Schools: Unqualified Staff — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:13 pm on 4th November 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:13 pm, 4th November 2013

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for encouraging the employment of unqualified classroom teachers in state-funded schools.

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, we do not seek to encourage teachers without QTS. Indeed, under this Government, the number of teachers without QTS has gone down by 20% from the level of 18,600 it reached under the previous Government. By the Labour Party’s sole measure for this, we are therefore doing rather well. We merely seek to ensure that our children are taught by the best teachers, not just those with a particular qualification. Under a Labour Government, a teacher who had been teaching brilliantly for 30 years and who had a PhD in his subject but did not have that particular qualification would either have to get it or face the sack. How daft is that?

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on somewhat sidestepping the Question that I put to him. In passing, I also note that he did not refer to the fact that his right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister takes a different view from him on this matter, but perhaps I should not intrude on private grief. The point is that knowledge, enthusiasm and, indeed, natural gifts may be necessary but they are not sufficient in developing professional competence. Does he not accept that, somewhat against the tone that he took in responding to my noble friend Lady Blackstone a couple of weeks ago, to make this point is not to be dogmatic? I do not think that he would disagree with me if we were talking about train drivers or brain surgeons. Will he explain why teachers are an exception?

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, a number of studies, including a notable one in 2007 by McKinsey, have revealed that a more effective system of selecting teachers is based on things such as their level of literacy and numeracy, interpersonal skills, commitment, willingness to learn and passion for their subject. There is no evidence that teachers with QTS teach better than those without it.

Photo of Lord Quirk Lord Quirk Crossbench

My Lords, I am no great fan of the current teacher training in this country, but rather than go on allowing people to teach in the classroom with no such training at all—Mr Gove confessed last week that we still have 15,000 of them—why do the Government not insist on bringing our standards of teacher training up to those of the best high-performing jurisdictions in Europe and the world, which they rightly seek to emulate, thus giving those in our great teaching profession the qualifications which are truly worthy of them?

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, we are seeking to improve the quality of teacher training by bringing more of it into schools. We now have 357 teaching schools and more teachers being taught under SCITT programmes. Ofsted reports that 31% of SCITT courses are good or outstanding as opposed to only 13% for higher education establishments.

Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat

My noble friend the Minister is right to remind us that the number of unqualified teachers in our schools was higher under the Labour Government than it is now. That Government also allowed teaching assistants to teach classes. How does the Minister think we can ensure that qualified teachers get sufficient training to become the school leaders of the future?

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I agree entirely with my noble friend that this is very important and that we have to bring more young teachers into leadership. We trust head teachers to develop teachers in their schools through CPD. Many good schools and good academy chains have a very strong focus on doing this.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, the noble Lord may not have been around in 2001 during the passage of the Education Act 2002, and may be surprised to hear that not only his own party but the Liberal Democrats all voted against us when we said that all state schools should have qualified teachers, so I do not think we need any lectures from him on that. I think that most parents were shocked to hear that the Government have removed the requirement for teachers in all state schools to be qualified. Will the noble Lord explain why a Government who started off demanding higher qualifications have now gone completely into reverse gear and want the profession deskilled?

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, we have just been told by the OECD that our school leavers—Labour’s children—are among the most illiterate in the developed world. Indeed, we are the only country in the developed world where our school leavers’ grandparents were better educated than our school leavers were. We have also recently been told by Alan Milburn that we are the most socially immobile country in Europe. That is why we need to bring teachers from whatever field we can into our school system to improve it, rather than to be dictated to by dogma.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

My Lords, in spite of what the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, is it not crucial that truly qualified teachers are those who have a deep knowledge of their subject, a love of it and the ability to transmit that love enthusiastically to others?

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I entirely agree with my noble friend. This is absolutely true and there are many such excellent teachers in the independent sector, many of whom work in partnerships with the state sector. I know that the Labour Party does not like to hear about the independent sector, because it is truly world class—

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

It is not, actually; we have just been told that it has fallen well down the international league tables. Many of these independent schools quite voluntarily go into state schools and give lessons. Some of these teachers are unqualified; under Labour that will not be able to continue.