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Teaching Quality

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme – in the House of Commons at 6:38 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales) 6:38 pm, 29th January 2014

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.