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Teaching Quality

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 6:13 pm, 29th January 2014

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.