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Teaching Quality

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Chair, Education Committee 5:11 pm, 29th January 2014

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.