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Teaching Quality

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood 5:41 pm, 29th January 2014

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.