Teachers: Academies and Free Schools - Question for Short Debate

– in the House of Lords at 6:29 pm on 12th September 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education) 6:29 pm, 12th September 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to ensure that all teachers at academies and free schools are fully qualified.

Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have put their name down to speak in this debate.

There was a record number of 456,000 full-time equivalent teachers in state-funded schools in 2015, but retaining working-age teachers is becoming harder. The proportion of teachers leaving for reasons other than retirement is increasing. The number of teachers entering initial teacher training has been below the Government’s annual target for the past four years. In certain subjects, such as maths and physics, there has been a real problem of recruitment. The number of pupils is projected to grow by 13% between 2015 and 2024, adding another 900,000 pupils to the school system, so 50,000 new teachers will be required on top of those trainee teachers replacing leaving or retiring teachers. As I said, secondary schools face particular challenges in retaining teachers in sciences, languages and geography. However, Governments have always got it wrong on rising and falling birth rates—they have never been able to manage it properly.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect is not just recruitment and retention—it is how teachers feel about their jobs. The National Foundation for Educational Research has just published a report entitled Engaging Teachers: NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention. Every time we reorganise a school, bring in a new curriculum, change the exam system or alter the testing regime, it has an effect on teacher morale; it has an effect on their confidence and, actually, their well-being. It goes without saying that teachers who have had their morale knocked out of them will feel undervalued and not give of their best or be the excellent teachers that they should be. What can we do about it? Every time there is a minor change in your Lordships’ House many Peers are incensed. Imagine how we would feel if we had constant change here, and imagine how teachers feel.

In its February 2016 report, Training New Teachers, the National Audit Office called on the Department for Education to show that arrangements for training teachers,

“are more cost-effective than alternative expenditure, for instance on improving retention”.

It is not very cost-effective to spend considerable sums on training someone to be a teacher if they resign a few years later, when there will be the additional cost of training a new teacher to replace them.

I was recollecting—which is perhaps dangerous for me—that when I first started teaching I was responsible for what were called “top juniors”, the group of young pupils who would be entered for the 11-plus. In those days, there were grammar schools, secondary moderns and technical colleges, and then comprehensives were established. Then schools and colleges were allowed to develop specialisms, whether in languages, sciences or PE. My wife’s school became a specialist PE college, and luckily for her she was a PE teacher. Then there were academies: city academies and then academies—standalone or in multi-academy chains. As we know, 70% of our non-selective or independent schools are academies. You can give schools different names or different structures but what really matters is not the type of school but the quality of the school leadership and—most important of all—the quality and professional expertise of the teachers.

I have often said in this House that if a pupil in a primary school has a poor or mediocre teacher one year, they will not be able to repeat that year. If the pupil is learning a subject in secondary school and has a poor or mediocre teacher, he or she will probably be in danger of failing that subject.

In recent years, every time the PISA tables were announced, perhaps our most radical Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove—perhaps I do him a disservice—constantly lauded the Finnish education system for its approach to education and learning. Great! In Finland, they recognise the importance of teachers. Teachers are valued and respected and, importantly, are not allowed to teach unless they have a master’s degree. By the way, in Finland there are no tests and testing regimes until pupils reach the age of 16. In this country, whether you are a pupil in an academy, a maintained school, a church school or a grammar school, the quality of the teacher really matters.

As I said, academies were first set up by the last Labour Government as an education strategy to improve educational standards, particularly in disadvantaged communities and areas of poor education, and drive up standards by replacing failing schools in struggling LAs. Originally, they were called city academies. Academies are not obliged to follow the national curriculum and are not accountable to their local community but directly to the Minister’s department via eight regional commissioners. They are not obliged to include parents or teachers as governors, can set their own salary scales and terms and conditions for staff and can employ unqualified teachers.

Pay and conditions are about not just the amount that teachers get paid but include sick pay, the structure of school holidays, starting salaries, salary structure, pay progression, chief executive salaries, probationary arrangements, teacher qualifications, rules about people taking redundancy pay and disciplinary and grievance procedures. If we do not have a nationally agreed scheme which applies to every type of school, we will end up with a free-for-all in education and—some with a particular political bent might like this—a free market economy. We have already seen that some academies are paying differential rates of pay so they can attract teachers in shortage subjects. However, if you pay more salary to one type of teacher, other teachers will get less. Just as the coalition Government fought against regional pay, so we should fight against a divisive system in pay.

Academies’ freedom to control staff pay has resulted in many senior staff receiving bloated six-figure salaries. Indeed, chief executives of academies are on a financial wheel of fortune for their remuneration, with a salary of £300,000-plus having been paid. Perhaps those Conservative Back-Benchers in the other place who want the salaries of the BBC’s top earners to be published should insist that the salaries of the top earners in academies are published as well.

Free schools and academies have been able to employ teachers without academic or professional qualifications since 2012. Since June 2015, the number of unqualified teachers working in academies has risen by 20%. In 2012, 2,320 academies that opened had funding arrangements requiring them to employ only teachers with qualified teacher status, similar to maintained schools. However, in September 2015, Schools Week reported that 34 academies had been granted permission to amend their agreements so that they could take unqualified staff. Will the Minister please ensure that all new academies have funding arrangements requiring them to employ fully qualified staff, and that any chances are taken only in exceptional circumstances?

There are a variety of different routes into the teaching profession, ranging from postgraduate certificates based at universities to School Direct, which, as the name suggests, focuses on training at the chalkface, to Teach First. Making sure that you are properly trained and qualified before you step into the classroom and have responsibility for the minds of children and young people must be an essential requirement. Teaching is not something that you just drift into without fully understanding what you are doing. Like any other profession, teaching requires a bank of knowledge and skills that cannot just be picked up as you go along. If you teach young children, you need to understand child development. Every teacher needs to be able to identify different special educational needs, and to understand child behaviour management and safeguarding —the list goes on.

If I go into a hospital, I want the doctors who treat me to have completed their training before they turn their attention to me. If one of them says, “I have a great bedside manner but haven’t yet finished the section on anatomy”, that will not fill me with great confidence. To be thrown in at the deep end is a route to frustration and uncertainty. Students deserve the best we can offer. We definitely want those with natural aptitude to go into teaching, but that aptitude needs to be refined and developed through proper training. I suspect that if it was a legal requirement for academies, or indeed any school, to have to identify in their school prospectus those teachers who had not been fully trained, there would be a sharp reduction in the number of unqualified teachers.

In my remaining time I will quickly mention two other things. We also need—perhaps the Minister could address this—first-class professional development for all teachers. Once you qualify or start teaching, we need to ensure that that professional development is not left to an academy chain or individuals. We need to look at a proper system of professional development for all our teachers. What happened to the idea of a royal college for teachers?

I end with a quote I picked up the other day, from a teacher, Mike Britland, who said:

“Every time the government opens its mouth about education, every teacher cringes”.

Let government open its mouth with care and consideration and in the interests of all teachers and children.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Yardley Baroness Morris of Yardley Labour 6:42 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for bringing this debate to the House. It is important, and I start by saying that I agreed with the thrust of his arguments. Although I might quibble over a detail or two, I am basically on his side on this issue. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Finn. I know that she brings a wealth of policy experience and advice to this House and I look forward to watching how she changes from being an adviser to a policymaker. I wish her well and look forward to her speech.

I will start on quite a generous note, given that I agree with the thrust of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Storey. I understand or accept some of the assumptions and concerns that underpin this policy; I faced these things when I was in the noble Lord’s position as an Education Minister. I cannot argue that there are not individuals with a set of skills, usually around subject knowledge, whom I would welcome teaching my children if I had children, or teaching in my school if I was a head teacher. Why would I not want my child to be coached by somebody who is a marvellous football coach or taught music by a marvellous musician? Why would I not assume that the skills and knowledge of a recently trained coder are probably more up to date than those of the IT technology teacher who trained 10 years ago? I accept that and I would like to think that there is a way of bringing those people’s skills to our classroom. However, I fundamentally disagree with the way that the Government have brought this about by saying that teachers in academies and free schools do not need any qualifications at all.

Let us be clear what that means. If we assume that the White Paper that was launched in June is still government policy—I am not sure about that—we will in four years reach a situation where every school is an academy or every school is a free school. That means that every school, no matter whether it is good or bad, whether it has a strong or a weak head or has been rated outstanding or failing in its Ofsted inspection, will be allowed to employ people to teach any subject to any group of people, in any context and in any environment.

That is what we have; that law has been made to accommodate the wish to get a small number of people with specialist skills into the classroom. That is what I am against, and that is why this is such a dangerous policy. It is so dangerous because, whatever else we disagree on across this House, I think that we have all come to the knowledge and understanding that the quality of teaching matters. Call a school what you like, but at the end of the day, the school leader and the school teacher will make the difference.

I have already acknowledged that subject matter is important. You can have all the pedagogical skills in the world but, if you do not know your subject, you are not going to be a good teacher. But the reverse is true as well. You can have all the knowledge in the world but, if you do not know the pedagogy, you are not going to be a good teacher. If you do not know how to keep discipline, you are not going to be a good teacher; if you do not know the skill of asking questions of children in different ways, you are not going to be a good teacher; if you do not know about special educational needs and the needs of statemented children, you are not going to be a good teacher; if you do not know how to assess and feed back, which evidence shows to be the most important thing for a teacher to do well, you will not make a good teacher.

My argument is that you can bring somebody with specialist knowledge into a school, but the other things that make them a good teacher will be things they learn through training to be a teacher. That is what you learn when you get qualified teacher status. I know very few people who could come to the classroom with both the specialist knowledge and all those sets of skills. Essentially, that is why I am so opposed to this policy.

We live in a time when the qualifications of a profession mark out the way that society views it. Many of our top professions require people to have the highest qualifications. For example, they take people from Russell group universities and want people with first-class degrees. Whether or not that makes them better at their job is irrelevant to this argument. It is a mark of the value that society places on the job that they do. Why would we not want the same for the people who teach the next generation? Why would we not want to send the message that they are so important that they need a qualification to do the job? The only senior job I can think of for which you do not need a qualification is that of politician. If this is about making all teachers as skilled, knowledgeable and good as politicians, perhaps that is another reason to think again.

In a way, the Government have acknowledged this. Chapter 2 of the White Paper published in June was particularly good: “Great teachers—everywhere they’re needed”. If you look at the policies in that chapter, you will find few with which I would argue: replace qualified teacher status with a stronger, more challenging accreditation; have only excellent heads approving sign-off for people who get QTS; strengthen training providers; increase ITT content; introduce a qualification for school leaders. All that is in the Government’s White Paper on what makes a good school and what makes a good teacher. If it is so important that it is in a policy document, how can the Government follow that up by saying that it is not needed by everybody who enters the teaching profession?

There are ways in which we can allow people with specialist knowledge and attributes to quickly get a QTS. I do not want to put them through slow routes that bore them and keep them out of the classroom longer than necessary. In my day in the department, we had the graduate teacher route and the registered teacher route, both of which were abolished by the coalition Government. Those routes meant that, if you had that subject knowledge, you could go into a school straight away but would train and get your QTS at the end of one or two years. That is the debate that we should be having about how we can fast-track into the classroom people with a good level of knowledge but without teaching knowledge.

I welcome anybody who wants to come into teaching and has something to offer children. But anybody who wants to enter one of the most important professions in this country should put their hand up and say that they are prepared to get the qualification that society deems important for doing that job. So having looked at both sides—those who are becoming teachers and the Government as the safeguarder of standards—I think that no one should be allowed in our schools if they do not have QTS, or if they are not at least working towards getting it in the foreseeable future.

Photo of Baroness Finn Baroness Finn Conservative 6:48 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on securing this important debate and laying out the issues so clearly. I should also say how daunted I am to be speaking in the same debate as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, who is a hugely distinguished former Education Secretary.

I am both honoured and amazed to be here today as a Member of your Lordships’ House. It is an enormous honour to have a voice in this Chamber and to contribute to its deliberations. The House plays a crucial reflective role in legislation. I have learned, from personal experience of the recent Trade Union Act, that legislation leaves this House in a far better place than it started.

My thanks go to noble Lords on all sides of the House for their kind advice and for making me feel so welcome. I also thank all the officials of the House. They have tolerated my appalling sense of geography and ignorance of the rules with good humour and unfailing politeness. I have been incredibly fortunate in having the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, as my mentor and thank him for his bravery in taking me on. I am especially indebted to my supporters, my noble friends Lord Howell of Guildford and Lord Maude of Horsham. Both have played an important part in my life. My noble friend Lord Howell and his wife gave me shelter when I first came down from university, and it was a privilege to play a part in my noble friend Lord Maude’s revolutionary reforms in the Cabinet Office. Like the good Conservative that he is, he taught me always to question the status quo—although he might now regret urging me to be more assertive.

I am amazed because my story starts far from this House. My father’s family defected from communist Czechoslovakia. My mother brought us up in her native Swansea, a wonderful city whose name I now proudly bear. I hope to add my voice to make a reality of the Swansea tidal lagoon. Using ground-breaking technology, this innovative project will provide sustainable energy and bring much-needed investment and regeneration to this part of Wales.

My journey owes everything to education. Low academic attainment and low aspiration were issues raised in a recent report on why so few Welsh youngsters were applying to Oxford and Cambridge universities. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my Swansea comprehensive bucked this trend and got 10 to 15 pupils a year into Oxbridge. Many, including the economist Sir Andrew Dilnot and the writer Russell T Davies, reached the top of their professions. These results were down to some outstanding teachers; and one in particular, Iris Williams, made it her job to get as many of us as possible to apply to Oxbridge from a part of Swansea where there was no such tradition.

We were all Iris’s children and owe her a great debt. As one former pupil recalls, “Big hair, big character. She stood out and stood up for academic excellence”. Iris believed that her “children” were as good as anyone else and raised our level of aspiration and taught us to value education as a means of opening up opportunities and freedoms. She got to know admissions tutors, introduced lunch-time lectures, matched candidates to colleges and personally drove pupils to visit them. She mentored us and broke down the obstacles. Life chances are not about levelling down but creating the spaces and removing the barriers. We did not get into the best universities because they lowered their high standards to meet arbitrary quotas. We knew that we had passed on our merits.

Many years later, when seeking to increase diversity in public appointments, my noble friend Lord Maude and I applied the same principle of removing barriers rather than setting artificial targets. Working with an exceptional civil servant, Sue Gray, we examined the reasons why women too rarely secured such appointments and sought to tackle the underlying issues. We removed arcane jargon from application forms, emphasised ability as well as long experience, held events to broaden the range of capable candidates, and found people to mentor them. The results have been outstanding—the percentage of new appointments to women leapt to over 45% last year, compared with 36% five years ago. We applied the same ruthless focus backed up by rigorous research when tackling the diversity deficit in the Civil Service. The research examined the underlying problems in the Civil Service’s culture to ensure that the core principle of recruitment and promotion on merit was not compromised by patronage and a narrow focus on quotas and targets.

I have no idea what formal qualifications were held by the teachers who set me on the journey that has brought me to your Lordships’ House. I do know that what sets them apart, like all great teachers, is a passion for their academic subject; an insistence on excellence; empathy with the boys and girls in their charge; and a determination to raise their eyes to the far horizon and to believe that nothing is beyond their reach.

Photo of Baroness Wolf of Dulwich Baroness Wolf of Dulwich Crossbench 6:54 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, it is a great privilege to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Finn, on her excellent maiden speech. Everyone here knows how difficult it can be to get things done in government quickly and effectively given the nature of the modern governmental beast, and how central advisers are to that task. I know that every senior civil servant will agree on this. The noble Baroness brings from her government service a wealth of experience in getting things done in government that will be invaluable to the crucial role of this House of detailed legislative scrutiny. I am sure that we all look forward very much to her future contributions to our debates.

I need to declare two interests with respect to this Question for Short Debate: as a founding governor of King’s College London Mathematics School, to which I will return; and as the author of a report, the Wolf Review of Vocational Education, which had some direct influence on current government policies on qualified teachers. I still stand by the recommendations I made in that report but, before explaining what they were and why I made them, I turn to the question of what it means to be qualified.

Of course we all want teachers to be qualified. If you do that useful trick of turning a question around and asking people how they would feel about the Government increasing the number of unqualified teachers, you would probably find them looking at you as though you were about to lose your faculties. But I wonder how many people outside the world of education understand fully what the term “qualified teacher” means. I am sure that everyone in this Chamber knows, but I have been struck by the fact that most people tend to assume that the term encapsulates within it a great deal about subject knowledge and mastery of the subject being taught. But having qualified teacher status is about whether someone has gone through training as a teacher. In our current system, someone is able to teach a subject in which they have no formal academic or professional expertise or qualifications as long as they have qualified teacher status. I think that these are very different things and that we should worry a great deal more than we appear to about how many teachers in our system are not qualified in the sense of having a full mastery of the areas in which they teach.

Perhaps I may quote in their rather turgid form the two recommendations I made in the Review of Vocational Education, which I submitted to the then Government in 2011 and they accepted in full. The first ran as follows:

“At present teachers with QTS can teach in FE colleges; the FE equivalent—QTLS—should be recognised in schools, which is currently not the case. This will enable schools to recruit qualified professionals to teach courses at school level … with clear efficiency gains”.

There are more than efficiency gains, but that is what I wrote. The reason I had to make that recommendation was because there had been such resistance in the schools sector to recognising the qualified teacher status of people in FE, and this is an issue to which I will return in a moment.

The second relevant qualification stated that the Government should:

“Clarify and evaluate rules relating to the teaching of vocational content by qualified professionals who are not primarily teachers/do not hold QTLS. Many schools believe that it is impossible to bring professionals in to demonstrate/teach even part of a course without requiring the presence of additional, salaried teaching staff. This further reduces the incidence of high quality vocational teaching, delivered to the standards that industries actually require”.

Why was this so important? It relates to the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. We are systematically excluding people from classrooms who have the skills, knowledge and expertise that we need because they do not have QTS and there is no obvious way for the schools concerned to get around it. This is more of a problem in the highly specialised areas than it is in mainstream education. We have to realise that if people have to spend two years getting qualified teacher status, which is a long route, they will not come into teaching even though they have genuine and important expertise. In the vocational and technical areas, which are what interest me most, you want people in classrooms and workshops whose main occupation or career is not teaching, but who can bring with them the up-to-date, high-level skills and expertise that are needed.

That was why I made these recommendations. I must underline at this point that the schools’ objections for many years to recognising any other form of QTS are not something they should be proud of. Also, this is not just about vocational skills. I mentioned that I am a founding governor of King’s College London Mathematics School, which is a free school and takes highly talented young 16 to 19 year-olds from across London to give them, in our view, a high-quality mathematics education. We expect our full-time teachers to have QTS. We think that that is important to their careers and that, in the programmes we send them on, it really increases their skills and capabilities. However, it is absolutely important to us that we should also be able to bring in highly skilled and qualified mathematicians at the top of their game without having to worry that, when Ofsted comes to call, we will be told we have done something we should not. There is a major issue here and no simple way round it.

I also worry about a blanket demand for this. The evidence for such demands for qualification or licensing is not terribly encouraging. Morris Kleiner, the leading academic analyst of licensing, studied its impact on price and quality all around the world. He finds that the general result is to raise prices for ordinary people and increase salaries without any indication that you get a general improvement in quality. It tends to be promoted by practitioners. My favourite example, which is not an English one, is that in Michigan the state licensing board requires 1,460 days of training to become a licensed athletics trainer. A good number of American states also license beekeepers and ballroom dance instructors.

Obviously, there are things where you want a licence to be absolutely sure that people are actually able to do what they are doing. I doubt that anybody in this House would want people able to practise medicine who were not licensed and carefully regulated. Yet the skills they practise in medicine are the medical skills. We currently have a situation in this country—I reiterate this—in which you are allowed to teach maths without knowing anything very much about maths. That seems to be of far greater significance than the fact that, outside the academy and free school sector, you will not do it without QTS. That is the major issue.

In passing I say that, again to my great regret, the evidence on blanket requirements for further pedagogical training is somewhat depressing. It does not seem to have any guaranteed impact. That is not to say that it cannot do so. Rather, this is a very difficult issue and not one that you can solve by demanding pedagogical training for everybody.

To finish, I make the same point once again: we at least have more information on whether teachers are qualified to teach their subjects than we did 10 years ago. However, we still take far too lightly the threat to the quality of education from the number of teachers who teach, often unhappily, in subjects where they have very limited subject knowledge at a high level. Have the Government any plans to address that serious issue, which to my mind is more important than that of QTS?

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy Conservative 7:03 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for initiating this debate on a subject about which I care passionately. Before continuing, I bring noble Lords’ attention to my registered interests, in particular my role as founder and adviser to the Floreat Education Academies Trust, which operates both a free school and, as of today, two new academies.

It is a particular pleasure to speak after the typically compelling and funny maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Finn. I had the good fortune of working with my noble friend for our former Prime Minister—who sadly today announced his departure from politics. As anyone who knows my noble friend will testify, silence is not her trademark. It is fantastic that a change in circumstance means that she has finally been unleashed as a debating force in this House.

This debate is so important because, ultimately, the most significant determinant of the quality of a school is, as my noble friend Lady Finn expressed so movingly, the quality of teaching within it. Other things matter as well—parental attitudes, the rigour of the curriculum, good behaviour and so on—but education is a fundamentally human endeavour and it is the relationship between teacher and student that really counts. It is this insight that underpins the free school and academy programme. As Tony Blair eventually admitted in his autobiography, it is wrong to separate the pursuit of school standards from the desire to change school structures because one creates the conditions for the other. The purpose of the free school and academy programme is to provide teachers with the environment in which they are most likely to be the best versions of themselves.

Research tells us that in almost every leading education system around the world the trend has been to give heads and teachers more freedom. This is based on the fundamental view, with which I do not think anyone in this House would disagree, that professionals know better how to run schools than the Government. For example, the OECD has said that,

“the creation of more autonomous schools will lead to innovations in curriculum, instruction and governance, which in turn will improve outcomes”.

Similarly, the US academic Eric Hanushek has found that autonomy reforms improve student achievement in developed countries. It is for this reason—because heads, governors and teachers should be deciding the direction of a school, not bureaucrats and politicians —that free schools and academies have been given the freedom, if they want to use it, to employ unqualified teachers if they think that it is in the best interests of pupils.

As we can see from the useful House of Lords Library note accompanying this debate, the actual proportion of unqualified teachers in the system is fairly small—around 5% of the total—and has increased only slightly in recent years. We are hardly talking about an epidemic. I disagree with the description of this by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, as a dangerous policy. As I can tell the House from my own experience of hiring staff for Floreat schools, it is rarely the case that free school and academy providers set out to hire unqualified staff. Before our schools opened, this was something that parents inquired about—would we employ unqualified teachers? My answer was that we would always set out to hire qualified teachers but if the best person for the job did not have a qualification, we would do what was right for pupils, hire that person and then put them through the teacher qualification process. For example, if you are recruiting someone to teach four and five year-olds in reception and the best applicant is an excellent and highly trained nursery teacher who has been looking after three and four year-olds in a childcare setting but does not yet have QTS, it would clearly be wrong to prevent schools from appointing such a person.

The current system seems to provide an entirely sensible and practical solution, which has been made easier by the Government’s changes to increase the amount of teacher training that happens within schools. The School Direct and school-centred initial teacher training—SCITT—programmes mean that staff can gain their qualification while learning on the job. This must be the right approach: one that respects heads’ and teachers’ autonomy, and opens up non-conventional routes to would-be teachers but ensures that all staff have the right qualifications in the end. The development of this is precisely what is promised in the schools White Paper.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. How do free schools and academies actually perform? Some 26% of free schools were rated outstanding by Ofsted, compared to 20% of other schools, and the DfE has found that secondary converter academies previously graded good were more likely to improve and to retain their Ofsted grade than previously good maintained schools.

It is early days for both those programmes and, while I care deeply about giving heads and teachers the autonomy they need to flourish, I understand there is underperformance in some parts of the sector. However, enforcing a more draconian approach to recruiting unqualified staff is likely only to reduce the ability of free schools and academies to achieve excellence, rather than enhance it.

Photo of Baroness Greenfield Baroness Greenfield Crossbench 7:09 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Finn. I enjoyed her speech, wish her well and look forward to her further contributions. I also commend the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for the opportunity to debate this important and timely issue. I declare an interest as the recipient of a research grant from what was the Centre for British Teachers and is now the not-for-profit Education Development Trust. Our goal was to explore aspects of evidence-based teaching practice. At the time it was the first large-scale multifactorial controlled trial of an educational intervention, led by a collaboration between teachers and neuroscientists.

My basic point this evening is that evidence-based education theories should be integrated into teacher training, not just in academies and free schools but as part of a teacher’s qualifications wherever they practise their profession. Since 1987, funding has allowed local education authorities to train teachers. College courses have in general been reorganised to focus more on classroom strategies. This apprenticeship model has been positive overall: it stands to reason that a complex function such as teaching can be fully learned only by doing the actual job. However, there have been negative consequences, arguably such as the unintended implication that nothing can be learned from education theory.

It is completely possible nowadays to achieve qualified teacher status while employed in a school that is connected to no university, and with no coverage of learning theory or education research. It is also clear that there is a wide range of curricula on offer. Some courses take a broad view of education theory, which may include the psychology of learning integrated with the sociology of education, while others present an almost exclusively sociological view of schools and schooling. Moreover, education research in the main has been dominated by qualitative methods, with the occasional large-scale quantitative but uncontrolled analysis. To make matters worse, publicly funded education research initially appears in journals that teachers cannot readily access. In addition, little replication in education research takes place to confirm the findings in question—not least due to the tiny budgets available for projects compared to those in, say, my own area of medical research.

These challenges, together with a growth in research related to teacher effectiveness and pupil outcomes, have led to what has been called the evidence movement, or knowledge management movement, the culmination of which is exemplified by the work of the Education Endowment Foundation. It has commissioned more than 100 randomised controlled education trials in England. Then there is the initiative reported on in Closing the Gap: Test and Learn, which has delivered collaborative trials across nearly 1,000 schools in England. To have real value, these data surely need to be passed on to teachers—rookies and veterans alike. Perhaps one day there could be a more sophisticated teacher-training curriculum than at present, where research-informed topics would feature. For example, findings suggest that in-depth collaborations between teachers, schools and neuroscientists could yield substantial benefits in moving towards a more evidence-based culture in schools, as I have witnessed first-hand.

However, to attain this goal, specific techniques will need to be taught to teachers—be they trainees or more experienced—if they are to be effective. Continuous professional development is central to teaching as a profession but surveys suggest that it is unable to prevent a number of myths pervading the education system that are likely to be unhelpful and certainly costly. This is most notable for findings from my own field of neuroscience, as information is lost in the translation to education. For example, almost half of teachers in the UK apparently believe that we use only 10% of our brains. Yet were that to be the case, your Lordships may consider for a moment that we could readily witness up to 90% complete brain damage in individuals with no apparent malfunction. That is clearly not the case. An even greater number of teachers, an astonishing 93%, think that children learn better when taught in their preferred learning style—visual, auditory or kinaesthetic—despite no evidence at all to support this claim. Most important of all here, there needs to be training in scientific method and critical thinking more generally, so that teachers are equipped to evaluate both established and new ideas.

In addition to the content of CPD, there are concerns about the form it takes, namely: periodic inset days; generic workshops with little continuity or opportunity for application; the transfer of knowledge from so-called experts to teachers; and pull-out strategies or add-ons rather than integrated practice. These approaches are focused on fixing problems rather than developing the teacher. This may of course be a direct consequence of the current status of initial teacher training. However, different models of CPD have been proposed which, first, focus on raising the self-awareness of existing strengths and weaknesses; secondly, promote team activity; and, thirdly, encourage and financially support attendance at events and appropriate training for specific individuals. By involving teachers in devising bespoke development plans, it could be expected that they would engage more with the development process. However, where this is in doubt other options have been shown to increase engagement. For example, financial incentives for participating in specific CPD activities, with teachers earning stipends for demonstrating certain levels of competency, have already proved effective in upskilling teachers in core IT skills.

In conclusion, this approach, incorporating in particular evidence-based education theory, could foster engagement in teachers who would in turn have higher job satisfaction and commitment to their school, higher retention, which ultimately prevents skills loss and financial outlay on recruitment, and better individual and team performance, which would in turn enhance student outcomes. Most exciting of all, it would show the highest possible levels of innovation.

Photo of Lord Suri Lord Suri Conservative 7:15 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for securing the time for this important debate. Before I commence my speech, I express my appreciation for the valuable contribution by my noble friend Lady Finn.

Given the nature of recent events, the question of teachers in our schools is a critical one. This debate is part of a broader theme on one of the Government’s flagship priorities, the devolution agenda. I am delighted to see that the new Cabinet and Prime Minister feel that this is a policy platform that deserves to be held on to, and I look forward to working with the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make sure not just that this happens but that it is properly carried out.

There has been an immense amount of anger directed at the specific measure we are discussing. The National Union of Teachers has, not unsurprisingly, referred to teachers without teaching qualifications as “cheap alternatives” on its website, and the former Shadow Secretary of State for Education referred to unqualified teachers as a “policy without justification” in the other place.

I feel that such criticisms are unfounded and do not stack up with the complex reality of the new schools ecosystem that this Government have been ushering in since 2010. Pushing power down and out to governors, head teachers and parents has been an unqualified success, with 1.4 million more pupils in good and outstanding schools compared to 2010 and a 16% rise in good and outstanding schools over the same period.

When responsibility is placed in the hands of those we can trust to run our education system, hemming them into a restrictive pool of employees is not sensible. A number of new academies find that forcing prospective applicants to go through a teaching qualification can turn the brightest applicants off and cut selections down, stripping away significant numbers of applicants.

My noble friend Lord Baker has thrust forward the pioneering university technical college scheme, and his trust is to add 11 more schools by 2018, taking the total to 50. These schools are plugging the yawning skills gap that has held back economic growth in Britain since the 1980s. They are training the young engineers, scientists and researchers that Britain’s high-value service sector needs to grow. If we are to leave the EU, as the Prime Minister has said we will, these youngsters will become ever more critical to safeguarding our economic future. In order to provide the best technical education, these schools need to attract the best talent from our universities and firms. For a young graduate who may have offers from, say, Rolls-Royce or Pfizer, having to go through the route of getting another degree may turn them off the profession altogether. Surely noble Lords will see the foolishness of such a move.

I will finish on this point. I never attended school in Britain, nor did I receive my formal education here, but since coming to this country I have been fortunate enough to see the world-class education that some of our private schools offer and what makes them so attractive as a service to overseas clients. Being able to hire incredible people from the worlds of science, business and academia sets these schools apart. This Government have taken this strategy and offered it to academies with less-privileged pupils.

A crucial plank of building a country that works for everyone is making sure that all pupils can benefit from the same opportunities. Why deny a child in Etchinghill the same opportunities as a counterpart at Eton? It makes no sense if you are trying to make sure that equality of opportunity is more than a pithy soundbite. We must support the current policy of the Government because it is the real, egalitarian approach.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 7:20 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend for raising this subject, which is one we should have a look at every now and again. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Finn, on her maiden speech. As the first person from these Benches to speak after her, I feel sure that we will have much to discuss—and will hopefully even agree occasionally. That is about as much as we can realistically hope for, but occasional agreement is something we should always strive for.

This is an interesting subject on a very interesting day for education. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Nash, has had a fairly busy day; not quite as busy as that of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, but busy none the less. When we start to talk about what is required of a teacher, it is under the weight of expectation that we do not have qualified teachers or people who are trained to be teachers taking on some of the teaching roles in a number of our schools. The noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, said that those who are recruiting these people are not looking to have teachers who are not qualified but are merely trying to get the best person for the job.

The noble Lord, Lord Nash, said you might have somebody with a PhD—but I am afraid that when he said PhD or doctorate, I went back to my own higher education experience. There were some people who wrote brilliantly and published innovative work but whose lectures were an inducement to almost catatonic sleep. So the qualification itself is not always going to be sufficient to allow them into a classroom: a degree of knowledge on how to deliver information is also required. It is that balancing act that we have to deal with here. Certain people have these qualities naturally, but assessing that is incredibly difficult. The capacity for the cock-up school of history to establish itself becomes greater—there are no absolute guarantees, but it is always there.

I move on to a specific interest of mine. I must declare an interest here: I am dyslexic and president of the British Dyslexia Association. The fact is that at the moment special educational needs is underrepresented in any form of training. In certain places, on certain QTS courses, you get two hours. I do not know how many times I have said this, but I once described this to a friend outside as follows. “What does this mean?”, they asked. “Well, it is things like dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism et cetera. Those are the hidden ones you will find in very large numbers—maybe 20% of the class will have these to an extent”. They then turned round to me and said: “It would take me two hours to learn how to spell all those”. This is 20%, potentially, of a classroom.

At the moment, this is something which is not taught. You may not have not had any formal teacher training and you may get, say, three severe dyslexics in your class. They may be disruptive: a perfectly natural defensive strategy for somebody who struggles in a classroom is to disrupt that classroom so no teaching takes place and they are not exposed and vulnerable. It is a perfectly natural reaction. The other one is to go to sleep in the middle of a lesson and avoid everything. Whatever happens, the teacher has a legal obligation to teach those people and those around them. If you do not know how to address and engage that group because you do not understand those problems, you are guaranteeing failure, regardless of where you are.

We have talked much about selective education today. If selective education is to work, you must address that, otherwise you are consigning large numbers of groups to automatic failure when selection comes in. Unless you get some form of training for all teachers to be able to recognise these conditions, you are going to guarantee that you write off this group and possibly damage the education of those around them. Dyslexia is only the most common syndrome; there are also dyscalculia, dyspraxia and autism, particularly higher-functioning autism—a person who may not be able to socially interact with the class. If you cannot spot these conditions and, hopefully, engage with the parents, you have a problem.

I hope that we are at the right time to take action. I did some work on this issue, tabling a Private Member’s Bill and finding people who agreed with it. I then discovered that those involved in the Castle report, led by Stephen Munday, largely agreed with me, either because they met me and decided that the work I was leading and helping with in a group was great, or because they were going down the same path anyway and I was simply talking to the same people they were. The reason does not really matter; there was a degree of agreement there.

I hope the Minister will take on board the fact that I am prepared to help and communicate by leading the groups who have been spoken about today to the department to say that we should get this instituted. We should get these groups in and talk to them, and we should make sure that there is an enforcement package. If we do not, those groups that we are dealing with—the 20% who can disrupt the education of others—are not going to be addressed, and they will end up not only failing themselves but damaging the work of others.

This debate will be an opportunity for the Minister to tell me what is going to be done and that the department will engage with this issue. The time is right. We have a legal duty to teach these people. They are a huge part of our system. There are some, such as myself, who struggle through the system, either through good luck or with the help of the occasional brilliant person, but that is not enough. We are wasting too many people, and we are wasting the time of teachers who are putting in effort but doing the wrong thing and, on occasion, actually making the situation worse.

Surely it is time to act. Everyone agrees that this should happen. Two years ago I described this as “the bleeding obvious”. Hopefully, now it is time to enact this. Let us do it now. Whatever else we do, this will make life a little easier.

Photo of Lord Maude of Horsham Lord Maude of Horsham Conservative 7:27 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on securing this important debate.

I also congratulate my noble friend Lady Finn on a most accomplished and assured maiden speech. My noble friend was my special adviser in government for some five or six years. Too often, special advisers are dismissed as bag carriers who have little experience of the world outside politics. Leaving aside the fact that for us it was generally me carrying the bags, my noble friend has been far too modest to refer to her own professional qualifications as a practising chartered accountant, and her time as a regulator of the insurance industry and indeed as a negotiator for the UK in the European Union.

My noble friend’s financial experience and expertise—she was described by some newspaper as being brilliant with numbers—was very important in the work we did in the Cabinet Office, where over a period of five years we achieved savings in excess of £50 billion towards the reduction of the deficit. At that stage Whitehall was not replete with skills in financial management. My noble friend’s presence there certainly added a considerable amount to the total quantum of financial expertise, as indeed did her ability to develop important relationships of trust with senior trade union leaders as we reformed public sector pensions.

She referred to my encouragement to her to be more assertive. There is a serious point here: when people return to the workplace after a period out, and this is particularly true of mothers who take time out to look after children, their self-confidence can be seriously diminished. With hindsight, though, even I think my noble friend may have overcorrected. However, I hope that in this House she will continue to be assertive and that we will hear much more from her in the years ahead.

I attended a direct grant school. These were strange, hybrid creatures. They were independent schools but for most pupils, as for my brother and I, the fees were paid by the state. I have not yet heard any suggestion from the Government that direct grant schools are to be revived. Perhaps my noble friend will make an exciting announcement from the Dispatch Box later to complete a full hand for the day.

These schools were generally academically rigorous, and I was extremely lucky to benefit from that education. I suspect that no teachers when I was at school, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had formal teaching qualifications. Frankly, the quality of the teaching was variable. The brilliant teachers were brilliant. They tended to be a bit quirky and eccentric but deeply passionate about their subject.

With all due deference to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, I doubt whether it is clear that there is a correlation between holding formal teaching qualifications and the quality of teaching. In my experience, the people who unerringly distinguish between good and bad teachers are the pupils—the students—who always know which teachers are doing well and which are useless. One of the great developments in the decades since I was at school has been the growth of continuous professional development. In the days when I and others of your Lordships were at school, bad teachers were allowed to carry on for far too long. There was far too little readiness to take them out of the classroom for them to refresh their skills or get skills that they did not have.

I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Some years ago, I realised that when I was at school I suffered from a rather odd form of learning difficulty. I realised that only when one of my sons was diagnosed with the same phenomenon. In those days, it was not diagnosed or recognised; we were just regarded as disruptive and lazy—probably true in my case, anyway. I absolutely take the noble Lord’s point that, whether a teacher is formally qualified or not, it is vital that they know how to discern the telltale signs of a particular learning difficulty. As we know, highly intelligent, able children can be impeded by a learning difficulty.

I declare in passing a modest interest as a governor of Brighton College. I noticed the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, who is chairman of the governors, in the Chamber earlier. Brighton College was the sponsor of the London Academy of Excellence, which has in the space of just two or three years succeeded in getting unprecedented numbers of talented students from Newham—which is, as we know, one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country—into universities that are not only the best in Britain but among the very best world. It has been central to the success of the London Academy of Excellence that the independent schools that have sponsored it have been able to second brilliant teachers who may have no qualifications to teach at the LAE.

I urge on your Lordships and my noble friend that if we want to continue to break down the barriers between state education and independent schools, it is essential that teachers should be able to move freely between the sectors. I earnestly urge my noble friend to resist the blandishments to reverse the policy, which I believe has been beneficial.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 7:35 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I am pleased to offer my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for initiating this debate. I should also say that, certainly on these Benches, he took us by surprise when he shimmied from the Bar towards his seat while beginning his speech, having been caught slightly unawares. It was rather Sinatra-esque and I half expected “Start spreading the news” to emanate from his lips. He gave us a very good tour d’horizon on teaching qualifications, particularly in academies and free schools.

I also welcome to your Lordships’ House the noble Baroness, Lady Finn. I enjoyed her contribution which is clearly based on great experience, but I was slightly taken aback when she talked of her own school and said that she had no idea what the qualifications of her teachers were. Without being unkind and guessing her age, I should think that it is almost certain that at a maintained school they all had QTS. That is the point of this debate. Teachers with QTS clearly trained her very well for her subsequent career which is why people on this side of the House are very largely in favour of that remaining the case. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? The noble Baroness shakes her head but it was extremely unusual not to be qualified at that time.

All children deserve to be taught by qualified teachers and all parents have the right to expect that this will be the case when their child leaves for school, no matter the type of school—maintained, academy, free school or independent school. Let us not forget that the overwhelming majority of independent schoolteachers have QTS. In 2012 the Secretary of State, Mr Gove, who I notice was with us earlier but has now departed for dinner, allowed academies to appoint teachers without QTS. Parents and teachers saw this to some extent as a cost-cutting measure that could cause damage to children’s education, at least in the short term. Head teachers’ leaders were opposed to the change, and the National Association of Head Teachers described it as a significant backward step likely to damage the professionalism of teaching. Teaching is a skill and the idea of employing individuals who have not been given the tools to do a professional job flies in the face of the Government’s stated aspiration of creating more high-performing schools—an aim to which I unequivocally subscribe.

That is why the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, took my breath away. He concluded his speech with an astonishing remark—I paraphrase because I did not note him down word for word—that restricting academies and free schools from employing unqualified staff can only prevent them becoming better schools. That is perverse. By that logic, the perfect school would have no one with qualified teacher status at all. There may be some trust chief executive whose eyes would light up at that suggestion but it is surely not anything that could be argued for. If we want to improve the equality of schools, we ought to improve the quality of the teachers, as much as other aspects of the teaching. I like the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that if non-qualified staff in each school were to be identified, it would lead to a sharp reduction in their number. I agree, but I suspect it would also result in a sharp increase in the number of parents fairly quickly knocking on the door of the head teacher or the trust executive. Most parents, as I said, expect their children to be taught by somebody who has gone through proper training.

I accept that there could be a benefit for a particularly skilled individual in a subject. It could be sport, drama or music, but if that is the case, and there is an urgent need to employ that person immediately, why not do so on the basis that they will move to qualified teacher status while teaching? There is some controversy about on-the-job training with School Direct. I am not opposed to School Direct. If it brings more teachers into the profession, that is to be welcomed. Why not say that if someone is a particularly skilled individual that it will be part of the process of becoming a qualified teacher? It seems to me that that is important.

As the number of School Direct and other on-the job trainees increases, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of teachers who are working towards QTS, but it remains the case that there are unqualified teachers. I will not repeat the figures outlined already by noble Lords, but one figure really struck me. The noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, said there is not what he called an epidemic of unqualified teachers, but there are 22,500. If we were to stop the average man or woman in the street, far less the average parent, and ask, “How many unqualified teachers are in our schools?”, we would expect people to have a very much reduced figure in mind than that, if indeed they expected that any would be unqualified. The idea that it is not a large figure and is not increasing exponentially is not the issue. An awful lot of teachers are teaching with just good will and perhaps a knowledge of their subject, but not necessarily the ability to put it across. As the noble Lord, Lord Maude, said, it does not matter how well an individual knows his or her subject, if they cannot put it across effectively, the children will know fairly soon and that person will be exposed. Anybody who wants to teach should be prepared to go through the process.

Surely no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers. The most successful countries, from the Far East to Scandinavia, are those where teaching has the highest status as a profession. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, talked about Finland, which Mr Gove often highlighted. These are countries where teachers have status because they are properly qualified and understood to have gone through not just the university course but detailed training to be a teacher through regular criteria.

The QTS represents a formal set of skills, qualities and professional standards that are recognised as essential aspects of an effective educator. My noble friend Lady Morris made an outstanding contribution, drawing from her experience as Secretary of State; she said that unqualified teachers may have difficulty in coping with pupils with behavioural issues and special educational needs. They may be an expert on the subject specialism but lack the crucial classroom experience and pedagogical background needed to maximise children’s learning potential and properly support their educational development. That is a very important point, because it is impossible to guarantee consistency or quality of teaching unless the merits of QTS are universally recognised. That is why it is important that all schools, regardless of status, should adhere to the same criteria.

Earlier this year, the Government published a White Paper in which they proposed to replace QTS with what they described as a,

“stronger, more challenging accreditation based on a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, as judged by great schools”.

The Government’s proposals included putting head teachers in charge of accrediting new entrants into the teaching profession. That worries me with regard to academies, because it seems likely that a head teacher from another school would be likely to assess the ability of an individual teacher and there would be an interest for another head teacher from within that multiacademy trust in ensuring that the teacher got accredited status.

It is surely important that for many years teachers have had to get qualifications which everyone has understood underpins what they do in the classroom, interfacing with children. Again on the point made by my noble friend Lady Morris, nobody should teach in a state-funded school without QTS, or be working towards it. Children and their parents have the right to expect no less.

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 7:42 pm, 12th September 2016

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for bringing this Question for Short Debate. This is a very important issue, which as the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, has already pointed out, is often misunderstood. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions.

I start by making it absolutely clear that nothing in schools matters more than good teachers. Evidence from around the world shows that high-quality teachers are the single most important factor determining how well pupils do in school. We believe that all pupils, regardless of birth or background, should receive an excellent education wherever they are, and we cannot achieve that ambition without excellent teachers.

Academies are at the centre of our ambition to drive up standards of education. Our reforms are working. Over the past six years, we have more than 1.4 million more pupils in good and outstanding schools. In a somewhat tougher Ofsted inspection framework, the number of good and outstanding schools has gone up from 68% to 86%, as my noble friend Lord Suri pointed out. We have many more confident readers as a result of our phonics programme, and we have many more pupils leaving primary with the necessary literacy and numeracy skills that they need to succeed in secondary schools. We have doubled the number of pupils doing EBacc—and my noble friend Lord O’Shaughnessy quoted a number of other statistics in support of the academies programme. That is very much driven by the fact that we have empowered great leaders and teachers to take charge.

It is surely right that the head teacher of a school, who knows the school and its community best, should be able to employ the teachers he or she thinks will best serve the pupils of the school. That is what head teachers should be able to do. That is why, in 2012, the Government gave academies the power already enjoyed by free schools to employ teachers who do not hold qualified teacher status, where they judge it to be appropriate. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of teachers, 95.1% in state-funded schools and 94% in academies, hold QTS, and one-fifth of these are working towards QTS. Those figures suggest that heads are exercising their choice by continuing to employ a significant majority of teachers who have completed initial teacher training.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

What the noble Lord is saying is not without merit, but the point I made earlier was that if it is deemed appropriate to appoint an individual, why would you say to him or her: “Come and work in this school. It does not matter whether you qualify or not”? Surely it should be: “Come and work with us now, give us the benefit of your experience and, while you are doing that, work towards a qualification”. What is the reason for not doing that?

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

If the noble Lord will let me continue, I hope I will develop the answer to that question as I go on.

It is not surprising that this is happening as we have given head teachers much greater involvement in recruiting and training their own teachers, through our very popular School Direct programmes.

There is a big difference between not holding a particular qualification or status and not being accomplished in a particular field. An influential study by McKinsey suggested that teacher quality is a complex mixture of different attributes, including personal characteristics such as commitment, resilience, perseverance, motivation and, of course, sound subject knowledge. These are qualities which the teacher Iris Williams, who inspired my noble friend Lady Finn so well, clearly had in great abundance—

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

She may have had, but I am referring to a study on what McKinsey, based on worldwide evidence, think is most important for teachers. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Finn for her moving and inspiring speech. We need many more like Iris Williams.

One other way in which we are recruiting is through our Teach First programme, which brings teachers without QTS straight into the classroom. We have recruited just over 1,400 of these this year; 62% of them will be placed in schools outside London, many of them in cold spots where we have difficulty recruiting. Many Teach Firsters are helping transform our school system.

The freedoms that we have given academies and free schools around teacher qualifications are part of a broader policy of autonomy. Since 2010, we have given school leaders greater say over teachers’ pay and conditions and the curriculum they offer in their schools. We have even given school leaders and teachers the opportunity to open their own schools. I am extremely encouraged when I hear of schools making use of these freedoms to improve education for their pupils. For example, an academy in Barnsley has hired a published illustrator, without QTS, to teach art very successfully.

Many of our top schools, including independent schools—whose skills we intend to harness more greatly in our school system, as we have discussed several times recently in this House—employ many teachers without QTS. I know it will interest the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that the other day I was talking to the deputy head of one our leading independent schools, who happens to have a PhD in physics and does not have qualified teacher status. His school employs many teachers without qualified teacher status. He told me about his exam results: 90% of his pupils achieved five good GCSEs. When they talk about five good GCSEs in that school, they do not mean five A to C grades; they mean 90% achieving A* to A. I agree entirely with the points made by my noble friend Lord Maude about the importance in our reforms of freedom of movement between these two sectors.

The freedoms we have given schools over teacher qualifications were influenced by the Review of Vocational Education by the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, in 2011, which she referred to. I congratulate her on her excellent speech, which was full of truisms about the issue and international evidence. In some schools, the quality of education was suffering because it was often delivered in the absence of professionals with appropriate experience and expertise. Many schools were not even considering employing professionals from industry because they believed it was too difficult to do so. That is why, in addition to the freedoms we have given to academies and free schools, we have also made it easier for maintained schools to employ instructors—a type of teacher who has special qualifications and experience but not QTS. We also ensured that teachers qualified in the further education sector who hold QTLS are recognised as qualified teachers when they are employed in schools.

The Government recognise the enormous importance of pupils being taught by teachers who have a real depth of specialism in their subject or subjects. This point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf. It is always more challenging to recruit new teachers in some priority subjects such as maths and physics. That is why we have bursaries available of up to £30,000 in these subjects. Since 2010 we have increased the number of teachers in our schools with 2.1s or better from 63% to 75%. Some 18% of people entering teacher training now have a first, which is higher than ever, and we are putting in place support that trainees and existing teachers need to develop their subject knowledge specialism further. That includes new content for ITT that emphasises the importance of teaching a knowledge-rich curriculum, which is particularly important for pupils from a disadvantaged background who might not get that cultural capital at home, and we have designed programmes to enhance the subject knowledge of both specialist and non-specialist teachers. I hope noble Lords will be glad to hear that the latest data show that the proportion of hours recorded as taught by specialist teachers has increased in 2015 across all subjects.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for whom I have the deepest respect—she is very experienced—said that we have said that teachers in academies and free schools do not need any qualification at all. We have not said that; we just trust the heads to decide what qualifications are appropriate. She also said that this would enable a free-for-all where teachers could teach any subject to any group of people in any context in any environment. Of course, that is exactly what happens in many primary schools, where teachers have a very challenging task. I pay tribute to the way in which they so often rise to the challenge, and I spoke earlier today about the importance of primary education. It also, sadly, happens in secondary schools which cannot recruit teachers with the right subject. That is why we are so keen to see more subject-specific teaching in our schools by teachers qualified in that subject.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, talked about teacher training being a deep-end approach. I entirely agree. Far too often, that is exactly what has happened in QTS. We must remember that QTS takes nine months, that 65% happens in a school and that at the end of it there are no exams. That shows the importance we attach to training in school—which is why we have so much more training in schools. When I have interviewed newly qualified teachers and asked them, for example, where they learned about behaviour management, they have all said in schools, because that is how they learned it—except that people educated in South Africa say that they have one module in their ITT training on simulated behaviour management training and it is very important. I am delighted to see that our behaviour expert Tom Bennett and Sir Andrew Carter, in his review of ITT, have emphasised the importance of improved behaviour management in ITT.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, referred to our reforms mentioned in the White Paper, as did the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who said if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, we don’t think it’s broke but we certainly believe it can be improved substantially. We believe there is more we can do to help raise the status of the teaching profession to take its place alongside other learned professions such as law and medicine. As I say, it currently takes nine months. No one realistically considers a teacher fully qualified and fully proficient after nine months—that is why it is called initial teacher training. It is recognised that becoming a highly proficient teacher takes many years. I was recently talking to a leader of one of our unions who said he thought it took at least four years.

Of course, good schools in MATs have well-developed CPD programmes. I agree with my noble friend Lord Maude about the importance of CPD in this context. My noble friend also invited me to make an announcement about the reinstitution of direct grant schools, and earlier today the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said that he would not be surprised if there were more announcements. I am afraid that I have to disappoint my noble friend about that, but I agree with him about the importance of continuous development.

Under our proposed reforms to QTS in the White Paper, successful completion of initial teacher training would no longer result in a teacher being fully qualified. Rather, teachers would be required to demonstrate sustained proficiency in the classroom, which would continue to be judged against the teachers’ standards. I take the point that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, makes about the importance of the objectivity of the person who makes that judgment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, talked about the importance of evidence-based theories of education, which are so important. Recognising that requires a significant shift in the current situation. That is why we have worked with experts to produce a new framework of core content for initial teacher training and a new standard for teacher professional development, both of which were published earlier this year. These make it clear that trainees should be familiar with the most recent research and theories in education and view those with a critical eye, and that ongoing professional development should continue to be underpinned by the best evidence.

As well as these important developments, the Government are supporting the establishment of the College of Teaching—I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, will be pleased to hear that—expanding our network of teaching schools and working with the Education Endowment Foundation, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, talked about the importance of SEN. The additional freedoms given to academies and free schools to employ teachers without QTS do not extend to special academies. All state-funded mainstream schools are required to designate a member of staff as a SENCO, who must have QTS. The new Framework of Core Content for Initial Teacher Training published this July includes strong emphasis on ensuring that courses equip trainee teachers with the skills they need to support SEND pupils effectively in the classroom. I would be very happy to facilitate a meeting with the groups to which the noble Lord referred to discuss the importance of this further.

I again thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate. I emphasise that the Government are committed to ensuring that we have a high-quality teaching profession in which teachers and school leaders are given the respect that professionals deserve. They certainly deserve that because they do such an important job. That is why we have given heads much greater freedom to bring in the depth and breadth of teaching experience and expertise that they judge to be appropriate for the needs of their own pupils, whose needs, after all, they are surely best placed to judge.

House adjourned at 7.57 pm.