are the other elements of a turnaround? We need good leadership. We know that the people who know best about turnarounds are the good leaders already in our schools. We need more of that, and we need the good schools to mentor the struggling ones to help them raise their game.
I agree. The previous Government had a black country challenge for precisely those reasons, and the Secretary of State did not continue with it, which is a great shame given the support that we need.
Apart from good leadership in schools, the second thing we need is that the local authority function to challenge standards and improve must be carried out with passion and a determined focus on school improvement.
Thirdly, we need curiosity and a willingness to learn from what has worked elsewhere. If that means changing the way we do things, then so be it. The only vested interest that matters in this is the vested interest of the pupils themselves. Nothing should get in the way of improving the opportunities for them.
The school environment has changed. The clock cannot be rewound. The future landscape will inevitably be a more varied one, and we must learn from the turnaround experience elsewhere.
My fourth point is directed at the Minister so that she addresses it in her wind-up. Areas that accept a verdict, such as that of Ofsted, as I have urged Wolverhampton to do, also need help in turning things around. There is not unlimited school improvement and turnaround capacity in every part of the country. As I said earlier, we should not shoot the messenger. However, it is not enough simply to pass damning verdicts and then walk away. If Wolverhampton responds by saying that it accepts the verdict in the Ofsted report, understands that there is a problem and wants to turn things around, the Department for Education and Ofsted have a duty to play their part in helping the city to do that.
I have already arranged to meet the regional head of Ofsted to discuss the matter in the next couple of weeks and I know that relations between the Department and Ofsted have been damaged by the events of the past week. I want the Minister to address this specific point:
will she and the Secretary of State back Ofsted in a role that involves not just passing verdicts on schools but helping areas such as the one I represent to turn the situation around and improve opportunities for the future?
I will ignore that comment.
I am grateful to Sir Michael for the work that he has done in ensuring that HMIS can play a role in school improvement. Another thing we need to do is ensure that we have more national leaders of education deployed. If Mr McFadden would like to invite me to visit his constituency to ensure that that work can advance, I would be delighted to accept.
I believe that we should respond to the report and not with the usual series of excuses for educational failure, but by saying that the only interest that matters is that of the pupils themselves. They deserve the best, they deserve the highest ambitions and they must never be written off. I hope that Wolverhampton is up for the challenge, but the city will need help to turn around. I hope that the Secretary of State will follow through on what he has said and give us the help we will need.
I echo the remarks made by the shadow Secretary of State, who said that we should put our differences aside and start the debate in the spirit of bipartisanship. It might be helpful to put on the record what we can welcome and agree on. We can welcome the fact that the number of unqualified teachers has fallen by 3,000 since 2010, down 20% from a high of 18,600 in 2010. We can also welcome the fact that the proportion of unqualified teachers has dropped in academies from 9.6% of all teachers in 2010 to 4.8% today. Stephen Twigg was absolutely right to talk about Teach First as one of the great successes of the previous Government, and it is booming. In 2015, there will be 2,000 graduates from Teach First, four times as many as in 2010. This year, the No. 1 destination for Oxbridge graduates is teaching, and we should all be very proud of that fact.
We should welcome the establishment of School Direct, under which 9,580 teachers are being trained in a school setting. The success of School Direct is highlighted by the fact that demand far exceeds the number of places. There was demand for 17,700 places, so I hope that the scheme will grow. It has been proven to have a far better retention rate than a university-based PGCE.
We should welcome the 363 teaching schools that have been established, just as we should all welcome the fact that the Government have limited the number of resits for teacher training tests in English and maths. Previously, people could take that test—and someone did—50 times. We are ensuring that the PGCE qualification is far more rigorous than it has been. We should welcome that, just as I welcome the statistic that has already been mentioned: the proportion of teachers with degrees at 2:1 or higher rose from 48% in 1998 to 62% in 2010 and is now at 71%. That is a collaborative success between this Government and the previous Government in driving up standards in teacher training and teacher qualifications.
I also welcome the shadow Secretary of State’s support for performance-related pay to reward excellent teachers. He has done that in the face of opposition from unions and from some of his Back Benchers. It is a brave stance and he deserves credit for it.
For all our agreement, we are stuck on one problem like it is a broken record. We had this debate back in October, and the shadow Secretary of State seems to fall into a dogmatic, ideological approach that could come from the pages of George Orwell, saying “QTS good, non-QTS bad,” as though QTS has magical properties and bestowing it on teachers will somehow make them excellent. We know that we cannot bottle good teaching and inspiring teachers by slapping on “QTS”. Such a requirement would also restrict the very head teacher freedoms mentioned by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby that we want to encourage.
Does my hon. Friend find it bizarre that we hear a lot of noise from the Opposition about how we should be following international examples such as Finland and Singapore, which have very high teaching standards, when in fact the non-PGCE QTS qualification that teachers would gain under the shadow Secretary of State’s policies would not qualify as a teaching qualification in those countries?
That is a good point and I welcome its being placed on the record.
Another problem is the Labour party’s definition of “working toward QTS” including a two-year cut-off. I would appreciate the shadow Secretary of State putting it on the record whether the axe would come down at the end of that period. Would the 14,000 who are still unqualified simply lose their jobs because they had not gained QTS in that period?
There is an elephant in the room in this debate in respect of QTS, which is that are plenty of bad teachers who have QTS. The problem is that defining a good teacher as one who has QTS is nothing short of protectionism. The General Teaching Council estimated under the previous Government that there were 17,000 teachers with QTS who were underperforming and should not be in the classroom, but in the past 15 years, and even up to this day, we see bad teachers not being removed from the classroom or sacked, but instead being managed out. Up to 2010, only 18 teachers had been removed altogether from the teaching profession for poor teaching standards. What we see is this “dance of the lemons”—teachers moving from one school to another, into deprived areas, which are the areas that suffer the most. That is a national scandal. We need transparency—
I will come to that in a moment, but we need transparency so that we can work out these teacher flows. I encourage the Government to establish a review to find out the patterns of where poorly performing teachers are not removed, but instead go to the worst performing schools in the most deprived areas of the country.
According to the time frame I have seen in the media, it is possibly every three years. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could say how often the revalidation process should take place. We have 500,000 teachers in place; how many of them will have to go through the process, and how often? Who will administer the process? Will it be led by Ofsted or by head teachers? Surely revalidation happens all the time—that is the role of the school leadership team and the head teacher. Adding the process of revalidation simply adds extra bureaucracy. Would the hon. Gentleman make extra resources available to schools to continue the re-evaluation process? What will the paperwork look like? These are all valid questions to which teachers watching this debate need to know the answers.
The hon. Gentleman compares teacher revalidation with what happens with doctors and consultants, but consultants’ revalidation is very different from doctors’ revalidation. Will there be a revalidation process for head teachers and one for Ofsted inspectors? All these questions need to be considered. Will teachers who fail the process lose their qualified teacher status altogether? Will there be revalidation in the private sector?
I much appreciate that intervention, which came right on time.
In this debate about QTS, it is important that we as a House and the public know exactly how revalidation—or “teacher MOTs” as the process has become popularly known in the papers—will operate. What is the time frame? What are the consequences of failing the revalidation? Will it take place within schools? If so, what is the point of all this? Is it simply to slap on a party policy? I am not against revalidation, because I believe that it already exists, as we have given the school leadership team and head teachers the power to lead.
The key point here is that we trust head teachers to be commanders, captains of their ships. The shadow Secretary of State looks at me scornfully. He clearly does not believe in giving head teachers the power to run their schools. If a head teacher wants to employ a teacher without QTS, I have no problem with that, because I trust that head teacher to make the right decision, and head teachers should have that power. That is the crux of this debate and why I will oppose the motion.
Order. To allow every hon. Member who wishes to speak to do so, the time limit will be reduced to five minutes, although it may be necessary to review that later. I call Nic Dakin.
The best teachers want to be better teachers. What is changing fastest is the young people themselves and the world that they are being prepared for, both as young people and in the future as citizens and workers. Today, very young children are adept at using a tablet computer, and anyone who goes into a primary school will see electronic devices being used to access information, to draft written text creatively or to make video clips or other inventive things. The world is changing rapidly and teachers need to change too. Pedagogy needs to move with the times. The best teachers have always wanted to be better teachers. That is why in my 30-plus years of what was the chalkface and is now the technology interface, I have always seen teachers talking to each other, keen to share and develop, and keen to learn in the interests of their learners.
Politicians, as my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg said in a quite brilliant speech, need to be careful in the way they talk about these matters. They need to talk about the real world, not the world of fantasy classrooms, and about what is actually going on out there. Politicians would do well to start by understanding and celebrating what is going on in teacher education and ongoing teacher development. It is worth understanding how important high quality initial teacher training is in getting recruitment right. We have debated this before, and the Government’s obsession with School Direct is imperilling effective teacher recruitment and induction. It may well be that one of the Government’s achievements is to preside over not only a school places crisis, but a teacher supply crisis as well, while continuing with expensive, unproven pet projects.
There is a huge amount of excellent practice in schools and colleges, which any consultation on ongoing teacher development should capture, recognise and build on. Every hon. Member who has spoken has paid tribute to the work of teachers throughout the land, and I add my tributes, but it is important to understand the role of induction and support in teachers’ early years. When I was a principal, I always said to staff that supporting a new teacher effectively was one of the most important jobs they did. Get it right and the benefits are huge. Get it wrong and the problems are massive. We need to recognise how appraisal works at the moment, how the process to support staff going through the threshold works and how the ongoing process of keeping evidence of personal development that is commonplace in our schools and colleges works. Anything new needs to build on this. Simon Wright was right: we need to build on what is there to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic problems.
People do not want unqualified doctors to operate on them, so it is hardly surprising that parents do not want unqualified teachers teaching their children. It is about professionalism. Some Government Members seek to suggest that by giving someone qualified status the problem has been solved, but that clearly is not the case.
This is about recognising the role of professionalism and professionalising the future in a way that secures the future.
The things that are important in terms of ongoing teacher education are subject knowledge—I have never come across a teacher who does not want to improve their subject knowledge—pedagogy; which is challenging and moves rapidly, particularly at the moment; assessment; and leadership, because many teachers will have leadership roles. Unless school and college leaders are committed to teacher improvement, it will not happen.
I always enjoy listening to the hon. Gentleman, who is a distinguished figure in further education. Does he agree with me, with the shadow Secretary of State and with Amanda Phillips, the head teacher of a school in Tower Hamlets who recently wrote so passionately about the subject in The Sun, that we need performance-related pay for teachers in order to ensure that we have more effective continuous professional development?
My personal view is that performance-related pay rarely works in any sphere of life; all it tends to do is push up the cost of pay without tackling the real issues. I think that separating pay and performance is helpful, because we need to focus on getting performance right. If teachers are not up to scratch, we need to tackle that as a separate issue. I have dealt with that myself. Any good school or college leader will do that day in, day out—it is not easy, but it is done. The link between pay and performance, in my experience, is unhelpful more often than not.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby listed the pioneers. I could add to that list, but time is short. I merely draw attention to the strength of his argument, which needs to be listened to.
It is a pleasure to follow Nic Dakin, my erstwhile colleague on the Education Committee, who spoke passionately and, for the most part, compellingly. I agree entirely that teaching is a noble profession and a vocation.
I also agree with three key aspects of Labour’s motion. First, it is obviously right that the quality and effectiveness of a school system cannot exceed the quality and effectiveness of the teachers in it. Secondly, those teachers must be able to access the best possible training and ongoing development, and not just in subject knowledge, but in classroom management, lesson planning, progress tracking and all the other things that are so important. Thirdly, I agree about the importance of validating and revalidating teachers’ effectiveness, because if we want to raise the bar and improve the overall level, we cannot wait for a turnaround in all the generations of teachers. I disagree on exactly where and how that validation should happen, however, as did my hon. Friend Chris Skidmore.
There are also three important deficiencies in the motion. First, in its headline emphasis on qualified teacher status, it refers to a very small proportion of teachers. It is often said that no one forgets a great teacher. Sadly, most of us can also remember at least one who was pretty rubbish. I mean that not as a value judgement or a political point, but as a statement of fact; some teachers are better than others, and some are just not very good at teaching. That person we remember was almost certainly a qualified teacher. According to the 2012 work force survey, 96.5% of teachers were qualified, which means 3.5% were not, and the figure is now lower than it was under the previous Government. As the Secretary of State pointed out, the part of the country that does best in education is the part with the highest proportion of non-qualified teachers, and—to add another little fact—four fifths of them are not on a route towards QTS.
Secondly, the motion is logically inconsistent. If QTS is an irreplaceable standard that every teacher should reach before being let loose in the classroom, how can it possibly be acceptable to have someone teaching who has only just begun the route towards QTS? Thirdly, the motion’s critical deficiency is that it conflates two words that sound a bit the same but are completely different: “qualifications” and “quality.” I note that the conflation extends even to the hallowed institution of our democracy, the Order Paper, because two days ago it referred to a debate on teacher qualifications, but today that has morphed seamlessly into a debate on teacher quality. Either subject would have been an important and interesting subject for debate, but they are completely different topics. That is the fundamental problem here.
I do not expect a sudden flood of teachers who have not done a PGCE or other qualification to come into teaching. When Mary Beard appeared before the Education Committee, she talked about Jamie’s dream school—I hate to bring it up again—and, when asked what she would have done differently, said, “A bit of training would have been nice before going in to teach the kids.” What an understatement. Of course, an individual going into teaching, let along the school and the parents, wants to know that they have been properly trained to cope with the situation.
There are, however, circumstances in which somebody has a lot to give, and in which taking the necessary time out for full retraining—something like a PGCE—would put them off. They might be someone who has taught for years in a private school, a university lecturer, a business leader who goes in part-time to do lessons in entrepreneurship, or an artist, musician or actor with unique skills and creativity. I want such things to be available to kids in our state system.
Private schools educate only 7% of children in this country, but they account for 32% of AAAs at A-level. There are differences between private and state schools, the biggest of which is in the resources of money and facilities that are available. One of the others is the freedom accorded head teachers, reporting to governors, about who they employ and how they run their school. We have a rigorous accountability regime for exams, Ofsted and pupil choice. Within that framework, a head teacher, reporting to their board of governors, should be able to decide the direction in which their school goes. There are things we should focus on to improve teacher quality.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the focus should be on the quality of education for children in schools, as opposed to the quality of delivering paperwork to be revalidated?
I absolutely agree.
We can do other things further to raise teacher quality; that is what the title of this debate turned out to be. The first of those concerns Teach First, which accounts for a relatively small proportion of the overall teaching work force. It is heavily concentrated—half of all Teach First teachers are there—in London, which has come up more than once today. It has what I call a positive disruptive influence in schools in bringing in new ideas, in new teachers learning from teachers it already employs and those teachers learning from new ones and, importantly, in increasing the pool for recruitment and selection. Head teachers often say that having more people, including fresh graduates, applying for jobs helps them a lot. We need greatly to expand Teach First outside London.
Does my hon. Friend welcome the fact that when, this morning, I met and spoke to the chief executive officer of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz, he talked about its tremendous success in the city close to my constituency, Bristol? Teach First has now established centres there, so regionalisation is taking place as we speak.
And in Ipswich, but I want that to be done on a big scale in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and all the other places where we can make a big difference. We now have Teach Next, and it would be nice to have “Teach Later” so that people towards the end of their careers in business or academia who want to come back and give something back to schools can do so.
The second critical thing we could do is further to develop performance management and performance pay. That has been well covered by other hon. Members and, as time is short, I will not bang on about it.
The final thing I want to mention—I apologise to erstwhile Select Committee colleagues, because I have frequently banged on about this in the past—is how teaching is such a high stakes profession and is such a high stakes commitment to make. When people do their PGCE or undergraduate degree, the assumption is that they will do the job for life. There are very few careers left in this country for which that is the case.
We ask, “How can you tell a great teacher?” The answer is that we cannot: we cannot tell from a paper qualification, QTS, degree results or anything else, but we know it when we see it. That also goes for the individual considering teaching. We need a heavy emphasis in teacher training and accreditation on classroom performance. We also need more taster sessions, in which sixth-formers or undergraduates considering doing an undergraduate education degree or a PGCE get an opportunity to teach in a classroom and figure out if it is right for them.
I have now been an MP for 17 years. Before that, I was a teacher for
15 years in a Catholic primary school with 550 children. For every one of those 15 years, I was on a professional development course, whether a diploma or a master’s—I never actually finished the master’s course—in Welsh, media, science, computing, religion and a variety of other courses. That did me a power of good: I loved it and the children benefited from it.
We have to look at the pressures on children today. Many of the facts and figures that I will give have come from parliamentary answers to questions that I have tabled. Children today check their phone six times an hour or every 10 minutes. That is 600 times a day and over 200,000 times a year. My hon. Friend Nic Dakin mentioned the positive aspects that the digital age has brought to teaching, but it has also had negative effects. Young people make constant comparisons through Facebook and Twitter. It has brought cyber-bullying. A young person watches 180,000 adverts by the time they are 18. Those adverts give mixed messages that confuse children. The fashion industry tells them to be size zero; the fast-food industry tells them to go large. The cigarette industry, the sugar industry and the fat industry are all targeting young people. That is having an effect on their bodies and on their minds. In America, 8% of children are physically addicted to computer games.
In this country, 32.3% of 16 to 25-year-olds have one or more psychological condition. They have those conditions when they are doing their GCSEs, A-levels and degrees. Two per cent. of that age group have severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and 9% have mild to moderate ADHD. How can young people learn when there are such massive pressures on them? It does not get much better for 25 to 35-year-olds. Thirty per cent. of them have one or more psychological condition. Any training course that we provide for teachers needs to recognise that.
A key element that could help young teachers and young pupils is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of breathing, relaxing, expressing gratitude, gaining balance and equilibrium, and gaining focus and attention, all of which could help people in their education. It also improves people’s social skills, develops their character and helps them to flourish as young individuals.
I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for establishing the measurement of well-being in 2010. However, what is the point of having that measurement if we do not reflect on it and use it? We ought to concentrate not just on people’s academic side, but on their social side. Mindfulness can help with both.
There have been 22 international studies on mindfulness. A British professor, Katherine Weare, has made a fantastic assessment of that evidence base. I ask Ministers to make their own assessment. Britain is ahead of the rest of Europe on mindfulness in education. Oxford, Cambridge, Bangor and Exeter are all centres of excellence. Professor Willem Kuyken, Professor Felicia Huppert, Professor Katherine Weare and Professor Mark Williams are the cutting-edge scientists who have proven the science behind mindfulness. They have proven its contribution to health to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. We now need to assess its contribution to education.
Mindfulness is gaining traction around the world. Tiger Woods, the golfer, uses it. The executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter use it. The executives of
Goldman Sachs and Transport for London use it. There are even 70 MPs and Lords in this Parliament who have had training in mindfulness in the past year.
The health effects of mindfulness are scientifically proven and they can be proven in respect of education. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Education, Elizabeth Truss for the positive attitude that she has shown on this matter in Adjournment debates. I ask the Secretary of State whether he, too, will look at the evidence and see whether mindfulness can be used in education.
This debate has the entirely laudable aim of raising the status of teachers. There has been a need to do that ever since George Bernard Shaw said “those who can’t, teach”, to which Woody Allen added that those who can’t teach, teach PE.
I have to begin with a confession. I began teaching without any teaching qualifications. Having left university with a philosophy degree, I took a job with Liverpool city council as an estate manager. At that stage, Liverpool city council thought that it needed to employ graduates, but it was apparent after a week that neither the council nor I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. I saw an advertisement for Warwick Bolam secondary modern school in Bootle and within a week I was teaching 11 to 16-year-olds in what was a surprisingly good and well-run school. I had to learn quickly on the job because the tradition in Bootle was that the children felt obliged to play up and the teacher had to demonstrate that they could exert control. Failure to do so was a route to a nervous breakdown, resignation and a pretty unhappy life. The children actually preferred not to mess around, but the onus was on me to demonstrate that they could be prevented from doing so.
After two quite happy years in the classroom, I was sent a letter by the Department of Education and Science, as it then was, saying that I was a qualified teacher. By that time I had moved on to Salesian high school, also in Bootle, which had become a comprehensive school, where I taught English, history and social studies. The last of those was a new subject introduced for embittered 15-year-olds who had been badly affected by the raising of the school leaving age and were disgruntled to be there, but it worked.
It gets worse. I was then asked to take on A-level sociology, which I believe to be a much underrated and misunderstood discipline. Unbelievably, I helped to revise and set the extremely testing and highly theoretical A-level syllabus and exams for the Joint Matriculation Board. The students’ A-level results were pretty good—in line with, or better than, their grades in other subjects.
After a happy and successful decade, I moved to a top independent school as head of religious studies, also teaching some Latin, neither of which subjects I had taught before. Only towards the end of my career did I teach philosophy at A-level, which was what my degree was in. In the meantime, I had done a diploma, an MEd and even, for no apparent reason, a course in teaching maths, which I found interesting rather than of any real use in the classroom.
I therefore clearly cannot argue credibly that teacher training is either a sufficient or a necessary condition for being a good teacher. Indeed, I would probably argue that an effortless grasp of some subjects, such as that shown by brilliant mathematicians and the like, often equips people poorly to explain them to lesser mortals who are struggling to comprehend them. I believe that teacher training can help, inspire and provide a fund of ideas that the grind of day-to-day teaching might not. It cannot provide commitment and dedication, which are indispensible to successful teaching, but it can do much that is good.
I refer hon. Members to the recent, surprisingly enlightened, CBI report on our education system, “First steps: a new approach for our schools”. It argues that good schools are those that are well led and have clear and challenging targets, but that have considerable flexibility in how they organise themselves and their staff, and that even an enlightened Secretary of State should back off. It seems to me that today’s teachers would welcome that. They have a prodigious, often unnecessary administrative load, and they are already assessed rigorously in every school worth its salt. To add a national scheme of revalidation for every teacher, as proposed by Labour, seems to me overload on top of overload and would not be welcomed by the profession. It is likely to annoy good professionals, to no real effect. Continuing professional development—we are up for that. However, Government teacher MOTs would simply produce clones, not charisma, if successful and further de-professionalisation and more of a tick-box culture if unsuccessful.
Well, I am going to close, because other Members want to speak, but the CBI states that the approach that we are taking towards education is rather like the conveyor belt approach abandoned by industry in the 1980s, and we simply have to get away from it. I will finish by quoting the CBI—I do not suppose I will do that many times in my political career. It stated that head teachers and teachers
“are professionals—we should treat them as such”.
Teachers are very special people. They have the future of our children in their hands, and those children need the best teachers that we can train, motivate and value. Although valuing them has been a theme today, we in Britain do not generally value the professional people we hand our children over to, and we should be ashamed of that. As politicians, we often fail to give our communities a lead by telling them why teachers should be valued and how crucial they are to our future.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State—I am sure he will not intervene on me, and I would not accept the intervention—makes regular statements recognising that we have the best teachers ever. Most of them were trained, I would remind him, under the last Labour Government. His betrayal of them, however, is in assuming that almost anybody can march into a classroom and teach our children, which is wrong. I for one believe that teachers should be required to fulfil a proper training programme that leads to a professional qualification, before we stick them in front of a class on their own.
We must ensure that our education system is designed to deliver the skills and knowledge that the young people of today will need to succeed tomorrow, and a crucial requirement of that is ensuring that their teachers are fully equipped and professionally qualified. Education is a dynamic field, but it cannot be greater than the sum of its parts unless teaching as a profession is equally ambitious, and continually strives to improve and provide the skills that our young people need and our employers demand.
To deliver great teachers at all levels we must boost the status and enhance the standards of the teaching profession, attracting the very best—we have done a bit of that recently—the brightest, and the most able into the profession. The first step along that path is to ensure that our teachers are rigorously trained to the highest standards, and that the merits of the qualifications are properly recognised. Without such a step it is impossible to guarantee consistency or the quality of teaching, which in turn jeopardises the entire worth of education.
That teachers must have a first-rate knowledge of the subject and curriculum in the areas they teach is beyond any reasonable argument, and for precisely that reason, teaching should remain a graduate profession. However, possession of subject knowledge is not, of itself, a satisfactory safeguard to ensure the highest possible standards. Making certain that all teachers undergo such training before entering the profession would put minimum standards in place to ensure not only that teachers are in possession of a solid knowledge of the subject matter, but that they understand the associated educational and teaching values that promote high standards of planning, monitoring, assessment and class management. Achieving qualified teacher status confirms that a formal set of skills, qualities, and professional standards, recognised as essential aspects of an effective educator, has been achieved.
I will not.
I am in no doubt that all schools should impose the same rigorous criteria and requirements when appointing teaching staff. Only then can we be certain that young people across the board are afforded the same high standards of education. We currently have one of the best generations of teachers we have ever seen—an opinion backed by Ofsted—and there are numerous examples of great teachers in cities, towns and villages across the country. It is right that we celebrate their success.
Dr Richard Spencer, who teaches at Bede sixth-form college in my constituency, was recently named as one of only 10 teachers in the Science Council’s list of 100 leading practising scientists, adding to the various other honours that recognise his contributions as an excellent teacher. It is important that we learn the lessons from such success stories, spreading best practice to every school, teacher and young person across the country, to drive progress and look at new ways to attract high-calibre candidates into the profession.
Despite the Secretary of State acknowledging the importance of teacher prestige, and the Prime Minister citing research that reveals that teacher quality is the single most important factor in educational progress, I feel that focus has been lost. The coalition has ridden roughshod over teaching standards, downgrading the status of teaching by allowing unqualified teachers into classrooms on a permanent basis. Shockingly—special educational needs co-ordinators aside—there are no requirements for state-funded schools to employ qualified teachers. Although figures vary from school to school, I was appalled to discover that as many as three-quarters of teaching staff in some schools are unqualified.
Unqualified teachers who have not undertaken the same initial teacher training as those achieving qualified teacher status may find themselves ill-equipped to cope in instances involving pupils with behavioural issues, for example, or special educational needs. Although they may be an expert in their subject specialism, that does not negate the need for the vital hands-on classroom experience required to meet properly the needs of those in their care.
I want to highlight four issues that explain why I am against the Opposition motion. The first is that inspirational teachers come to the classroom through many routes, and sometimes the most unconventional backgrounds can be the most inspiring to pupils. The second is the importance of trusting and empowering heads to be the leaders they are appointed to be under the “use them or lose them” principle. Third is the importance of embracing working and learning in today’s global environment, and fourth is the critical need to bridge the worlds of education and industry if we are to compete successfully in that global race.
I like to think that, like me, every child who goes through education has a truly inspirational teacher who has an influence on them for the rest of their life. For me, it was the lady who taught me German during my final years at school. There were four of us in our A-level class. She was a truly remarkable woman and I learned as much from her about character as about language. Being German, she could convey the language well, but what was truly remarkable about her—it is fitting to mention this this week as we remember the holocaust—was that, as we understood it, she and her father had helped Jewish children to escape from Germany to Britain during the second world war, and then had to leave the country. That gave her an understanding, which she conveyed through language and literature, of compassion and common humanity, of endurance and perseverance, of selflessness and humility, and of the right priorities for life. I have never forgotten. She taught me that no insignificant person has ever been born, that every individual has the capacity to make a remarkable difference, and that we should all strive to do so. When she arrived in this country, she had no relevant qualifications for teaching here. She had the life she had lived, which was worth far more than any paper certificate when she was teaching us.
That brings me to my second point—giving heads the discretion to appoint the best staff for their school and allowing them the freedom to exercise leadership in the role entrusted to them. For almost 20 years, I was governor of a small inner-city independent faith school in one of the most deprived areas of Salford. It was started as a home school by an inspirational teacher, who found other parents asking her to take in their children. She took on a building—the Victorian building where the first ragged school in Manchester was housed. She taught those children and led many of them to become doctors, teachers and other professionals.
When she needed a physics teacher, she found one from somewhere—someone who had retired or someone from business. She did similar with music teachers and teachers of many other subjects. She provided a special education in a small class environment. Most of the children would never have flourished had they gone to schools elsewhere in the city. They needed that individual help and support. Her dedication enthused and pervaded the whole school. To have inhibited her from exercising that initiative and from appointing staff of her choice would have been a travesty and a tragic waste of her leadership skills.
Thirdly, we talk about working, living and competing in a global environment, and about preparing our young people for that. In that case, we must pay more than lip service. Increasingly, many of our school leavers travel abroad to get a business degree from Maastricht, or for a soccer scholarship at James Madison in the USA. A large number of those people will feel led to pass on the benefit of their training to younger children. Why should they not do so following the example of the qualified football coach employed by St Mary’s Church of England primary school at Dilwyn, who was appointed to teach PE at key stages 1 and 2; the professional actor appointed by Langley free school in Slough as a drama teacher; or the professional singer appointed there to teach music?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and in that connection, I want to talk about the importance of strengthening the relationship of the educational environment we provide for young people with the world of work, which is critical if we are to give young people sufficient information for them to make the right career decisions. In order to do so, they need to make an early choice of subjects and to have inspirational teachers who understand the world of work and have experience of it.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to reduce the gap between education and employment, and focus more on employability, so that we can reduce youth unemployment?
That is exactly the point I am making. We must bridge that divide. Connecting children from the start of secondary school or even earlier with people who have been involved in the world of work, who can inform, encourage and inspire them, is what we need.
Many teachers come from backgrounds that children would never otherwise have an opportunity to understand. On the bridging of the cultural divide between education and the industrial world, a former leader of an Asda sales team is teaching business studies at Priory community school in Weston-super-Mare and is head of upper school. He is bringing the world of work right into the classroom.
Bridging education and industry is key. It would be wrong to inhibit schools that are intent on appointing enthusiastic teaching staff with knowledge of the world of work simply because they lack a piece of paper headed “QTS”.
In 1997, when the Labour party came to power, one of its key mantras was “education, education, education”. In the years to 2010, the Labour party spent an enormous amount of money investing in education: on schools, textbooks and pay to raise teachers’ morale. The educational qualifications and standards in our schools improved tremendously. That is not the end of the story, however, and there is still more to be done. This debate on the training of teachers should be seen in the context of the continuous need to improve the education of our children.
The Secretary of State started his speech by going through a literal interpretation of the Opposition motion. When I trained as a lawyer, we were told that judges have three approaches to interpreting legislation: the literal interpretation, which the Secretary of State was alluding to; the golden principle, where legislation is applied in a liberal way; and the mischief rule, which asks, “What is the mischief that the law intends to deal with?” The mischief we want to deal with in this debate is that we have teachers in our schools who are not qualified properly.
I accept fully that there are some teachers without qualifications who are brilliant. I also accept that there are people with qualifications who may not be as good, or even competent. That does not mean, however, that we should not continue to strive for what I call the gold standard, which is providing training to our teachers. A young teacher, or someone who has just qualified or graduated, may be excellent in their subject matter and have a first class honours degree, but the reality is that in most of our junior and secondary schools they will be faced with classes of 25 to 30 children, perhaps with various levels of learning. To set their classes, to deal with the issue of how to control the classroom, to identify which child may need extra help, and to look at pastoral care and whether a child is being neglected at home—those are all part and parcel of a teacher’s work. If teachers are not qualified and have not received training on these issues, how will they be able to identify them? How will they automatically be aware of what to do? That is where the importance of having some kind of training—we could have a debate on how long training should last—is surely crucial. I am therefore surprised that Government Members, in particular, are deriding the idea that teachers should be trained.
Members might think this is a bizarre example, but we would not let people operate on us if they were not fully qualified. A person might say, “Look, I’ve been in hospital for 10 years and guess what? I’ve doing all sorts of things. I didn’t pass my exam, but, because I know what I’m talking about, allow me to operate on you.” We would not accept that, so why are we willing to make that compromise with our children’s education? We accept that what we are trying to achieve will not stop the expert, the talented musician or the singer coming in and giving children lessons, but our provisions concern day-to-day teaching in a classroom, where the teacher will be there for a long time working with the children. The qualification needs to be good.
Members talked ad nauseam about private schools not having that many qualified teachers, or that they can do without them. One has to understand that private schools have a different standing. Most of the kids come from middle class, well-educated families who look after them at home. Those children are going to do very well most of the time in any event, so comparing private sector schools with state schools is wrong.
The most successful education systems, from the far east to Scandinavia, are those where teaching has the highest status as a profession. South Korea recruits from its top 5% of graduates and Finland from the top 10%, and both have demanding initial teacher education programmes, completion of which is required for entry into the profession. So why not in this country?
According to Ofsted, an
“outstanding teacher generally has exceptionally strong subject knowledge and exceptionally good interactions with students and children, which will enable them to demonstrate their learning and build on their learning. They will challenge the youngster to extend their thinking to go way beyond the normal yes/no answer. They will be people who inspire, who develop a strong sense of what students can do and have no limits in terms of their expectations of students.”
During its inquiry into teaching, the Education Select Committee took evidence from children who told us that the ability to make lessons engaging and innovative and to keep discipline in the classroom were priorities.
In the 2007 study, “How the world’s best-performing school systems came out on top”, McKinsey found that
“a high overall level of literacy and numeracy, strong interpersonal and communication skills, a willingness to learn, and the motivation to teach” were pre-identified characteristics used in successful education systems around the world for the recruitment of teachers. Those skills identified by our international competitors, Ofsted, McKinsey and our children need to be developed. To make the most of those skills, teachers need ongoing support and development, and that is the point of tonight’s motion.
When an Education Minister came before the Committee, they ruled out the introduction of performance-related pay.
Evidence to the Select Committee shows that, especially for children who lack support at home, the difference that a good or outstanding teacher can make compared with a mediocre or poor one is startling. For all pupils, there is a GCSE grade difference of more than one for those taught by the best teachers compared with those taught by the weakest. Research from Harvard and Columbia universities suggests that children taught by the best are more likely to participate in further education, to attend better colleges, to earn higher salaries and to save more for retirement.
We also have evidence from London Challenge of the difference that can be made by sustained investment in teaching and school leadership. The system of support and mentoring across London under the last Labour Government saw London’s schools move from below the national average to being the best in the country. The London Challenge included a significant emphasis on support and coaching for teachers and school leavers and led to a culture change across schools and the city—one in which many staff bought into the idea that their pupils would benefit if they worked on their own teaching performance.
As well as good teachers, we need good leaders. In any organisation, it is the leadership that sets the tone for how the staff operate, and schools are no different. Having a good leader who can get the best out of everyone is vital to ensuring that teaching is of the highest standard. Good leaders in schools can support unsatisfactory teachers and help them to become good, and those same leaders can inspire good teachers to become outstanding.
Teachers have told me that they should continue to work on their skills but that the profession should be driving the improvements, rather than having them imposed on it. Of course, that makes sense. If we help teachers to continue to develop throughout their careers, they are more likely to do so, which is why my hon. Friend is suggesting that we work with and be led by the profession. If teachers believe in what they are doing, they will be committed to their own development, and those same teachers told me that being qualified was a vital first step to ensuring the best standards in our schools. Subject knowledge is essential to the teaching of a subject, but it is not nearly enough.
I told the House earlier what Ofsted had said, what McKinsey had found, and what children have said that they want. All the evidence points in the same direction: those who want to be teachers need to be trained properly. Their training must ensure that they understand how to teach and how to enable children to learn, and—as most teachers tell me—it should continue, as an element of their ongoing desire to do the best that they can for the benefit of our children.
We last discussed this issue during the week after the broadcast of the last episode of the series “Educating Yorkshire”, and we are now discussing it during the week after that documentary was rightly recognised at the National Television Awards. However, notwithstanding the widespread recognition that it has received, the Secretary of State is still unable or unwilling to recognise the key fact that anyone who watched it—and, indeed, anyone who has spent any amount of time in schools and in the company of good teachers—knows all too well: that being a teacher is not about teaching a subject, but about teaching the class of children in front of you, and about supporting the development, academic or otherwise, of each child in that class.
Teaching is a test of pedagogy, not of memory. Deep knowledge is good, but it means nothing if a teacher cannot impart it in a meaningful way to all the children in the class, and for no group of children is that more important than those with special educational needs. During the three years for which I was a shadow Minister with responsibility for SEN, I engaged extensively with stakeholders large and small throughout the country, and the one observation that I heard time and again, from teachers as well as others, was that teachers are not given enough training in SEN as it is, during either their initial training or their continuing professional development. The fact that the Education Secretary thinks that someone who has had no training whatsoever is a suitable person to unlock learning for children with SEN is incomprehensible to me, and is surely contrary to all the best advice that he must have received.
Given the severe cuts in central local authority education teams, which include specialist teachers and workers such as educational psychologists who can provide peripatetic support, it is more important than ever for classroom teachers to know how to teach the entire class in front of them, not just the high achievers. Figures from the Department for Education, published last week, show that the attainment gap between SEN and non-SEN children is widening at GCSE level. That applies particularly to the EBacc measure, which is completely inaccessible to many children with SEN. That is a subject for an entire debate on another occasion, but suffice it to say in the present debate that more than one in four young people without an identified special educational need achieved the EBacc last year, compared with fewer than one in 20 with SEN.
The Government’s top priority must be to close the gap by improving outcomes, and the best way of doing that is to improve the quality of teaching rather than undermining it. The parents of children with SEN will rightly expect the people to whom they are asked to entrust the education of their children to have the capability and qualifications that will enable them to fulfil that role.
I speak as a former teacher and a former schools inspector, and as someone who returned to teaching. I spent many hours helping students who were engaged in teaching practice, newly qualified teachers, and those on the licensed teacher scheme. It is a real challenge to face, each day, six or seven groups of 30 pupils—as many as 210—some of whom do not want to be there, and some of whom are bound to want to cause trouble for a new teacher.
Qualified teacher status is vital. First, if we do not require it, we may risk causing significant damage to some children’s education, and inspections may not reveal that damage until two years after a school has been set up, which may be much too late. Secondly, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend Mrs Hodgson, we can all continue to learn and to improve our teaching techniques. More important, however, qualified teacher status can be part of the continuing professional development that features time and time again throughout a teacher’s career. That is why the revalidation of teachers is so important. It should be not just a requirement, but a right. It is nothing new; we have had appraisals, and we have had thresholds. Those things are important because they relate to the status of teachers throughout their career.
Fundamental to Labour’s plans for revalidation is consultation with the profession. Teachers, more than anyone, do not want to work alongside those who are sub-standard. They do not want to have to teach a class who have lost their motivation because the teacher who has just left the classroom was not up to standard. Therefore, we want to help those who are struggling, to help teachers to update their skills, but also to make it clear that updating skills is a requirement, not an optional extra. Most teachers in the profession would accept that.
We want criterion-referenced, not norm-referenced, judging of teachers. Norm-referenced means that one has to fail 5%. Criterion-referenced means that, if they reach the standard, that is the standard that we want. If they are good teachers, they can continue. Criterion-referencing should be the fundamental basis for any form of revalidation.
We also want to foster collaboration, not competition, within a school and among neighbouring schools. That was one of the successes of the London Challenge. We should avoid divisive policies where one school wants to outdo the school next door for marketing reasons and to do it down. If we are going to have genuine professional development among groups of schools, we need to ensure that we have not divisive, but collaborative policies.
We also need to look carefully at what we are doing for supply teachers because often they have to cover for absent staff for quite long periods and it can be difficult to train a supply teacher on the job. Therefore, supply teachers also need to have good opportunities for development and access to training.
Newly qualified teachers who have to do supply before they can get their QTS need special attention and special help, because moving from school to school to do that is no joke. Head teachers also need to have revalidation. Leadership is key and a weak head teacher can make a disaster of a school. We need the mechanisms to ensure that we do not wait for inspection to find that out, but find it out earlier, get the help in and ensure that the school is sorted.
It has been a good debate, although bizarrely one in which we have not been graced by the presence of the Government Minister responsible for teaching. Why is the Schools Minister not here? Is it an authorised or unauthorised absence? Will he be fined, as many parents are being fined around the country, for playing truant? We know that he is deeply conflicted about whether teachers in taxpayer-funded schools should be qualified. Last time we discussed the issue, I likened him to Odo the Shape-Shifter from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, but now having dissolved back into his bucket he seems to have re-emerged as the Invisible Man. The truth is that we have a part-time Schools Minister who is absent because he is performing his other job in the Cabinet Office of trying to hold the coalition together. He should be here in the House, answering for his policies in the Commons—even if he does not agree with his own policies, which when we last checked appeared to be his position.
The Government once tried to convince us that they understood the importance of teaching—they even released a White Paper with that title—but everything that they have done in office has been about an ideological obsession with structures and an easy headline about numbers of academies and free schools. They have undermined and neglected the teaching profession, alienated hard-working qualified professional educators and sent the morale of the profession into the cellar.
Last year, a survey conducted by YouGov found that 55% of teachers described their morale as “low” or “very low”. That figure had risen from 42% in just eight months. Sixty-nine per cent. said their morale had declined since the 2010 general election. Only 5% thought that the Government’s impact on the education system had been positive.
It may be that, for some of the lunatic fringe that the Secretary of State has employed as special advisers, those figures are fine because in their view teachers are just Marxist troublemakers, but they could not be more wrong. When YouGov asked teachers their voting intentions at the last general election, 33% said they would vote Tory, 32% Labour, and 27% Lib Dem. Actually, teachers—I think I am the only member of either Front Bench in either House who used to be a school teacher—are a politically moderate, sometimes conservative group of swing voters. However, the Secretary of State has worked his magic on them with his advisers. That important group of middle-class swing voters now says in the latest poll on teacher voting intentions by YouGov that the support among teachers for the Conservatives is down from 33% to 16%, the support for Labour is up from 32% to 57%, and the Lib Dems—actually, if their Minister cannot be bothered to turn up, I cannot be bothered to read out the figure. Let us just say that they are now neck and neck with the Greens and behind UKIP.
Teacher morale matters. Teachers’ professional status matters. The OECD has said in its PISA reports that schools in countries with high teacher morale
“tend to achieve better results”.
Teacher morale matters, not just politically but, more importantly, for the education of our country’s children. So why does the Secretary of State not understand that, by undermining the profession with his “anyone can teach” dogma, he is undermining standards in exactly the same way as they were undermined in Sweden?
Not at the moment.
We all remember the Secretary of State’s infatuation with the Swedish model. He even wrote about it in The Independent newspaper, under the headline “Michael Gove: We need a Swedish education system”. He was saying that we needed free schools—eventually to be run for profit, presumably, as in Sweden—and unqualified, low-paid teachers. His praise for Sweden was effusive. He went on to say that
“what has worked in Sweden can work here.”
We do not hear much about Sweden from him now. I think I can say, without fear of being accused by the statistics authority of abusing the PISA statistics—unlike the Secretary of State, who was rapped on the knuckles for doing so when talking about the PISA statistics for this country—that Sweden has plummeted down the PISA tables after pursuing the very reform programme that the Secretary of State is now adopting in this country, including the use of unqualified teachers. Perhaps the Chair of the Select Committee, Mr Stuart, might like to look at that evidence with his Committee. Sweden is now as invisible in the Secretary of State’s speeches and articles as the Schools Minister is in this debate on teaching.
It would be helpful if the Government were willing to tell us what qualifications the teachers have in the schools that are causing concern. I have asked him about the Al-Madinah free school in Derby. On
“Data on each qualification held by each teacher is not collected.”—[Hansard, 16 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 746W.]
I thought that that could not be right, so on
“publish in anonymised form the qualifications held by each member of the teaching staff at the Al-Madinah Free School” at the beginning of last September’s term. I was told:
Lloyd George was once driving around north Wales and he stopped his car to ask a Welsh farmer for directions. He said, “Where am I?”, and the farmer replied, “You’re in your car.” That is exactly the method used by the Department for Education to answer parliamentary questions. The answers are short, accurate and tell us absolutely nothing that we did not already know. The Secretary of State said today that he was going to release that information, and I know that he will do so because he is a man of his word. I look forward to receiving that information tomorrow.
A YouGov poll has shown that 89% of parents do not want their child to attend a school whose teachers do not have professional teaching qualifications. Before the Secretary of State goes on again about unqualified teachers in the private sector, he might want to reflect on the fact that the latest Ofsted report shows that 13% of schools in the selective fee-paying sector were judged “inadequate”.
As our motion says, no school system can surpass the quality of its teachers. Before I finish, I want to turn briefly to the issue of the South Leeds academy. The Secretary of State has kindly passed to me the letter that he received yesterday, which he presumably solicited ahead of this debate. In the letter, the academy accepts that it placed the advert to which my hon. Friend Tristram Hunt has referred, but says that it was
“placed in error by a new and inexperienced clerical assistant”.
We accept that explanation. What it also says in that letter, which the Secretary of State did not highlight, is that the academy trust involved says that the School Partnership Trust Academies
“always seeks to employ teachers with qualified teaching status.”
It agrees with us, not with the Secretary of State. We should be employing teachers with qualified teacher status. He is wrong; we are right, and the SPTA agrees with us on that issue.
Everything that my hon. Friend said was entirely accurate and has been confirmed by the letter. As I have said, we completely accept the explanation given in the letter. We accept everything that my hon. Friend has said, and the Secretary of State should accept that his support for unqualified teachers in taxpayer-funded schools is not supported by the School Partnership Trust Academies because it is wrong.
Given that the Secretary of State has given me some extra time, I will conclude my speech. As our motion says, no school system can surpass the quality of its teachers. That is why we need qualified quality professionals in our classrooms and better continuing professional development with revalidation to allow teachers to excel in their vocations. Yes, teaching is a vocation, as anyone who has watched programmes such as “Educating Yorkshire” or “Tough Young Teachers” or who has taught at any time in a school will know. That is why, despite the undermining of the teaching profession by the man who should be its greatest champion and advocate—the Education Secretary—teachers continue to put in hours long beyond their contractual obligations to help educate our children and build the future of this country. However, they cannot do that for ever without support and while being undermined, which is why we should strengthen, not weaken, their professional status, care about the time bomb of low morale, which this Secretary of State has armed, and pass this motion. Teachers and parents want a new direction and new leadership in education.
Under this Government, we have seen a huge improvement in the standing and attractiveness of the teaching profession, which is absolutely where it should be. New people are being attracted to teaching in droves. We now have one of the youngest teaching work forces in the developed world, with the exception of Indonesia and Brazil. Three-quarters of new teachers entering the profession either have a first or a 2:1 degree, which is the highest since records began. Teach First is now the largest recruiter of graduates in our country, and the programme has quadrupled. We are also extending it to more areas of the country and into early years. We all agree that teaching quality is the No.1 factor in education, and we are determined to raise standards, which is why we have improved the skills test, making it harder to pass. We have limited the number of re-sits that teachers can take. We are paying bursaries and scholarships up to a value of £25,000 in subjects such as maths, physics and chemistry. Last year, we recruited a record number of physics trainees.
What the Opposition are saying about the freedom to hire non-QTS teachers is a complete red herring. There are actually fewer teachers without QTS now than there were under Labour. If it was such a big issue for Labour MPs, why did they not do anything about it in their 13 years of government? There is also little difference between academies, where 96% of teachers are QTS, and maintained schools, where 97% of teachers are QTS. As the Chairman of the Education Committee said, there is simply no evidence that that is a problem in our system. We recognise the importance of empowering head teachers to enable innovation to take place. We do not believe in central diktat and box-ticking, which is what we had under the previous Government. That is why we are reforming teacher pay and conditions and giving schools and head teachers the ability to reward good performance with performance-related pay, although there does not seem to be much agreement on the Opposition Benches about whether that is a good idea.
We can see that schools are using their freedom to do things differently. In the constituency of my hon. Friend Simon Wright, the Sir Isaac Newton free school, which offers maths and science for 16 to 18-year-olds, has hired a psychology lecturer from the university of East Anglia to teach seminars that introduce students to complex concepts and research. That is only possible because they can hire that person even though they do not have QTS. Many schools are using subject expertise to find the extra people that they need.
I agreed with Stephen Twigg when he said that there had been too much centralisation and too much of the “invented in Whitehall” mentality. That is why we have put in place a school-led system and why we have had 50 teachers over in Shanghai learning about CPD, peer research and open-door policies from their colleagues in the teaching profession. That is why we are interested in the idea of the royal college of teaching. It must be independent and we would consider funding a good proposition, but the important thing is that it must be school-led and head teachers must be empowered to make the decisions.
Under the previous Government, we had an approach that decided that Whitehall and the Secretary of State knew best. We had centrally driven initiatives, such as the national strategies, that included chunking and told teachers how they should teach. Rather than empowering teachers, they deskilled them. As the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has said, that led to shocking levels of English and Maths among jobseekers.
In PISA 2012, England showed no improvement in maths or reading during Labour’s period in office. Adult skills among the young people who are leaving school now are better than those for the generation who are retiring. The only good idea the Opposition had in government—academies giving head teachers more freedom—is the idea that they are keenest to deny when it comes to the crunch. The success of these schools shows the importance of freedom within a strong framework of accountability. We have already seen huge improvements since 2010, and 250,000 students are no longer in underperforming schools. We have seen a 60% increase in students taking rigorous English baccalaureate GCSEs. I know that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central supports them and I welcome a new pronouncement on that.
The Opposition should not be seeking to undermine those freedoms that deliver better outcomes for our young people. I urge Members to vote for the amendment, which continues the programme we have developed to allow schools and head teachers to decide how best to organise and run their schools. The whole issue of QTS is a red herring. There were more unqualified teachers in schools under Labour than there are now. In fact, the number of teachers without QTS in academies has halved since 2010.
The Opposition’s evidence is baseless and they need to think again about their policies, which will simply involve implementing more box ticking across the country.
Question accordingly agreed to.
The Speaker declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to (
That this House notes that the Coalition Government is committed to raising the quality and status of teaching; acknowledges the significant progress made since 2010 in achieving those aims; recognises that the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister believes that all state-funded schools should employ teachers with or working towards Qualified Teacher Status; also recognises that the part of the Coalition led by the Prime Minister believes that free schools and academies should retain the freedom to hire the best teachers regardless of whether they hold Qualified Teacher Status; and registers the fact that the number of teachers without Qualified Teacher Status has fallen under this Government.