My Lords, it is a pleasure to move the debate on such an important subject, which attracts too little attention but which affects our children in so many ways: the quality of teaching, the well-being of teachers and the future supply of the right teachers in the right places.
This subject has so many aspects that I do not have time to cover some important areas: what should be added to or subtracted from a teacher’s workload; the pay and working conditions of teachers; the financial discrimination against state schools; and the squeezing out of creative subjects. Noting the vast experience of noble Lords who are taking part in the debate, I feel sure that these matters will be covered.
I have three reasons for maintaining an interest in initial teacher training. First, I was a teaching assistant in a primary school before going to university. It was a good experience for me; I am not so sure about the pupils. It helped me to decide that teaching was not for me. Secondly, I worked at the National Union of Teachers for a year immediately after university, supporting the great Fred Jarvis, who was publicity officer at the time and subsequently became general secretary of the NUT, so I am a fan of teachers. Thirdly, I worked at the University of London Institute of Education for 33 years as an administrator, and I have a university pension. It made me feel passionate about the university connection with teacher education and training—as passionately as some in No. 10 appear to be against.
The past 10 years have seen sweeping changes to initial teacher education and training, and I believe the system is confusing, wasteful and bureaucratic. It is trying to delineate teaching as a tightly drawn craft, rather than a profession, increasing the pressure on teachers without recognition or rewards, and risking teacher supply to the extent that I accuse the Government of irresponsibility.
I accept that successive Governments have often got it wrong. The policy objectives of short-term-thinking Governments often directly clash with the longer term requirements of ensuring teacher supply. I saw at first hand the closure and merger of scores of teacher training institutions, not necessarily because of quality but because a Government leaving office failed to bite the bullet; or because the department got its numbers wrong, or was correct but failed to convince the Government. One institution was told that it was closing on the day of its opening ceremony.
I acknowledge that this is a jargon-bound field of expertise with a nightmarish mountain of acronyms. Its obscurity means it receives little public attention and inadequate scrutiny in Parliament. I hope the Minister will not think that I am claiming solutions that are simple. I do say that it does no credit to any Government to set up the so-called market review in secret, only revealed in answer to a Parliamentary Question, or to have a consultation period over the summer vacation, or to take such irresponsible risks with teacher supply that 35 universities, accounting for 10,000 teacher training places, have threatened to withdraw from teacher training if some compromise to current thinking cannot be found.
DfE is making reassuring noises but we do not know who is actually going to win the ideological battle involving a highly centralised curriculum, where academic content is tightly controlled and every institution is forced to reapply for accreditation, or whether some compromise can be reached and a more realistic timetable agreed. Teachers are more than executive technicians, and the Government should acknowledge this in practice.
On Tuesday this week, the Minister, in answer to a question about freedom of speech in universities, said:
“The Government are clear that any restriction of lawful speech and academic freedom goes against the fundamental principles of English higher education.”—[Official Report, 16/11/21; col. 154.]
Let us hope that the “fundamental principles” also apply to university teacher education institutions.
One university provider told me that the Government
“want control of our work, the curriculum, partnership and mentoring.”
“would fundamentally change the nature of partnership. It would be more hierarchical and would limit the role of school-led policy which is the opposite of what the Government said it wanted.”
Many said that the early career framework had caused huge disruption, and while it was now settling down, schools have no further resources for mentoring and had to face the Covid pandemic at the same time. Schools did not have to be involved in teacher education, and it was increasingly difficult to find school placements.
On the subject of the early career framework, in answer to a question on
“been warmly welcomed by teachers, head teachers, unions.”—[
When extra funds are being doled out and they are the only game in town, one has to be cautious about the phrase “warmly welcomed”, in my view.
Until recently, student teachers responded well to their training experience. Ofsted figures showed a between 81% and 96% positive experience. Since the new Ofsted framework in May 2021, inspections have been much less positive, with 50% “requiring improvement” or “inadequate”. Former inspectors have expressed concern about the way these inspections have been carried out, with a belligerent or antagonistic approach by inspectors being reported, along with a failure to take account of the pressures experienced by providers in schools due to Covid, and a lack of understanding of the regulatory requirements that initial teacher training is subject to. Ofsted has admitted to being unable to substantiate the negative claims about ITE.
The proposed reaccreditation process is a bureaucratic, costly and unnecessary exercise which will lead to no improvement in teacher education and training. It is seen as a back-door method of weeding out the smaller SCITTs—school-centred initial teacher training—and pushing through a prescriptive curriculum on to ITE providers. Oxford University said it was
“deeply concerned about the academic integrity” of the proposal. The UCL Institute of Education said that the Government’s review
“presents teaching as general, easily replicated sequences of activities, based in a limited and set evidence base.”
The irony is that these institutions could decide not to be reaccredited. Thanks to Mr Gove and his able assistant Mr Cummings, 10 years ago qualified teacher status was separated to allow untrained and unqualified people to teach minority subjects in schools. A prestigious university could continue to offer the PGCE without qualified teacher status and still be certain of buoyant applications, particularly from the overseas market, and people could still teach in academies, free schools and the private sector. It is a naive question, I know, but why do these prescriptive proposals not apply to academies, free schools and private schools if they are so brilliant?
It is claimed that reforms to the ITE market structures will be needed to deliver the programme content and structure proposals, yet there is no evidence for this. New requirements on content and structures could be delivered by amending the Secretary of State’s requirement for ITE. This would avoid the costly and complicated proposed reaccreditation process, increased costs to the provider and the risk to teacher supply.
Any significant reduction in the number of accredited ITE providers would damage teacher supply. Many prospective teachers choose for family and financial reasons to attend an institution closer to home. Some wish to train at the university from which they graduated in their first degree. Some will choose an institution because of its reputation for research and pedagogical expertise. Other might prefer a SCITT provider focused on providing teachers for a particular local community.
Effective markets depend on choice and the market review acknowledges that it is already difficult for providers to secure sufficient placements, particularly in some key subjects such as physics and modern foreign languages. If schools are so stretched that they cannot accept placements, this in turn affects recruitment and is an artificial cap on numbers. It might be unintended, but that is the practical effect.
In 2016-17, the Government introduced recruitment controls to force the pace of change. They put a separate cap on universities’ share of places in order to favour the SCITTs and school-based programmes—ironically, the very areas that now feel most under the cosh. Universities had to stop recruiting before national targets were reached. The result of this half-baked experiment was disastrous. University recruitment was buoyant and SCITTs and school-based programmes could not deliver. There was a teacher recruitment crisis and the Government had to do a complete U-turn and ask universities to increase their numbers.
Partnership between schools and initial teaching training institutions works because relationships have been built up and developed over a number of years. Schools will be reluctant to build new relationships if this means having less ownership and control of the content and delivery of ITE. References to “school-led provision” are being overtaken now by the new “school-based” descriptor. Schools would have to enter into a more formalised, quasi-contractual relationship, which sits oddly with the Ofsted inspection framework about partnership being co-constructed and based on shared leadership.
I am grateful to the higher education institutions which have shared their thoughts with me, and particularly grateful to the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers—UCET—for its briefing.
In conclusion, I am looking for more than warm words from the Minister. Higher education institutions want a transparent and honest system that avoids duplication and extra cost, and a realistic assessment of what schools can offer in placements and mentoring, given their current resources. They are looking for compromise and genuine partnership with schools, not some quasi-judicial centralist system that threatens academic freedom and crushes innovation. I hope the Minister is able to agree to these aspirations and I very much look forward to the contributions to the debate.
My Lords, when talking about teacher training, I am always struck by the fact that schools and the teachers in them are often seen as the answer to all of the world’s problems. I cannot think of a single issue in society for which it has not been suggested, “Oh, put it in the curriculum. Teach it at schools”. This includes everything from household management, various forms of sexual health, sporting activity and manners—bits of society say, “Dump it on the teachers. They’ll take care of it”. We ask a lot of our teaching establishment. However, we ask them for one primary thing: the ability to learn, starting at school but carrying on throughout life, so that people can be trained and educated to give society the raw materials that it needs. This is a big ask.
The noble Baroness has brought forward a very timely debate for the simple reason that, at the moment, we seem to be in a very odd place. We have the idea that you should be trained within a school or classrooms primarily, but you should have some back-up at universities. But both will deliver this—and some can and some cannot, some work and some do not and we do not like what is going on. In the end, I am basically somewhat confused. I am not quite sure exactly what the Government want out of this—possibly changes and different suppliers.
My specifics on this—this will surprise absolutely no one in this debate—will be special educational needs. I must declare my interests: I am dyslexic and I am president of the British Dyslexia Association and chairman of an assistive tech company with origins in educational support. When I look through the problems that the teaching profession faces, I see that one of the biggest is that about 20% to 25% of the pupils whom they are teaching do not learn in a conventional manner. Dyslexia is the biggest group and the one that I belong to, but it ain’t the only show in town, and we have a nasty habit of having our troubles come not once but in numbers, or co-occurring—I think that “comorbidity” is the correct term, but it sounds like you are dying twice.
If someone with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia is placed in a conventional classroom, they are more difficult to teach. The teacher who has to deal with this has a different set of problems from those that they would confront in other pupils, and that is not the only combination that is available: there is the entire neuro- diverse community, autism, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, although we do not officially recognise that one—dyslexia with numbers is the way that it is always described to me by people—all of which will present problems to the teacher.
If the teacher gets it wrong, the pupil usually reacts in one of two ways. First—this is the easiest one to deal with—they try to disappear into the middle of the classroom. I heard a wonderful description of how a girl with attention deficit disorder usually hides, develops tics—playing with hair et cetera—and disappears in the background. But boys with dyslexia or attention deficit disorder tend to be the ones who disrupt the classroom because, if you are doing so, no one will teach you anything and you are not exposed as failing. Telling that child who has to get through the next two hours that their future, in 10 years’ time, will be blighted if they do not work properly does not work. Would it work for any of us?
How do we train people to get through? How do we make sure that the teacher’s day and the pupil’s day are bearable? We give them about two days or a day in the course of their training to deal with these massive, diverse problems, where the academics in the field—certainly in the last meeting I went to—use words that I have never heard, having dealt with this subject for over 30 years.
This is a difficult field. Unless one trains people properly, they cannot reach those groups. They have problems in the classroom that can result in failure. Remember what failure means in the current academic system: if one does not get the right number of people getting the right number of GCSEs, one will lose one’s status, and so on. That pressure is constantly being piled up.
Also, there is a case for taking the budget out of the mainstream to deal with this issue. It is about £6,000. Why do we not invest at least some of that money in making sure that people have better training? That will mean that school staff are trained within the system to be able to deal with issues next time, too. The training is not for the individual pupil but for the staff, and it should make sure that a normal teacher undergoes good awareness programmes whereby they can at least recognise most of the problems. There should be a day’s or two days’ training on four or five of the most commonly occurring conditions. That would take an enormous load off.
Then there should be investment in people who can back up and help those staff—two or three experts higher up in the school. That is not a big ask in a school of, say, 1,000 people. If that is done within the profession, the skills will be kept for the duration of the working lives of those staff. The skills will follow them around and can be redeployed and built on.
My noble friend Lord Storey has pulled me up—it is always annoying when an expert is on hand to correct you—saying that the issue is not that simple because, although courses do not cost that much, one has to take time out to train the staff. However, such training can be done and would still be cheaper and easier than what we are doing now. We have a huge problem of people fighting to get through the education and healthcare plans. They are expensive and usually kick in only once someone has failed. If we intervene correctly, we will be able to do more.
Lastly, let us have a look at the teaching of English. It has now been announced that systematic synthetic phonics is the right way in which to teach someone. It is reckoned that 25% of the school population does not learn well from that method. We are telling someone that this is the right way in which to teach when we know that it does not reach some groups. Should we provide more of the same if we do not have the expertise? Anywhere else would regard using the same method over and again as the definition of madness, but that is apparently not the case in education.
My Lords, first, I thank and congratulate my noble friend Lady Donaghy on bringing forward this debate. It is a big issue and the changes that the Government are proposing are worthy of more debate and consideration than they have given us the opportunity of in this House and the other place. This is an important debate.
Nothing in education is as important as teacher training and retention. If one does not have good-quality teachers teaching effectively, none of one’s other aims, ambitions and aspirations gets anywhere. This issue is crucial. The Government are right to look at how we can improve teacher training. It is not perfect and I would not stand here and argue that everything that has happened in the past should be maintained. I also agree with the point that they put forward that we ought to move to evidence-based practice. I am a great admirer of the Education Endowment Foundation; I count myself as one of its biggest supporters.
I am therefore with the Government on looking at the issue. However, I have significant concerns and criticisms of how they have handled it and where we are now. Essentially, this is a fragile system. I cannot think of any other of the great professions—teaching is a great profession—that has to train its practitioners in 38 weeks, 28 of which must be in a school. In any other profession that one cares to look at, training takes more than a year—perhaps four, five or six years. Teaching has to do it in 38 weeks and that makes the system fragile. At the core of this issue is the partnership between higher education institutions and schools. Both are essential.
My biggest concern is that the Government have managed, throughout this set of reforms and their previous announcements over the last few years, to give the impression that higher education does not have a significant contribution to make to the training of teachers. Both are important. Schools are crucial—students must be in schools to learn from best practice, to practise and hone their skills and to be familiar with working with children—but they also need experience of higher education. Teaching is not a technical job; it is a craft, in a way, but it is also more than that. Like any other profession, it has a history and an intellectual and academic background. Where we have got to now and how we got here due to the changes that happened in the past are crucial questions if you are going to be an effective teacher and take us forward.
The biggest problem with the plans put forward by the Government is that they give the impression that we need to train student teachers in what the evidence says is effective pedagogy at this moment in time. There is one promise you can make: that evidence will not be the same in 10 years’, five years’ or even one year’s time. Students should know what is best practice now and should be trained and educated in what pedagogical practice is proven to work, but they also have to have the background, skills and attitudes so that they can critique it and know where those ideas have come from, because they are the people who will develop the next best practice in pedagogy. Their research, their ability to evaluate their own practice and their understanding of how we got here and how we need to move forward require a set of skills that go beyond craft training. I do not object to students learning what evidence shows is good pedagogy at the moment—I am a great believer that pedagogy is all-important—but to bring through a generation of teachers who do not have that wider intellectual and economic academic underpinning to take us forward to the next stage of development is very remiss.
If we have learned one thing from the pandemic, it is that the context in which children live and learn has an impact on how well they do. Everyone knows now that the children’s social and home background affects the way that they learn, their emotional well-being determines how well they will do at school, and their psychological state of being has an influence on how effective teachers can be with them. All that learning about those academic disciplines must be part of teacher training.
Something else that universities can offer are links with other university departments. How good would it be if departments of universities that look at health, sociology or psychology could input into teacher training? I am not saying that that is more important than learning in the classroom, nor that it should be instead of learning about how to keep order in a classroom, but I am saying that for any teacher to be a full professional they must do both. When I look at the Government’s proposals, I cannot see that there is any valuing of those things that I think universities can do more effectively than schools.
We have to remember that these two key partners in educating students to be teachers could both drop out and we could not do anything about it. Schools do not have to train teachers; it is not part of their core business, in a way, and they could decide that they have other priorities. Universities do not have to offer PGCE programmes and could choose to make more money by offering courses of a different nature. The most worrying aspect is that these reforms have brought about a risk regarding the future involvement of both parties. First, for schools, capacity, recovering from the pandemic, helping children to catch up and all that they have to do in terms of providing mentors and getting the early-years framework off the ground could lead to too many of them saying, “We’ve got enough on our plate. We’re not going to do the teacher training bit.”
Secondly, universities and higher education are feeling undervalued. Some of this nation’s greatest universities are about to drop out of teacher training because they do not feel that their interests are valued or that the way they want to do things is acknowledged by the Government. They are not going to offer a course that has so little flexibility for them that they feel they are betraying the way that they approach education—and none of those people actually make much money out of teacher training.
I share the Minister’s and the Government’s ambition to get this right and to do better, but this approach is not perfect and there are real risks. I invite a more open approach with the partners—before we have gone too far and lost too much.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, for securing this important and timely debate. I agree with the concerns she expressed regarding the current proposals.
I will make a few general observations, followed by comments on how these proposals might practically affect the teaching of creative subjects. I declare an interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Groups for Art, Craft and Design in Education and for Music Education. I am grateful to the National Society for Education in Art and Design and the Incorporated Society of Musicians for their briefings for this debate.
The first, and perhaps central, point I want to make is that any changes to teacher recruitment and education ought to be viewed through the lens of the individual subjects that make up the curriculum; in other words, such changes should be subject-led. This is important because the objective of such change, if change is necessary, should be to maximise the best way or ways possible to teach each one of these subjects, so that the result is higher-quality teaching of and greater access to each subject for pupils. Crucially, this also means having a sufficient number of specialist teachers where required, and specialist knowledge and practice, which is ever-changing and ever-developing.
An educational ecosystem that allows a deepening of a subject’s understanding for teaching will necessarily accommodate influence from outside school; good influence always comes from the outside. Ultimately, schools cannot feed on themselves to nurture and nourish good teaching. The end result would inevitably be the stultifying of school education.
The current ecosystem in which university involvement is an integral part of teacher recruitment and education is therefore both beneficial and necessary, not least because such teaching will bring with it a critical vision which will be communicated to students and replenish the school. Indeed, what the Government refer to as “consistently high quality training” should be directly geared to these goals. This is clearly not the case with the current government proposals. As the Incorporated Society of Musicians put it:
“The substance of the proposals are largely generic, rather than subject specific, focusing too much on the mechanics of ITT, rather than on the substance of the learning that should take place. We are concerned that this threatens to undermine the level of subject specialism trainees will develop”.
It is clear there are concerns that these proposals threaten the quality of teaching and access to a wide range of subjects, from the sciences to humanities—my noble friend Lady Coussins will talk about languages—as well as the arts. Schools and arts teachers play a crucial role in supplying the pipeline of creative talent to a creative industries sector worth over £116 billion to the UK economy. The withdrawal of 30 or more providers would mean a loss of around 10,000 teacher training places, as the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, pointed out, which the new institute of teaching, with its 1,000 new places, would not make up.
The inevitable shortage would impact heavily on arts subjects in schools, which are already disadvantaged through the EBacc. On top of that, there is the effect of the pandemic, which has further deprioritised arts subjects in favour of EBacc subjects. This comes at a time when the effect of the pandemic on the creative industries has made the protection and development of the pipeline even more crucial. The Government must ensure that providers and teaching places are not lost.
A particular concern is that, under these proposals, trainees may not have sufficient time to focus on the teaching of arts subjects. Intensive practice placements could mean that teachers do not experience any arts teaching during their placements, since some arts subjects, such as music, are often taught on a rota basis. How would this system ensure that primary teacher training courses and placements include adequate timetabling of music and other arts subjects?
A related concern is the funding and capacity implications of the proposals, which do not seem to be taken into account by the review. How would there be sufficient capacity for small and overstretched art and music departments to deliver intensive placements for groups of teachers, a particular challenge where there are a small number of teachers employed in a department? Schools with small departments would need further support and funding to provide appropriate mentorships.
Bursaries are important in recruiting and retaining trainees. They can make a critical difference—even more so if centres are cut and teachers need to move home or travel long distances. Yet bursaries for the 2021-22 cohort are now zero for both music and art and design, while bursaries have been reinstated for other subjects. This, incidentally, on top of the 50% cuts to higher education arts courses, sends yet another signal about the value that the Government ascribe to arts subjects.
The decision about music is curious in the light of the ISM’s finding that the number of trainees starting secondary music ITT courses in the 10-year period to 2018-19 fell by 64%. Such long-term trends throw a question mark against the target recruitment figures that the Government use. Can the Minister tell me precisely what criteria are now being used for the awarding of bursaries and, in particular, for the decision not to award bursaries to music or art and design subjects? In this context, there is a growing realisation that the recent small increase in art and design GCSE uptake has been artificially inflated by the destructive loss of design and technology teaching.
How, too, would these proposals address representation in the teaching profession? The Runnymede Trust will produce its own report next year on representation in arts education, but the DfE reported in 2017 that only 6% of art and design teachers were from ethnically diverse communities, compared with 31% of the student population. Bursaries and scholarships alongside other strategies could be used to help address this imbalance.
In conclusion, it is difficult to understand how these proposals will enhance the teaching of subjects themselves. Indeed, many of the concerns that the arts have are shared by other subjects too. There are questions then both of principle and logistics. In terms of principle, the strong sense that one gets is that the Government would like to have closer, more centralised control over education and wish the multi-academy trust to be a focus of that control. It is a narrow-minded approach that ignores the importance of the wider educational ecosystem. In the longer term, too, we must rethink the Government’s—any Government’s—relationship to education, which, in England, is in danger of becoming far too close.
Surely none of us can be in any doubt at all about the critical importance of teachers in society. We all know from our own experience, or that of our children and grandchildren, how a good teacher can spark interests, arouse enthusiasm and encourage engagement that will set a child on a positive course for life.
Teaching is the profession that creates all other professions, and capable and motivated teachers working alongside responsible parents are the key to influencing and shaping our good citizens of the future—tomorrow’s movers and shakers and captains of industry. Conversely, inadequate teachers and bad schools can wreck lives and prevent children from realising their potential. I have had much personal experience of seeing both the best and the worst, working over many years to help young people from all backgrounds through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Outward Bound Trust.
This is, I think, a great moment to re-evaluate and improve our approach to teacher recruitment and training, to give teachers the tools to do a good job and feel good in doing a good job. The pandemic made parents aware, as they faced the challenge of home schooling for the first time, just how hard it is to teach their own children. But many were also left feeling that schools and teachers could have done more to support them than they actually did, particularly during the first national lockdown.
We should make these perceptions a starting point for change. Our priority should be improving the supply of teachers, particularly in disadvantaged areas; reducing the number of teachers who leave their jobs, particularly in the early years after qualifying; and ensuring that high-quality, dedicated people are attracted to and retained within the teaching profession. I feel strongly that the Government’s carefully researched proposed reforms of teacher training are a definite step in the right direction on all these fronts, notably in ensuring that teachers continue to receive training, not just in their first year of work but in years 2 and 3 as well, together with ongoing mentoring from an experienced teacher.
I note from my previous experience in a customer-focused business that built an outstanding reputation and won many awards for the quality of its service that it is not just training that delivers results: it is constant mentoring that helps build morale and ensures that the training is effectively applied in practice.
It is entirely reasonable, right and beneficial to seek to level up teacher training by making every organisation involved in it apply for reaccreditation, and the Government should not be deterred by vested interests, however distinguished, protesting against this. The Government should make their intentions clear on the issue of reaccreditation and move ahead with implementation. They should not allow themselves to be put off by any personal interests or the teaching unions’ traditional opposition to all change, however well intentioned—an odd approach, one might think, from a profession dominated, in many eyes, by the left, underlining the importance in this review of taking the politics out of both teacher training and teaching in our schools.
That is not, incidentally, a party-political point. There have been 13 Secretaries of State for Education since 1997, both Labour and Conservative, and as far as I can recall the teaching unions have been at odds with all of them. Even before 1997, the then Labour education spokesman, now the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, was forced to spend some time trapped in a small room with his guide dog for his own protection when chanting militants took exception to his attempt to address the NUT conference, because he had had the temerity to condemn school strikes and seek to fire incompetent teachers. That sort of militant behaviour does nothing to raise public esteem for teachers, which is actually the key to winning them the high rewards that they seek.
We can see around the world that teachers enjoy a higher status in countries that invest heavily in their continuing training—countries such as Singapore and Finland. In countries where teachers are held in greater esteem, more parents aspire for their children to become teachers and encourage them on that career path. It really is a virtuous circle.
I am not speaking in support of the reform of teacher training because I am against teachers anyway, or because I want to stamp out individuality and creativity. I certainly do not want us to turn out identikit teachers reciting to their classes each day from a little red—or, for that matter, blue—book. I am supporting these reforms because I want teachers to be more highly valued in society. I want their status to reflect the responsibility and importance of their role, and I strongly believe that we will help to achieve this by levelling up and depoliticising their training, and by ensuring that their training does not end when they leave university or college.
High-quality, continuing training, not only in years 2 and 3 but throughout a teacher’s career, could and should, with performance reviews, be linked to pay progression, with the best-trained and most highly skilled teachers reaping the greatest rewards. The countries with the best-performing education systems also tend to give teachers more time to plan, evaluate and improve their lessons. They give them the breathing space to improve their skills, not expecting them to fill every hour of the working day with teaching—or, worse still, crowd control. We should do the same. By improving and extending training, depoliticising teaching and fighting militancy, we greatly increase the chances of parents respecting teachers and working with them, hand in hand, to shape the well-educated, highly motivated and properly civilised citizens of tomorrow. We must prioritise continuing training and upskilling for our teachers, so that we can match the very best educational systems in the world, and give our young people a head start in life.
My Lords, I start by paying tribute to the excellent opening by my noble friend Lady Donaghy and commending my noble friend Lady Morris on her excellent contribution, joined by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and others: it was a really good start to the debate. I remind your Lordships of my education interests as recorded in the register. In particular, I chair the E-ACT multi-academy trust board, I am an adviser to Nord Anglia Education, and an occasional client is my former employer Tes Global, where I co-founded the Tes Institute, now the fifth largest qualifier of teachers in England. I also recently led the inquiry into initial teacher training by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Teaching Profession, of which I am vice-chair.
The inquiry was triggered by the market review chaired by Ian Bauckham. We received evidence from teacher training providers, both school-centred and universities, from schools, the College of Teachers and the teaching unions. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, that I do not totally agree with his view on teaching unions; my experience is that when you work with teaching unions as proper stakeholders, you can achieve quite a lot alongside them. We titled the report of the all-party group, If It Ain’t Broke, Handle with Care. This reflected the lack of evidence to support the assertion from the then schools minister, Nick Gibb, that there was an urgent problem that needed solving. In fact, the biggest problem was the threat to teacher supply created if the outcome of this review were implemented.
I spent the first three days of this week in long meetings reviewing the performance of the 28 schools in the E-ACT group. Across the board, one of the biggest challenges we face is recruiting enough teachers, especially in shortage subjects such as maths. The majority of schools are not fully staffed, meaning more use of agency staff than we want and some roles having to be re-advertised because of a poor response. This is important context for the suggestion that we can just jettison a number of ITT providers in pursuit of the clear agenda of centralised control, dressed up as re-accreditation. The very idea that universities such as Oxford and Cambridge might follow through with the threat to walk away from training teachers if these proposals are implemented demonstrates what a pickle the department has got itself into. And it is not just the elite universities: the MillionPlus group is just as animated, as are the school-centred ITT providers. Some of these may be small in scale, but they provide important training opportunities in remote areas that universities struggle to reach.
The combined effect of some of these providers being excluded by re-accreditation, or walking away because of the threat to academic freedom and an uneconomic model, could be catastrophic. This country is short of teachers. The spike in numbers applying to train at the beginning of the pandemic was short-lived. If transitioning to a new system disrupts the supply of new trainees, then there are serious consequences for our schools and for the life chances of our children. I remind your Lordships that this is not just about the delivery of training: as others have said, there are problems now with there not being enough placements for trainees in schools. Losing existing providers means losing established partnerships and their school placements.
The new two-year induction that started nationally this September in the form of the early career framework is delivering some good quality—that is the feedback from the schools I am accountable for. However, it is resource-hungry for schools, particularly in mentoring capacity. This, in turn, makes it harder for ITT placement, because of capacity constraint, particularly if the review’s understandable emphasis on mentoring is implemented. I met the chair of the market review a couple of times and respect him and his view. I understand his desire to collect the best evidence of what works in ITT and to impose that on everyone. However, I believe that it leads us into standardised, uniform approaches to training that imply that teaching is a craft skill and, if everyone did the same thing, it would work for all types of teachers working with all types of pupils.
That goes to the heart of the problem. These proposed changes are not about building teacher professionalism. They are not showing trust in the profession—just the opposite. If we want better, more experienced teachers, we need to recruit more into teaching and then retain them. That means leaning in to their intrinsic motivation to be teachers. If my friend Sharath Jeevan is right in his new book, that means focusing on purpose, autonomy and expertise. If we erode professional autonomy, we erode motivation. Successive Governments have done that—I hold up my hand—but it is now time to reverse that.
We should be working with a diversity of providers of ITT. The Government should abandon the market review and the unnecessary expense of the Institute of Teaching. We should respect the training providers’ professionalism and let them decide how best to train teachers. Then we should use Ofsted to regulate the quality against the agreed standards for qualified teacher status—regulate the outcome, not the input. We should then properly resource teachers, at every stage of their careers, to have time to observe each other and engage in professional dialogue and development. Perhaps those that are crammed into teaching through successful schemes such as Teach First should be given time, relatively early in their careers, to have a sabbatical period in universities reflecting on practice and acquiring the academic, theoretical underpinning they missed due to their acceleration into the classroom. In doing so, we may retain more of those excellent teachers in our schools.
Teaching is the most important of professions; it shapes our future. We should nurture it, respect it as a profession and resist those who seek to use a Whitehall sledgehammer to crack a problem that does not really exist. Please, handle with care.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clancarty is right that the proposed reforms call for a subject-by-subject analysis, as well as looking at the overall context of ITT. I will focus on the training and recruitment of teachers of modern languages, and I declare my interest as co-chair of the APPG on Modern Languages.
The supply chain of MFL teachers is shrinking to such a serious extent that the sustainability of language teaching and learning in our schools could be under existential threat. If the UK’s deficit in language skills deteriorates much further, our capacity to deliver public policy in education, research, diplomacy, defence and security will be significantly weakened, as will our ability to supply UK businesses with the school-leavers and graduates they need to compete in a global market, and to build export growth.
Let me illustrate the scale of the problem. A language is one of the subjects required at GCSE for a student to achieve the EBacc. Yet in 2020, only 72% of the target for MFL teachers were recruited; only physics fared worse. This shortfall needs to be seen as being on the back of under-recruitment over many years. Numbers of German and French teachers declined by over a third and a fifth, respectively, in the decade between 2010-11 and 2020-21. Even if every single university student currently doing a languages degree went into teaching, we still would not meet the shortfall, yet a mere 6% of MFL graduates actually end up in teaching.
Part of the systematic collapse in the supply chain of MFL teachers is due to university department closures. Since 2000, over 50 university languages departments have closed and the reforms in ITT, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, may exacerbate the problem even further. If 35 universities, accounting for 10,000 teacher training places, go through with their threat to withdraw teacher training if reforms progress in their current form, this will have a disproportionate impact on MFL. However, I believe there are various measures which Her Majesty’s Government could take immediately and which might help.
First, we need to reverse the cut in bursaries for MFL trainees. These have been slashed for 2021-22 from £26,000 right down to £10,000, even though the reduction for physics, chemistry, maths and computing is only a slight cut, from £26,000 to £24,000. I understand that in 2022-23 the MFL bursaries will rise again, but only to £15,000—still significantly short of the £24,000 for the other subjects I have mentioned. The MFL scholarships have been scrapped altogether. Can the Minister explain this disparity, given that all these subjects are part of the EBacc requirement?
Secondly, we need to look at the barriers we have created, presumably unintentionally, to the smooth and continued recruitment of EU nationals into MFL training. EU students have typically made up between 30% and 75% of ITT cohorts for MFL, but now face a cliff edge in recruitment. Those with settled status were able to access bursaries or student loans last year, but those without this status will not be eligible in future, despite MFL teachers now being on the shortage occupations list—a change for which I commend the Government, but which needs to be followed through logically in policy terms, such as by giving access to these bursaries. Has there been any impact assessment for how these changes will affect future MFL teacher recruitment, especially given that MFL is of course uniquely reliant on recruiting native speakers from EU member countries, particularly France, Germany and Spain?
Thirdly, the cuts to funding for subject knowledge enhancement, or SKE—yet another acronym, I am afraid—should be reversed. SKE is a recruitment tool which was introduced in 2005 to try to bridge that shortfall by attracting UK graduates with a modern language as a subsidiary part of their degree. Typically, 40% to 70% of MFL trainees undertake SKE as a condition of entry, but the funding cuts in the last academic year translated into an estimated reduced capacity in the number of trainees one provider could offer from an anticipated 40 to just 13.
Finally, I want to emphasise how relevant these issues are to the Government’s levelling-up agenda. There is a clear link between low MFL take-up and disadvantage, as measured, for example, by eligibility for free school meals. Lower GCSE take-up correlates with regions of poor productivity and low skill levels. There is also a growing disparity between state and independent schools. For example, the latest Language Trends survey reveals that independent schools are more than three times as likely as a state school to host a native speaker language assistant.
School leavers and graduates with even a basic working or conversational knowledge of another language are more employable and mobile than they would be otherwise. Languages are not just for an internationally mobile elite. One survey showed that lack of language skills accounted for a 27% vacancy rate in clerical and admin jobs.
I hope to hear from the Minister that Her Majesty’s Government will look again with some urgency at restoring the cuts to MFL bursaries, scholarships and SKE funding and access for eligible EU students to these financial incentives. These measures have the potential to save language learning throughout our education system, boost the supply chain of teachers once more and equip young people to compete with their peers from the rest of the world.
My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Donaghy on securing it and on her opening speech. I fully endorse the important points and speeches made by my noble friends Lady Morris and Lord Knight, with whom I believe I worked pretty well as a highly elected member of the National Union of Teachers when they were at the Department for Education.
Teacher supply is clearly at the heart of ensuring that our schools can fulfil society’s aspiration that all children and young people should be afforded a high-quality, broad and balanced curriculum—I endorse the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on breadth and balance—in whichever institution they are educated, allowing all to achieve their full potential and push beyond any constraints of lack of self-confidence or self-esteem which some students experience. Proposed policy on initial teacher education and training does not seem to provide securely for a sufficiency of teachers to respond to that task in all its complexity. Currently, even where places are taken up for pre-service training, as noble Lords have heard on a number of occasions in this House, the rate of attrition is very high. We are losing teachers from our classrooms at a much higher rate than is consistent with a stable profession.
The Government have now proposed a course for reform which represents a radical shift in the approach to teacher education and training. As was mentioned earlier, it was subject to consultation between
The Library briefing on initial teacher training providers and the review gives a large number of figures for recruitment to a variety of routes into teaching and faithfully reports what the review was ostensibly set up to do—to ensure that:
“All trainees receive high-quality training … The ITT market maintains the capacity to deliver enough trainees and is accessible to candidates … The ITT system benefits all schools.”
All are highly laudable aims. However, it also records that while
“many in the sector welcomed the aims of the review”, there has been criticism that the reality might be “potentially disruptive”, with Cambridge University among others, as referenced by my noble friend Lady Donaghy, asserting that there is
“no ‘single right way’ to train teachers” and suggesting that it may withdraw from the market if the proposed reforms go ahead. As I understand it, it was not alone among Russell group universities in taking this view.
There is a clear sense among many who have sought to engage with the Government’s proposals that they are a straightforward step along the road to central, national control of how teachers are taught to teach and how they will be expected to teach. This may well have its genesis in Michael Gove’s time as Secretary of State for Education, when he famously insulted academics in university education departments, describing them as “the Blob”. Whether he secretly feared that university education departments were hotbeds of Marxism or was just pursuing a centralising and controlling agenda while ostensibly lauding school autonomy may be a matter for debate.
It is clear that jurisdictions held to be successful take a different approach from that suggested in the direction of current government policy. There are clearly elements that could be welcomed. However, while greater support for newly qualified teachers—what we now call early-career teachers—is a good thing, the need for schools to provide a mentor for each early-career teacher may put enormous pressure on staffing in schools and could lead to them employing fewer early-career teachers.
I trust that the Minister will be able to update the House on progress towards the establishment of an institute for teaching. There is talk of there being only two bidders on the shortlist, Star Academies and the Ambition Institute, neither of which has strong links with higher education institutions.
I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us that university departments of education are considered an important part of initial teacher training and education going forward. Professional autonomy and agency for teachers are critical for a successful teaching profession. It is in the universities that they develop these capacities.
My Lords, I offer a few comments on some of the important issues that are the subject of this debate—for which we are so indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy—drawing on the perspective of the Independent Schools Council, whose member schools, I am pleased to say, work today in ever-increasing and ever-closer partnership with their colleagues in maintained schools. Just this week, the latest account of partnership between them has been published. It reports on nearly 6,000 cross-sector schemes that are forging ahead, covering a wealth of activities from rigorous academic study to orchestral concerts, drama and sport.
I declare my interests as a former general secretary of the council, which works on behalf of some 1,400 schools, and as the current president of the Independent Schools Association, one of the council’s constituent bodies, which has some 570 of those schools in its membership. The association’s members are for the most part notably small schools, often having no more than 200 pupils, with deep roots in the local communities they serve. The council’s member schools as a whole have on average fewer than 400 pupils. They therefore differ in size from so many of their counterparts in the maintained sector—an important factor that tends to be insufficiently recognised and has an important bearing on the subject of this debate.
The council’s schools have long been involved in helping to train our country’s teachers and, year by year, they reaffirm their commitment to their work in this crucial area. Teachers trained in them can gain qualified teacher status and complete the statutory induction year under arrangements agreed with the Department for Education—by me, as it happens, with the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley. This enables the teachers they train to take jobs in either maintained or independent schools. Whenever I see the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, I think of the early days of partnership, which began under not a Conservative but a Labour Government.
So schools within the Independent Schools Council contribute significantly to replenishing and enlarging the teaching profession. They have perhaps a particularly important role in helping to train subject specialists in shortage subjects, such as maths and physics—a role that is widely recognised for its importance to the country as a whole.
As we all agree, our education system today needs more teachers, trained to high standards, not least to assist recovery from the pandemic. The Government were right to review the existing state of initial teacher training at this particularly important juncture and to bring forward proposals designed to help to improve the system. The proposals should bring significant benefits in some respects, but in others they create grounds for concern so widely exhibited during this debate.
Despite my noble friend Lord Kirkham’s comments, is the compulsory reaccreditation of providers really sensible, particularly at this point, when schools are so preoccupied with recovery from the pandemic? The tight timetable that is contemplated might well lead to serious disruption—some refer to the likelihood of chaos—and a fall in the number of training opportunities. Would it not be better to trust the continued work of Ofsted, despite the criticisms that have been made of it, in ensuring that providers are of high quality, taking full account of the latest evidence?
A second area of concern, felt particularly keenly in independent schools, is the requirement to follow a single core content framework in the teacher-training curriculum in order to gain accreditation as a provider of initial teacher training. Independent schools have a well-established track record of provision, including through employment-based routes, delivered in ways that suit their size and capacities. The requirements of the proposed framework are likely to prove too inflexible for many of them and throw doubt on their ability to continue training specialists in shortage subjects, despite their strong desire to maintain their traditional role in this area. It would be a loss that our country could ill afford.
There are other difficulties as well. It would be hard for many independent schools to release experienced staff to take part in the intensive training that they will need to undergo in order to fulfil the role of mentors in a system changed in the way that is being proposed. Far too little time is being allowed to prepare for the substantial changes that the proposals entail.
Schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council want to make the greatest possible contribution to teacher training. I hope that those elements of the Government’s reform proposals that could impede their full participation in the future will be carefully re-examined before final decisions are made. This is, after all, another sphere in which partnership between the two education sectors can achieve so much, to their mutual benefit and our country’s.
My Lords, the teaching profession is highly esteemed in many European countries. I have witnessed this in France, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. It is not so in Britain, where the status of teachers has suffered a steep decline since the 1960s.
In the perception of the public at large, the status of teachers is equivalent to that of social workers. It is no exaggeration to say that teachers have been the victims of a culture war. The Labour Party has been generally supportive of teachers. A previous Labour Government made a commitment to raise their status to that of senior consultants and surgeons by 2006. Animosity towards teachers and their supposed political orientation has been forthcoming from the right wing of the Conservative Party and from the allied press. They are liable to accuse teachers of being proponents of a so-called woke culture that, supposedly, intimidates people into assenting to liberal or left-wing opinions.
At present, teachers and schools within the state-maintained sector are suffering considerable stress. The available funds have long been inadequate for maintaining the fabric of schools and their supplies of consumables. The pay of teachers is inadequate. Their workload is excessive and there are acute problems with the recruitment and retention of teachers. It is against this background that the Government have decided to overhaul the system of teacher training and the induction of newly qualified teachers into the profession.
A requirement that all teachers in state-maintained schools should be university graduates was imposed in the autumn of 1970 in fulfilment of the recommendation of William Plowden. What ensued was a variety of routes towards qualified teacher status or QTS. It became possible to obtain QTS in the course of a three-year degree that had a component of teacher training. The degree could be that of a bachelor of education, a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science. Graduates who had not obtained qualified teacher status as an adjunct to their degrees were able to obtain it via a postgraduate certificate of education—PGCE—that resulted from following a course that was typically of one year’s duration.
The Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 imposed a requirement that all newly qualified teachers should undergo a period of statutory induction. The requirements of the induction have been revised and extended via subsequent acts and regulations, and the present Government are intent on a radical overhaul of the regulations which will extend the induction period to two years. This will be part of an early career framework. Given their service in maintaining teacher training over many decades, one might have expected universities and institutions of higher and further education to be charged with overseeing the system. The new arrangements could be expected to profit from their knowledge and experience.
Instead, the Government have decided to side-step these organisations and establish a wholly new structure of so-called appropriate bodies to provide independent quality assurance of the statutory induction. For some time, the Government have been calling into question the provision of initial teacher training by universities. They have allowed the universities to be bypassed by establishing the School Direct provision, which allows the initial teacher training of graduates, who have other work experience, to take place in schools. They have also established a system of school-centred initial teacher training that has bypassed the traditional providers of teacher training.
From 2021, the teaching practice associated with the PGCE and other modes of initial teacher training will take place in schools that will be subsumed under teaching school hubs. They are to be based in specially selected schools within multi-academy trusts that have been chosen by the Department for Education. The department has named 87 new teaching school hubs, including six that participated in a pilot project. Each will provide professional development in around 250 schools. The hubs replace a network of 750 teaching schools which will lose their designation and their government funding, resulting in an overall saving of £25 million.
There have been doubts about the adequacy of the provision of placements for trainees. There is an understanding that the Government are attempting, by these means, to align teacher training with their own nostrums. Throughout their period in power, the Conservative Government have been keen to abrogate to themselves the role of directing and regulating state-maintained education. Hitherto, the role has been taken by organisations at arm’s length from the Government. The Department for Education will now be charged with accrediting the provision of the new and extended statutory teacher induction. Schools will be allowed to devise their own courses, provided that they are approved, but it is expected that they will choose to work with one of six providers accredited and funded by the department. All bar one of these are recently established commercial organisations which will work under the guise of a charity.
Some of these organisations have already provided samples of their teaching materials on the web. These place an emphasis on classroom practice and attempt to instruct new teachers in how to maintain order and discipline. I have heard it said that much of this material is fatuous, but I hesitate to make my own judgment.
The early career framework engenders a vision in which newly qualified teachers undergo a benign induction under the tutelage of knowledgeable mentors. This vision is liable to be confounded when confronted by the realities that prevail in our schools.
Reports from the pilot studies suggest that, given the straitened circumstances within which they are operating, schools will be unwilling to recruit young trainee teachers in view of the burdens they will bring with them. Instead, schools may prefer to rely on young teachers supplied by agencies, which are liable to deduct substantial fees from their pay. The advantage of schools employing young teachers under such arrangements is that they can avoid paying sickness and holiday pay and pension contributions, a material consideration when money is scarce. Schools can release such teachers at the end of the school term or even before, thereby circumventing the agency regulations that give the teachers security of employment if they serve for more than 12 weeks. These circumstances, which are severely disadvantageous to early career teachers, must already account for a large proportion of the wastage whereby they leave the profession prematurely without securing permanent posts.
In view of the recent accumulation of their powers, and of the opportunity to pursue new and exciting initiatives, many people within the Department for Education are subject to a dangerous degree of optimism and self-congratulation. I fear that they are undertaking projects that will severely unsettle and damage the state education system.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the LGA. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, for opening this important debate.
It is a pleasure to speak on the Government’s policy on initial teaching training and how to ensure that every school in every part of the country can confidently appoint the teachers it needs to deliver an excellent education to every child and young person. As the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, rightly said, the quality of our teachers must be paramount in our education system. If a primary pupil has a poor teacher, they cannot repeat that year. If a secondary student has a poor subject teacher, they have lost a year of learning and understanding.
We need to ensure that our teachers are highly trained, highly motivated and have the pedagogical skills to enable them to teach and relate to children. Children need teachers who can teach, enrich their learning, motivate and give them the confidence that education is all about. As a nation, we need teachers who are well trained, well respected—and well paid. As a historical footnote, it is interesting to observe that, when Margaret Thatcher was Secretary of State for Education, she implemented in full the Houghton review—the largest ever increase in teachers’ salaries.
As I listened to the cogent arguments made by my learned friends in this House, I reflected on my own teacher training. The world has changed considerably since I started at St Katharine’s Church of England Teacher Training College in Liverpool—now Liverpool Hope University. As another historical footnote, the principal, as he was called, discovered in the Times Higher Education Supplement that his college was about to be closed down by the then Wilson Government, as was the Roman Catholic Christ’s College across the road. They had the political nous to join together, daring the Secretary of State for Education to close an ecumenical establishment—which, of course, he did not. Now Liverpool Hope University is flourishing. It is a gold standard university and the only ecumenical university in Europe.
The pattern of teacher training was much simpler then. The majority of teachers went to what was known as a teacher training college to do a three-year course, until, in the 1990s, the four-year B.Ed. was introduced. Another route into teaching was for graduates, who took a one-year postgraduate certificate in education at university. The third route was to go straight into teaching with a degree in the subject you intended to teach; this happened in many secondary and independent schools. Such people learned their teaching on the job.
In the last decade, as we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, there has been a steady growth of different routes into teaching, and ITT has become very fragmented. Teaching is now pretty much a graduate profession, with most teachers getting their degree before deciding which route to take. In addition to the traditional degree plus PGCE route, the balance has swung very much towards school-based initial teacher training. The traditional years spent at university, with a placement in a school for an extended teaching practice, has been replaced for many students with a year based in a school, with the school buying in the pedagogical element from a university.
Teach First—the implication being that teaching will be the first of many careers—has grown enormously in recent years, with good honours graduates going into challenging schools after a six-week summer school camp and very much learning on the job. I still have grave reservations about whether you can learn to be a school- based teacher after just six weeks in a summer school.
All the while, there has been a range of initiatives to try to recruit teachers of so-called shortage subjects, particularly maths and physics, with bursaries—the equivalent of a golden handshake—offered to encourage applicants. The reaction of the university sector to the market review of teacher training, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, has told us, was, by and large, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But I welcome the opportunity to look at the sector. Given the multiplicity of routes into teaching, the quality of the training offered has been patchy, to say the least.
The Liberal Democrats have consistently emphasised that our teachers are the greatest asset of our education system. The disruption to our children’s education caused by the pandemic, with long periods of enforced absence from school, has served to emphasise how valuable face-to-face teaching is. However good the technology, however well planned the lessons, virtual lessons are a pale shadow of an excellent school education.
I welcome any and every attempt by the Government to attract high-quality graduates to the teaching profession and will support the proposals to make teaching an attractive profession. I can see some merit in the Government’s attempt to improve the quality of initial teacher training. There does seem to be a need to ensure that every trainee teacher, at the end of their professional training, is confident and well equipped to face what is the one of the best, but most challenging, jobs in the world.
I also believe it important that certain elements are mandatory in teacher training. We heard from my noble friend Lord Addington about the importance of special needs. Every primary school teacher needs to do a unit on child development. If they do not know how a child develops from a very young age, how can they really have the rapport to teach them? Every teacher, whether in the primary or secondary phase, needs to know how to identify a child who suffers from dyslexia. It seems crazy to me that that does not happen. When I was doing my degree after my teacher training, my education tutor told me that there was no such thing as dyslexia. That was in the early 1980s.
Universities do have an important role in teacher training, as I have said. However, the emphasis of the Government’s market review of teacher training seems to be on the market aspect. The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, emphasised this, and she is right: it is a pity that the Government’s consultation on the future of initial teacher training was carried out in the summer, between early June and the end of August. The Government maintain that delaying the consultation until this autumn would have delayed plans to push forward with the reforms. Although the consultation ended on
Teachers are the lifeblood of our education system and we must recruit and retain the very best teachers. We can do this only if we can offer them an excellent preparation for the role, support them during the early years of teaching and enable them to flourish in their chosen profession.
A number of questions have arisen during the course of this debate and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s answers. I am concerned that we are still waiting to hear what will emerge from the market review and how much of teacher training will be to do with the market. We have heard today about the Institute of Teaching, with a £122 million contract up for grabs to run the flagship teacher training establishment. Will that be run by a private provider? The top priority of teacher training is the quality and, as in many areas, there is a mixed economy of providers, but I am concerned that we do not throw the HEI baby out with the bathwater. How will the Government ensure that the market is managed so that every teacher benefits from the teacher training experience?
I end by saying that teacher training does not just start before they go into schools, or however they do that; the training of a teacher goes throughout their teaching career, and continuing professional development has to be a hugely important part of the role of schools and, indeed, of government.
My Lords, we are all hugely indebted to my noble friend Lady Donaghy, not just for securing this important debate but for opening it in a manner so comprehensive that frankly she left very little extra to be said. My noble friend mentioned that it took a Written Question to force the DfE to reveal what was going on regarding the future of teacher education. She was typically too modest to say that she was the one who asked that searching Question.
It is much to be regretted that teacher education appears not to be sufficiently valued for its own worth by those whose task it is to shape education in its broadest sense. I use the term “teacher education” advisedly, because that is what has been cast aside here —downgraded to what is now termed “teacher training”.
The Tory manifesto in 2019 had nothing to say on teacher training, though it did say:
“We want to attract the best talent into teaching and recognise the great work they do, so we’re raising teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000”.
I will spare the Minister the embarrassment of having to tell me two years on how many teachers have actually received that starting salary. Of more relevance is why her party’s manifesto contained no mention at all of teacher education, despite the fact that we now know that Conservatives were so concerned about the underperformance of the sector that they believed the only policy response was to rip it up and start again. In passing, it is only fair to say that neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats mentioned teacher education in our manifestos—but in our defence these two parties did not believe it to be in such a dilapidated state that it required a complete revamp.
The fact that the Government prefer the term “teacher training” is instructive. Teacher education generally includes four elements: improving the general educational background of the trainee teachers; increasing their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they are to teach; pedagogy and an understanding of child development—as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Storey—and learning; and the development of practical skills and competences.
In recent years, the distinctive and long-established role of university teacher education has been weakened to the point where I believe serious questions are raised about the very purpose of teaching. When I take my car to the garage for repairs, I do not want it done by someone who is not qualified; when I go to hospital, I do not want my medical care delivered by somebody who is not qualified; and when I go to a restaurant, I certainly do not want my meal prepared by somebody who is not qualified. So why should any parent at any school be expected to accept their child being taught by a well-meaning amateur? Yet, to this Government, that is perfectly acceptable.
Every parent has the right to expect that those entrusted on a day-to-day basis with ensuring that their child’s development is stretched to the limit of their capabilities have themselves been subject to a rigorous grounding in both the theory and the practice of pedagogy—not just what works, but why it works. Prior to the review, Ofsted had rated all ITE provision as being “good” or “outstanding”—so, to paraphrase my noble friend Lord Knight and his all-party group, “not much was broke there”.
My noble friend Lady Donaghy described the outcome of Ofcom inspections this year, with some in need of improvement, and that is accepted, but it sounds suspiciously as though the headline about the review had been written by the DfE and the storyline then had to be made to fit it. In any case, the review was under way well before the latest Ofsted inspections took place, so they cannot have provided the rationale for it. If we know anything at all about the effect of the past two years on education, it is that the pandemic has rendered the use of any benchmarks from that period next to useless.
The new system would apply to maintained schools, academies and free schools, yet there were no representatives of local authorities or maintained schools on the so-called expert working group. The members of that group may indeed be experts in their own areas but not in regard to maintained schools—although Teach First sends its graduates to both types of school. The suspicion remains that the group was a hand-picked collection of individuals who were left in no doubt what the DfE wanted to emerge from this review, and the DfE’s bias against maintained schools prevented anyone from that sector participating. If that is a wrong interpretation, no doubt the Minister will set the record straight, but why would the group have two people from academy trusts, including the chair, but none from schools that are not academies? At least there was one voice from the university sector, although we hear that she has in part dissented from the report, warning that the reforms could be “hugely risky” to teacher supply and quality. For that reason, she has advocated a year’s delay in implementing the changes to allow the issues to be addressed. At the very least, we very much support that call.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, my noble friend Lady Blower and others have commented on the fact that the proposal’s consultation period covered school holidays. I will not repeat that, but it is a recurring issue and one that I have raised previously with the Minister concerning the skills Bill. We shall shortly have a debate in your Lordships’ House on an SI on teachers’ pay and conditions, which was also issued over the summer. I believe this is a deliberate practice by the DfE designed to limit responses—and it must stop.
The review’s proposals make recommendations on curriculum content, course structure and mentoring, with the central recommendation that all ITT providers implement a new set of quality requirements, and that
“a robust accreditation process should take place”.
That is a worry for many institutions, which are concerned that the DfE will seek to favour larger and, perhaps, compliant institutions. It would be helpful, to echo my noble friend Lady Donaghy, if the Minister could offer reassurance that the accreditation process will be open, transparent and equitable. Can she also say whether all accreditation applications that meet the new quality requirements will be approved, with no contrived rationing taking place? There are fears that the process could be used to ensure that ITE providers deliver only DfE-approved curricula over and above what is already required through the core content framework.
This is one issue of concern to universities, which play a key role in the delivery of ITE, accounting for 40% of all those entering teacher education each year. They, of course, work on long-term planning structures dependent on the stability of provision, so being confronted by a review with the clear objective of changing the very nature of who operates it naturally sets alarm bells ringing in universities.
My noble friend Lady Donaghy clearly enunciated the concerns of universities about the proposals, and I will not repeat them. However, if the number involved in teacher education were to be significantly reduced—particularly by the threatened departure from the scene of Cambridge and Oxford—that would be damaging not just for that sector but for the supply of future generations of teachers.
The reforms risk recruitment and retention by narrowing the ITE curriculum, reducing choice for prospective students and making ITE more onerous for student teachers. There are also worries that the review changes the focus to assessment of trainee teachers against the core content framework, not on how good they are as teachers. Schools are under a duty to support their early career teachers, but not under a duty to take on trainee teachers. Given the onerous duties of the early careers framework, schools will inevitably redirect resources to support early career teachers, thereby exacerbating teacher supply.
Universities and schools have developed strong relationships over many years, becoming exemplars of good practice. Neither the need nor the political imperative to break those links exists, yet the introduction of market forces sees universities competing more directly with each other, as well as with the disproportionate share of resources—and student places—channelled to schools.
Although the substance of the review proposals is largely generic, I had intended to mention the question of music teaching but, following the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, all I need to do is say that I wholeheartedly endorse what he said. He made a very persuasive case for music teaching. I do not expect the Minister to respond on that point today but perhaps she would do so in writing to both him and me.
The strong partnerships that have developed between accredited higher education institutions and schools have been one of the education sector’s great success stories in recent years. Schools should have a choice about how they participate in ITE. It is, as the report itself acknowledges, already difficult for providers to secure a sufficient number of placements, particularly in some key subjects such as physics and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said, modern foreign languages. That in turn has led to an artificial cap being placed on recruitment. Should they proceed, the reforms should surely do nothing to make these challenges even more acute.
The Government should acknowledge the opposition that their proposals have generated. They should, as my noble friend Lord Knight said, abandon the review and then facilitate much wider consultation aimed at building a broad base of support for what works, not simply what it might be possible to force the sector to tolerate. We are not saying that the current situation is perfect, but that is no basis for a way forward—certainly not with something so important to the future of this country as teacher education.
My Lords, I echo other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, for securing this debate and bringing to the House’s attention the crucial matter of initial teacher training recruitment and the role of universities and other bodies in ensuring the supply and education of new teachers. I am sure she was being harsh on herself when she described her teaching assistant career, and I am sure her pupils would have disagreed with her reflection.
The Government’s vision is for all children and young people to have access to a world-class education, no matter where they are from or what their background is. At a time when there are more pupils in our schools than ever before, the recruitment and retention of outstanding teachers is a key priority.
The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, said that she was a fan of teachers. I think all of us in this House are. I genuinely do not recognise the characterisation that has come from a number of noble Lords that this Government are critical and unsupportive of teachers; quite the reverse. I do not think there is a family in this country that does not value teachers deeply, particularly after the last two years and the critical role they have played in supporting our children. I absolutely agree with my noble friend Lord Kirkham when he talks, as have many other noble Lords, about the importance of valuing and giving proper status to teachers. We are trying to thread that through everything we do, as I will try to set out in my remarks.
I respectfully refute the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that the department is in any way being deliberate in its practice regarding the timing of consultations. I know he will agree with me that the officials in the department have the highest integrity, as do the Ministers, and there is genuinely no truth in that suggestion.
I cannot speak accurately for what went before but I know the noble Lord will accept that this has been an incredibly disrupted time. I am sure that, had we delayed the consultations further in terms of our response, as we have heard today, there would have been criticism. There is always a risk; we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
I will revert to the important subject of the debate. We know that there are no great schools without great teachers, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for the personal experience that he brings to his reflections. I will do my best to answer his and other noble Lords’ questions. We know that the evidence shows that teacher quality is the single most important factor within school in improving outcomes for children and young people, and reforms to teacher training and early-career support are key to the Government’s plans to improve school standards for all.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, talked about the time that it takes to qualify. I am sure that she recognises the value in the continued support, for two years now, for early-career teachers. The Government share the ambition of the initial teacher training sector that all people training to be a great teacher get the best possible start to their careers.
We published our Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy in 2019, working with key stakeholders to set out a shared vision for the teaching workforce. At the heart of this strategy is a golden thread of training and professional development—the noble Lords, Lord Storey and Lord Watson, raised these points—informed by high quality evidence, which will run through each phase of a teacher’s career. As your Lordships may have heard me say in answer to a recent question, there has been an increase of over 20% in applicants to the profession. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, had his head in his hands, but I hope that he will share my pleasure to see that increase in applicants.
The starting point of this golden thread is initial teacher training, which is why we developed a new core content framework for this purpose. The new framework was published in November 2019, and, since September 2020, all new teachers have been benefiting from initial teacher training, underpinned by the best independently peer-reviewed evidence.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked about initial teacher training in relation to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. ITT providers must design their courses to incorporate the skills and knowledge detailed in the core content framework to support their developing expertise. This clearly includes the requirement, in standards, that all teachers must have a clear understanding of all the needs of their pupils, including, critically, those with special educational needs. That is also carried forward into the early-career framework, which was designed in consultation with the education sector, including specialists on SEND, of course.
I am hearing that this can be one or two days’ training. Is that adequate to get a rough understanding of even the neurodiverse sector, especially those who are not the most glaring examples? I cannot see how it can be.
The framework obviously focuses on the outcome, which is that teachers are competent in all aspects. Given the percentage of children in the classroom with SEN, that is obviously a core part.
In view of the time, I shall continue. This desire to create the best initial start for teachers is why we asked Ian Bauckham to lead a review of the ITT market, focusing on how we can ensure that the quality of ITT is consistently of a world-class standard. As mentioned, Ian has been supported by an advisory group, and the report making recommendations to government was published in July 2021. As we have heard this evening, government has consulted on the recommendations made in the report, and we are currently considering them in light of the responses that we had to the consultation. We expect to publish our full response shortly.
In making their recommendations, the expert advisory group reviewed the available evidence on initial teacher training, including international and UK evidence. The objective evidence shows that there is clearly much to be proud of, as we have heard from your Lordships, in our current system of initial teacher training, with many examples of world-class practice, delivered by providers of all types. As would be expected, it also shows that there is scope to improve further.
To level up standards in every school, for every child, we need to strive for excellence in all corners of the country. The evidence we have available suggests that there is more we can do to make sure that high-quality training is being consistently delivered across the whole system. We must ensure that all trainees receive the training that they deserve.
The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, raised concerns about the content of the national professional qualifications. The NPQ frameworks have all been independently reviewed by the Education Endowment Foundation, which has her extremely knowledgeable noble friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, in its fan club—I will join her there if I may. That is obviously to ensure that the content is based on the best available evidence. The delivery of the NPQs will be quality assured by Ofsted, which I hope gives the noble Baroness some confidence.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, raised—these may be my words rather than hers—the absolute importance of developing critical thinking skills. We have built that into the framework at a number of levels, including in our consultation around the new specialist NPQs. There was a clear demand for more qualifications at the middle leadership level, for teachers who want to specialise in leading teaching or curriculum in their subject or phase, as well as supporting the professional development of other teachers. I hope that goes some way to addressing her question.
We continue to value the expertise of all types of ITT providers in developing courses that are underpinned by a strong evidence base. All courses leading to qualified teacher status must incorporate the mandatory core content framework in full. However, to be absolutely clear, in response to the suggestion of several noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, the Government do not prescribe the curriculum of ITT courses beyond this and we have no plans to do so. It remains for individual providers to draw on their own expertise to design courses of high quality that are based on evidence and appropriate to the needs of trainees and to the subject, phase and age range that they will be teaching.
In response to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, about training, child development and dyslexia, the core content framework sets out a minimum entitlement of knowledge, skills and experiences that trainees need to enter the profession in the best position possible to teach and support pupils to succeed, including pupils identified within the four areas of need set out in the SEND code of practice.
On a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, and others, I reassure the House that the Government have no plans to remove certain types of providers from the ITT market. The market is formed from a rich tapestry of provision and partnerships, as we have heard this afternoon, including higher education institutions and school-based providers, and we want to retain this diversity in the future. We value the choice this offers trainees, and our objective is not to reduce the range of ITT providers but to ensure that supply is of the highest quality it can be.
There have been some calls to pause the review or, from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, to cancel it altogether. He will not be surprised that that is not in the Government’s plans. We know that there have been particular pressures and we are very grateful to ITT providers for what they have achieved during the pandemic. However, we believe that supporting our teachers with the highest-quality training and professional development is the best way that we can improve pupil outcomes.
That said, as we develop our response to the report, we are considering the timescales for implementation and will ensure that we allow reasonable time for ITT partnerships to implement any of the review’s recommendations that we take forward.
My noble friend Lord Lexden asked about the compulsory reaccreditation of suppliers. The review report recommends that an accreditation process is the best way in which to implement the recommended quality requirements. If any of the recommendations are accepted, we will proceed carefully to maintain enough training places to continue to meet teacher supply needs across the country. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that the accreditation process will indeed be open, transparent and equitable.
There is agreement across all involved in initial teacher training that mentors play a pivotal role in providing trainees with strong professional support and subject-specific support—points that my noble friend Lord Kirkham made. Ian Bauckham’s report identifies effective mentoring as a critical component of high-quality ITT and makes a number of recommendations about the identification and training of mentors. Alongside mentoring, school placements are critical to teacher training. It is right that people training to become a teacher spend the majority of their time based in schools. That is why having enough high-quality school placements is fundamental to ensuring the quality and sufficiency of teachers entering the system each year.
I am puzzled by the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Knight, that schools will be put off from employing early-career teachers. Certainly, in my conversations with schools that are involved in initial teacher training and the teaching school hubs, they feel that this is a fantastic opportunity to build the culture of their school or multi-academy trust into that initial training. They believe that this will help give those teachers the best start to their careers and improve retention.
As we consider our response to the recommendations we are, of course, very aware of the need to protect teacher supply. Many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, raised concerns about that. We will ensure that the ITT market has the capacity to deliver enough well-trained newly-qualified teachers to the schools and ultimately the pupils who need them. This will include ensuring that there is good geographical availability of initial teacher training.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked about the criteria used for awarding bursaries. Initial teacher training bursaries are offered in subjects where recruitment is the most challenging. In the academic year 2020-21, we exceeded the postgraduate ITT targets in art, in which it was 132%. In response to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, regarding music, the figure was 225%.
The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, asked about the recruitment of modern foreign language teachers from abroad. As she pointed out and is well aware, EEA and Swiss citizens with settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme can continue living, working and studying in the UK. In England, that also allowed continued eligibility for home fee status, financial support from Student Finance England and ITT bursaries on a similar basis to domestic students, subject to their meeting the usual residence requirement. There is no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study. For modern foreign languages in 2020-21, 29% of new entrants to postgraduate ITT were from the EEA or Switzerland and 5% were from outside. That overseas/ UK split for modern foreign languages has remained broadly consistent for the past few years.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, asked about the new Institute of Teaching, and it will, from September 2022, be England’s flagship teacher development provider. As the first organisation of its kind, it will design and deliver a coherent teacher development pathway, from trainee through to executive headship. It will base its teacher development on the best available research evidence about what works, as set out in the ITT core content framework. There are so many acronyms here—the ECF and NPQ frameworks and the NLE development programme—but I know noble Lords are familiar with all these TLAs. We really believe this will ensure that teacher development in England goes from strength to strength. In answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, I say that we are running an open procurement to identify the suppliers that will allow us to establish the institute next year.
I thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful and constructive challenge to the Government’s plans. The response to the ITT review will be published later this year, and I look forward very much to debating this further once that has happened. We also look forward to working with the ITT sector and its partners to ensure that all ITT in England is of the highest quality possible.
I thank all those who contributed to this debate for their passion about teacher education and the quality of teachers. I am disappointed by the Minister’s response. “Shortly” presumably means before Christmas, so we could be having another debate on this in the next few days. I am glad she said that there were no plans to remove partners from ITT and that she wants to keep variety. Let us wait and see. If the Government still have decided to keep compulsory reaccreditation, I do not see how that promise can be fulfilled. It sounds to me as if that decision has already been taken not to give in on compulsory reaccreditation. I can only urge for that to be looked at again.
The other thing the Minister said is that the Government would ensure that supply would not suffer, but she did not say how, in light of all those uncertainties. I think it is a “wait and see” for the responses to the consultation. Let us hope they are more positive than her response.
I leave one last bit of advice, if I may, about the Institute of Teaching. When bodies are imposed without the proper institutional framework and belong to other live, organic institutions, they nearly always fail. I would like the Minister to have a look at the history of the Council for National Academic Awards, of which I watched the birth and demise. It is an important lesson when one is creating these artificial institutions run, possibly, by bodies that are not going to be well qualified.