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Teachers: Training

Volume 463: debated on Monday 1 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what discussions he has had with the Minister for Women and Equality on the decision to require mature students born before 1 September 1979 to have a GCSE at grade C or above (or recognised equivalent) in science in order to begin initial teacher training; (148758)

(2) what estimate he has made of the number of applicants for initial teacher training courses since 2006 who have had applications voided as a result of the decision to require mature students born before 1 September 1979 to have a GCSE at grade C or above (or recognised equivalent) in science in order to begin initial teacher training.

Prior to October 2006, teacher training providers were required to ensure that all candidates entering primary teacher training had achieved a standard equivalent to a grade C in the GCSE examination in a science subject. This was because primary trainees were normally required to teach the whole curriculum, including maths, English and science and would be better prepared to train to teach these subjects if they have demonstrated the GCSE equivalent in them. However, an exemption had been applied for those born before 1 September 1979 as this coincided with the date at which science became compulsory at key stage 4 of the National Curriculum for people born after that date.

I have had no meetings with the Minister for Women and Equality. Last year the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) took advice from the DTI (the sponsors of the legislation) and from ACAS and both confirmed that the original requirement which referred to entrants born after 1 September 1979 would be discriminatory as defined by the new age discrimination legislation that came into force on 1 October 2006.

In order to comply with the new legislation, the TDA therefore removed the exemption for those born before 1 September 1979 and applied the requirement to all primary entrants recruited on or after 1 October 2006, and alerted training providers to the change in the entry requirement. Offers made prior to this date for places on courses beginning after it could stand as they were made prior to the legislation being introduced but any candidates offered places after 1 October 2007 would need to demonstrate the GCSE science standard.

The requirement is for a standard of science knowledge, rather than a requirement to hold a particular qualification, and applicants with no formal qualifications in science can demonstrate this standard via a variety of means. Some teacher training providers offer equivalency tests; others use subject knowledge audits to test this standard. Some providers have worked with further education colleges to offer extra GCSE science courses and the TDA has worked with both providers and their associations to ensure that effective practice in meeting the needs of applicants is shared.

No data are held on the number of unsuccessful applications to primary initial teacher training and it is not therefore possible to determine whether any applications have been voided as a result of removing the exemption for older applicants.