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Teaching Quality

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform) 5:20 pm, 29th January 2014

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.