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Teacher Training and Supply

Volume 569: debated on Tuesday 22 October 2013

[Martin Caton in the Chair]

It is a pleasure, Mr Caton, to serve under your chairmanship. The training of teachers is a highly complex subject, and also an extremely important one, given the impact that the quality of teaching has on children’s life chances and on the country as a whole. When I told my 12-year-old daughter what this debate was about, she told me that training teachers was a waste of time.

That is an interesting early intervention from my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. I foresee an interesting discussion next Monday morning at my daughter’s high school.

The Government said in their response to a Select Committee on Education report that

“the quality of teachers is the most important factor in determining the effectiveness of a school system.”

The Secretary of State has made that point many times, and I agree with him, at least on that, if not on what he does to ensure that it happens.

I requested this debate in light of figures published by School Direct and concerns raised about the implications for teacher training and education. School Direct enrols unqualified graduates to teach in schools and trains them while they are teaching. The programme has been expanded this year, causing a significant change to teacher training as a whole and leading to concern about that training and the supply of teachers. I will explore the concerns raised by School Direct. Teacher training in this country is regarded as being of a high standard and improving, a point made to the Select Committee in evidence sessions.

I shall also look at some of the evidence on what constitutes great teacher training and what is considered to be going well. My comments will also cover the concerns raised about the impact on universities and their ability to continue to play their part in ensuring that the highest standards of professional training apply. I may also look at the inherent contradiction in a system of teacher training that is supposed to promote the highest standards but operates alongside an academy system in which unqualified teachers can be employed. On that note, there has been a 141% rise in the number of unqualified teachers since the 2010 election, and free schools have been allowed to award 10% of teaching posts to unqualified teachers. It is difficult to report those figures without questioning how the growth in the number of unqualified teachers can sit alongside the Government’s claim that improving the standard of qualified teachers is so important.

I received an answer to a written question recently from the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), who said of the qualifications of teachers working in free schools:

“Data on each qualification held by each teacher is not collected”.—[Official Report, 16 October 2013; Vol. 56, c. 746W.]

Is my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) as surprised as I was about that?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting an answer from the Department. I know how difficult that sometimes is. It is extraordinary that the Government do not know the details of what goes on in schools over which they have direct control. I can only imagine what their comments would be if information about what goes on in local authority schools were not available. Perhaps the Minister will respond to that. On qualified and unqualified teachers—who knows?—we may find out today just what Lib Dem policy is on the importance of having high-quality teachers.

Under the Department for Education’s School Direct programme, 9,000 teacher training places were transferred from universities to schools in 2012-13, with the expectation that schools would recruit trainee teachers who would commence training in September 2013. School Direct is led by schools, but is delivered in partnership with universities. According to the Department:

“School Direct is an exciting new training route for top graduates. Your school will have a job in mind just for you when you finish your training.”

Yet figures published in September suggest that the final numbers to be released in November will reveal a reduction in the number of new entrants to teaching. School Direct places have been going unfilled, with just 6,730 acceptances against an allocation of 9,580, unless the Minister has new figures for us today. In addition, the number being trained through the university route is down due to the lack of places being given to the institutions by the Department for Education as a result of the move towards School Direct.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important and timely debate. Does he agree not only that the figures he gave are worrying, but that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the National College for Teaching and Leadership seemed reluctant to transfer those unfilled places from School Direct to universities, so there is a shortage of people being trained in subjects such as maths and physics, instead of them being up to complement?

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Evidence to the Select Committee in its follow-up session was that that is exactly what has happened. Places that were not filled by School Direct were not transferred. In fact, some of the witnesses requested that that should happen, and that there should be virement between the different routes. Perhaps the Minister will respond to that.

When the application system for School Direct opened last November, the Government said there was overwhelming interest from prospective teachers, so what happened in between, given the gap between the number of places and the number of enrolments? Other hon. Members will want to address that question—so do I—but first let us look at some of the background.

In his report for McKinsey in 2007, Sir Michael Barber found that while high-performing systems such as those in Finland, Japan, Singapore and Korea had very different approaches to the curriculum, teaching methods and school structures, they all made the quality of teaching their top priority. Sir Michael concluded that the top two priorities for raising school standards are getting the right people to become teachers and developing them into effective instructors. In 2010, McKinsey published a follow-up that showed that

“building the instructional skills of teachers and management skills of principals”

is a common factor in improving school systems everywhere in the world. So far, so good; that ties in with what the Government are saying.

The Institute of Education also quotes research that shows the dramatic impact that different teachers have on pupil progress. It shows that pupils who are taught by the best teacher in a group of 50 will learn twice as fast as average, while those taught by the worst teacher make only half the average progress. The Government’s 2010 White Paper looked abroad for inspiration, noting admiringly that South Korea recruits teacher trainees from the top 5% and Finland from the top 10% of their school leavers. That brings us back to the question: how did we end up with School Direct and such a shortage of applicants?

To begin to answer that question, I go back to what the Secretary of State said: that teaching is a “craft”, best learned on the job. That statement perhaps gives a clue as to why there has been such an acceleration in the scale of School Direct this year. That in turn may explain the problems being identified by so many of those involved in teacher training. As a result of the Secretary of State’s view, the Government decided to shift teacher training from the universities into schools, creating teaching schools on the model of teaching hospitals. That all sounds very plausible.

In April 2012, the Education Committee published its report, “Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best”, and held a follow-up evidence session last month. Evidence to the original inquiry looked at existing good practice in the UK. The Committee found that

“the partnership between schools and universities was often the recipe for successful provision, with a balance of theoretical and practical training vital for any teacher”.

In other words, the existing arrangements were working well, and more than one witness at the Committee advised the Government to take great care not to throw out the baby with the bathwater when they set up School Direct.

Those giving evidence to the inquiry were clear that the partnership needed to remain a key part of the training system. At the time, it was clear that employment-based initial teacher training providers—EBITTs—delivered significant portions of their training through other partners, including universities. In other words, the role of universities is crucial in teacher training. Theoretical as well as practical training are important—is important; it is important to get the grammar right in an education debate, Mr Caton.

The Committee noted in its report that

“the best systems internationally—such as Singapore and Finland…have universities heavily involved in or leading the training of teachers.”

However, in evidence to the Committee, the Government made clear their intention to see a significant increase in school-led teacher training, and the Minister for Schools has confirmed that School Direct could mean a move to a schools-based commissioning approach.

To be clear, there is strong support for school involvement in initial teacher training; after all, how else can trainees learn the practical skills that they need to become great teachers? However, warnings were given about the possible downside of unbalancing the partnership arrangements. Keele university argued that

“there is little or no evidence that schools have either the appetite or the capacity to take over the responsibility for the recruitment and training of teachers”.

Remember the Government’s comment about “overwhelming” interest from prospective teachers? Well, maybe that was not quite matched by the attitude of schools.

The Committee was also told that

“the balance is fairly good at the moment”

between schools and universities, and as one secondary head told the Committee, if the landscape

“swung all the way to school-based training…a lot would be lost.”

Martin Thompson, president of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, said the sector was not

“looking for a great change”

and that there were “dangers in a lurch”. However, the then Schools Minister, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb),

“said the policy”—

the School Direct policy—

“had met with such demand that nearly double as many places as envisaged will be offered initially.”

I have my doubts about the grammar of that statement, but that was a quote. We have to wonder what happened between that apparently high demand and the massive under-recruitment in key subjects, and why the Government did not take more account of the warnings that were given.

The Committee agreed that School Direct could provide a valuable opportunity for those schools that have the capacity and appetite to offer teacher training, although I would argue that that was not the same as calling for a rapid expansion of the programme. The Committee also warned that a diminution of the universities’ role in teacher training could bring considerable demerits, and that it would caution against it. It concluded that

“partnership between schools and universities is likely to provide the highest-quality initial teacher education, the content of which will involve significant school experience but include theoretical and research elements as well, as in the best systems internationally and in much provision”

in this country.

In the follow-up session last month, the Committee was given some idea of why School Direct has under-recruited overall. Martin Thompson from NASBTT said that

“our experience, working with head teachers who have been doing recruitment and selection with us as a school-based provider for something like 10 years, is that they are finding that those schools that do not have the experience are looking for teachers and not trainees. They are not selecting, and we are getting returned to us people who we would probably have put on the course but they do not, because they clearly do not represent the finished article. If schools have not had significant experience in ITT recruitment as opposed to teacher recruitment, they tend to miss some of the opportunities that are presented to them”.

I hope that the Minister has taken full account of that—I know he was at the session and heard that statement at the time.

Mr Thompson made the point that head teachers who are used to recruiting trainees make the distinction between recruiting a trainee who has potential and finding the finished article before they have started training. Chris Husbands from the Institute of Education told the Committee that some schools are considering people whom they think would be good but who do not have the minimum entry requirements, such as GCSEs in English, maths and science at grade C or better. As the Chair of the Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), pointed out, academies and free schools are already free to do just that by employing unqualified teachers. The Minister will need to address the point about unqualified teachers, not least given the remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister.

It is perhaps not surprising that some maintained schools look at so-called academy freedoms and wonder why they, too, cannot recruit unqualified teachers. That evidence, again, came to the Committee. The Minister really needs to explain how he can say that he supports the highest possible standards in teacher training on the one hand, while encouraging the employment of unqualified teachers on the other.

I come back to concerns about the role of universities. It is clear that any threat to the ongoing involvement of universities is a major concern, given the implications for the quality of training that follow from the evidence I quoted earlier, when it comes to the importance of having equal partnerships with universities, and of theoretical, reflective learning, not to mention academic study in continuing professional development. Potentially, a key part of teacher training is under strain, according to what university teacher training departments are saying.

Returning to the setting-up of School Direct, evidence to the Committee suggested that planning for the set-up was inadequate. That included a lack of communication with universities, which made administration very difficult, and a lack of thought about how a school-based system would operate and about how schools would work with universities. As a result, universities were left with a lack of certainty, which makes planning impossible and means that they do not know whether they will be viable next year.

Chris Husbands told the Committee that schools cannot plan school places and therefore cannot plan teacher supply. In his view, School Direct has so far struck the wrong balance between schools and universities, which could lead to a shortage of teachers. James Noble-Rogers from the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers confirmed that the way that School Direct had been set up could destabilise existing high-quality provision. That would be the result of the transfer of places to School Direct from postgraduate certificates in education. According to Mr Noble-Rogers, the implication of the way School Direct has been set up is that it will become the only way into initial teacher training.

Given evidence that schools cannot plan the number of teaching places, the very real danger is that we will end up with a shortage of teachers year after year in certain subjects. Instead of raising standards, the Government could suppress them because of the way that School Direct has been set up. Some will say that universities and other teacher training providers have a vested interest in opposing change. The Minister may even say that—he is smiling at me; I wonder what that means. Chris Husbands’ reply to that point in the Committee suggested otherwise:

“I run an organisation of which initial teacher training is part of the core business. It makes up about 18% of my turnover. I think we do it well, and we do it because we are committed to high quality and standards. If someone comes along and says, ‘Here is a better and more effective way of doing it,’ I am prepared to accept that. What makes me feel uncomfortable is that we are being offered something to replace something that we know is broadly effective. The vast majority of provision in universities is good or outstanding, and we are being asked to replace that with an unknown quantity, but being told that that is becoming de facto.

I am not sure whether that is self-interest. It does not feel like self-interest to me. This is, ‘We cannot carry on; we are doing something else instead.’ But the basis on which I think it is being developed quickly does not to me make sense.”


“We cannot carry on; we are doing something else instead”.

I think he was paraphrasing what the Government might have been saying.

The panel at the Committee’s follow-up session debated how School Direct had improved on existing school-led initial teacher training. I am afraid that the panel’s response will have disappointed the Minister. Its members suggested that there was nothing new. In fact, the view expressed was that the involvement of schools in the existing system was already strong enough. That prompts the question, why was that view not considered before the system was set up?

The Government say that they believe that having the best teachers is the single most important factor in ensuring high standards and good results. They also believe that we need to learn from other countries, where teachers invariably come from the ranks of the best-qualified graduates. That suggests that teaching should be one of the most desirable professions for graduates. International comparisons show that university involvement in teacher training is of the highest importance. However, serious concerns are being expressed about the viability of university teacher training departments as a result of changes made by the Government.

This year, in maths and physics—two subjects that are crucial to our economic success—we see that there is a chronic shortage of applicants. There are also shortages in other vital subjects, including computer science. Those shortages are occurring at the same time that significant changes have taken place in teacher training. They also indicate that the graduates with the best results are not applying to become teachers, including in subjects in which young people need the very best.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. This is a very important issue, but will he acknowledge that there have been shortages for a long time in the numbers of people coming through to teach maths and physics? That has not necessarily been caused by changes to the system. It went on for many years under the previous Government and is also going on under this one.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has made that point, because this has been a problem for a very long time. It is an international problem as well. However, the reality is that it has got worse in recent years, and when comparative studies were done between the applications for School Direct places and for places in existing provision, there was a bigger problem with the gaps in the School Direct system, which does not bode well for it. I am glad that he reminded me of that point, because it is a further example of where School Direct has not got it right yet.

The Government need to look at the evidence on what has happened, what works elsewhere, the importance of universities in teacher training, and how they avoid a crisis in the coming year as university teaching departments’ viability is considered. The Select Committee report’s evidence warned about rushing a change from the old system to a school commissioning system. Those warnings appear to have been ignored, and the evidence taken in the follow-up session shows that the rushed change has caused potentially serious problems in teacher training.

The Government should go back to the Committee’s original report and look at last month’s evidence session. They should also listen to the professionals who have a proven track record of delivering quality, and of improving teacher training so that it delivers for teachers and schools, ensures the long-term supply of teachers and, above all, delivers for children and young people. The Government should act quickly and make absolutely sure that teacher training is on track, involving successful partnerships between universities and schools, rather than the unbalanced approach that may have been created by their haste to grow School Direct.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) on securing this very important debate and on his measured and comprehensive speech setting out the problem. The Deputy Prime Minister is not in the room, and nor would we expect him to be, but I would like to thank him for his intervention at the weekend, which should make for an entertaining speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan). I shall leave the jokes to him; they are one of his many talents.

I would also like to thank the university of Sunderland for bringing this issue to my attention. Given the importance of the university to the city of Sunderland, I have a keen interest in its continued success, and I am in regular contact with the vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Fidler, to discuss any areas of concern that he may have. This is a particularly big area of concern for the university, and not just because of the financial implications. There are financial implications from losing places, of course, but the knock-on effect on the capacity of the university of Sunderland to deliver future places at the high quality that it currently provides is the most concerning impact. Sunderland is not alone in being challenged by this. In fact, because it has an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted for its secondary teacher training, it may be less affected than other universities, certainly in the short term. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central has described, this problem threatens to break the system in the medium to long term.

Colleagues will no doubt have seen the recent article on this issue by the former Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my noble Friend Baroness Morris of Yardley, who is also a former chancellor of the university of Sunderland and is still very much involved, so it cannot be said that she is speaking from an uninformed position. In that article, she sets it out clearly that the loss of guaranteed allocations and the lack of information about future numbers mean that initial teacher training providers are struggling to plan for the future. That makes it difficult for them to retain experienced staff and therefore to deliver high-quality training. In the worst cases, it could even mean that they will struggle to continue to run the courses on a viable footing. We are already seeing universities having to face up to that.

In the same article, Baroness Morris makes other valid critiques of the School Direct roll-out. She points out that there is no strategy to ensure even coverage of schools, either geographically or by subject area, meaning that opportunities may not be available to all candidates. She also points out that schools are under no obligation to fill the places that they have been allocated, meaning that we have no idea from one year to the next what the intake will be. However, the impact on the higher education sector, which, we should remember, also plays an important role in providing high-quality continuing professional development, is the most concerning.

What are the Government doing to counter the concerns? What the Minister and his colleagues have done, as in so many other policy areas, is in effect to absolve themselves of any responsibility for getting things done. There is no central planning, no assessment of the impact of the changes in the market and no accountability. In some ways, it is a remarkable contradiction of their academisation programme, which is a drive to make the Department directly responsible for an ever-increasing proportion of schools, although, as we saw last week, when failings emerge, Ministers are quick to absolve themselves of that responsibility too, so I suppose it does fit a pattern.

However, although we agree with Nick—to recycle that well used phrase—that teachers should be qualified, this particular issue of how they get that qualification is not a question of ideological or political differences. It is more a question of process and practicality. I like the idea of prospective teachers having a different postgraduate route into the profession. Provided that the schools providing these opportunities are up to scratch, particularly in terms of their special educational needs practice, School Direct should produce good teachers. Whether those teachers will be better or worse than those who gained qualified teacher status by the more traditional route is something that we do not know and may never know, so the extent to which Ministers and Government agencies appear to be championing this as a better option, rather than just an alternative option, is questionable.

A good idea is a good idea, but even the best ideas can run into problems because of a failure to think through and plan for their knock-on effects. Introducing and expanding new schemes must always be done with an eye on the consequences elsewhere, in consultation with those affected and in such a way as to support the core objectives. In this case, the Government appear to have ignored the concerns raised by universities and the Education Committee and are pursuing an implementation programme that will seriously affect other providers of initial teacher training. Worse is the potential knock-on effect of these reforms being a lack of teachers being recruited in shortage areas such as the sciences, including computer science, as we have heard. Even worse would be a shortage of teachers overall to meet the growing demand on the school system that is set to begin in a couple of years’ time because of the spike in the birth rate.

It seems to me that some factors that are relevant in anticipating the future demand for teachers may not immediately be apparent to schools considering their own immediate needs. Does the hon. Lady consider that perhaps we need some way in which those requirements could be factored into the demand for initial teacher training?

I agree, and that is why the unintended as well as the intended consequences of the programme need to be thought through. One unintended consequence is that if there is no initial demand, because the demand goes in another direction, universities will have to let qualified staff go, so the staff will not be there to pick up the slack in a couple of years’ time. How it will work in the short term, as well as the medium to long term, must be thought through.

Unless we get recruitment policy right now, there will be a shortage of not only primary school places, but secondary school teachers, especially given the number, which we are all aware of, of teachers leaving the profession due to their being completely demoralised by the actions and rhetoric of a certain Education Secretary. I do not think that universities are asking for too much when they ask for some certainty now. They accept that new schemes will come along from time to time, as we discussed, but like me, they rightly believe that the established route into the teaching profession—a route that has created the best generation of teachers we have ever had, let us not forget—will continue to be the preferred choice for many candidates.

No matter what the law says now, it is the responsibility of Ministers to ensure that those high-quality places are still available beyond the next election. I hope therefore that the Minister will listen to the concerns raised here today, and over the past few months by groups such as Million+, and ensure that his Government do not, as they are in the habit of doing, throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) on securing the debate. It is good to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Caton.

All my 30-plus years in education tell me that well-trained teachers improve the quality of teaching and learning and the outcomes for young people. My hon. Friend demonstrated that the evidence collected by the Education Committee confirms that judgment. It would be laughable for someone who had studied biology and physiology at a high level to be deemed qualified to practice medicine with no medical training, yet the Government seem happy for people to teach with no teacher training. The clear message is that anybody can teach and there is no skill involved. I can tell the Minister that there is a lot of skill: it is taught and it is learnt. Interestingly, while the Government squabble with their schizophrenic self, parents are clear about what they want: qualified teachers teaching their kids.

I bumped into a local head teacher at the weekend and mentioned today’s debate, saying that I was concerned that teacher education and supply would be undermined if the Government did not act to put right some of the things they have got wrong.

Given his 30 years’ experience, would my hon. Friend care to comment on the importance of continuing professional development and the impact of the reforms on it, as universities have raised concerns over the viability of their teacher training departments?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the overall ecology of support for teacher education and development. Other professionals work in the education industry and it is necessity for universities to provide part of the infrastructure. If the Government pull at one part of the infrastructure, other things will happen.

I told my head teacher friend whom I bumped into at the weekend that I thought things were in a spot of bother and might get worse. To my surprise, he said that teacher education and supply were already in chaos—that is from someone on the front line—adding that he did not understand why the effective graduate teacher programme had been scrapped. With a bit more digging—speaking to north Lincolnshire’s excellent lead for teacher induction, Kim Francis—I discovered that the restructuring and the reduction in staffing, with the responsibilities passed to the National College for Teaching and Leadership, coupled with systemic change in initial teacher training have resulted in widespread frustration for providers of initial teacher education. Lines of communication have become fractured and unreliable.

The Government’s single driver for policy implementation appears to be focused on School Direct, but given that schools need to be linked to accredited providers, serious confusion has reigned. Many schools are bewildered and question whether they have the capacity to implement and quality-assure initial teacher training. Locally, schools are ambivalent and lukewarm about taking on the responsibility.

Does my hon. Friend agree that serious confusion seems to reign not only in the Department for Education, but in the Government, between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister?

Sadly, my hon. Friend is correct. Confusion is the name of the game, but we are fortunate, indeed blessed, to have the Minister for Schools here today. We all look with anticipation to his illumination at the end of the debate.

Does my hon. Friend welcome the clarity with which the Secretaries of State for Energy and Climate Change and for Business, Innovation and Skills declared their agreement with the Deputy Prime Minister on the need for qualified teacher status in all taxpayer-funded schools? Does he look forward to the same clarity from the Minister today?

I welcome the interventions by the Deputy Prime Minister and his senior colleagues, which made it clear that they are with us, and with parents, schools, universities and everybody who proffers an opinion, apart from the Secretary of State for Education. I am sure that that puts the Minister in a slightly difficult position, but I note that the Deputy Prime Minister’s representative on earth, the hon. Member for Chippenham (Duncan Hames), is here, so I am sure he will come down on the right side of the debate.

The new UCAS single portal for all initial teacher education applications was due to open on 1 November. All School Direct lead schools as well as all accredited providers will be listed—hundreds of organisations. North Lincolnshire has been trying to secure its registration since July. The NCTL appears to have been the problem in that it has not passed on the new school-centred initial teacher training details to UCAS. Last Friday, it was announced that the UCAS site will not open until 21 November, due to the backlog in registering organisations, thus further delaying the recruitment cycle for 2014-15. The announcement caused understandable consternation for providers, who made plans based on the 1 November date. That illustrates the chaos in the system.

In addition, the retrospective application of the new skills test, based on “three strikes and you’re out”, has made potential applicants more wary of enrolling for teacher training. The stakes for them are much higher than before. Although the rhetoric around standards is attractive, it may well have the opposite effect, because the detailed questions that should have been thought through have not been. Kim Francis comments:

“Everybody I speak with in ITE is frustrated and dismayed about the chaos that has been created—a common reaction being ‘you couldn’t make it up!’”.

That is the world of this Government at this time. A colleague working elsewhere in teacher education noted that the NCTL

“has neither the staff levels nor I would guess expertise, given the lack of background knowledge, to get out of this mess in any kind of hurry.”

Why on earth are the Government dismantling effective teacher education? If they are looking at international comparators, as my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) pointed out, they might consider Finland, where it is universally recognised that children do well. Its teacher education has universities at its heart, is pitched at master’s level and involves longer periods of study and shorter classes. Instead, the Government chose to focus only on the idea of teaching schools, adapting it so as to be unrecognisable when compared with the Finnish model. They should go back to the start.

We could look at Canada, which is sixth for literacy in the programme for international student assessment tables—PISA. Universities are right at the heart of its teacher education. Students spend two years training and cover a wide range of educational theory, which they value. They spend much less time in the classroom, even over two years, than ours do. Teacher education is more than learning on the job. It is more than “Sitting next to Nellie”. Professor Christine Jarvis, dean of education at Huddersfield university, explains it well:

“Firstly, the obvious—teachers need to learn properly (not in the form of a few handy hints) about the psychology of learning, about the implications of social deprivation and context and not just about the specific government strategies and practices in force at any one time. They must have some in-depth knowledge. Second, they need time to reflect, critically, and with support away from the school in which they are working—the school whose practices they may wish to question. Third, teachers need to think about themselves as researchers, developing the ability to create knowledge about teaching—they need to learn research skills and methodologies. Finally, I think teachers are more than classroom practitioners. They are education professionals and should have a right to understand the job they are doing in a wider context, to take a place in wider society as people who can contribute to debate about what education should be, what schools should be.”

How profound and insightful that observation is.

The partnership between schools and higher education has been crucial to the success of teacher education. Universities are reporting requests for support from schools, but an unwillingness by schools to pay for such support. That is leading university vice-chancellors to question whether they can afford to be involved in this work. Schools are told by the NCTL that they must lead. They keep most of the income, design the curriculum and do most of the training, but because the university is the accredited provider, the university gets inspected by Ofsted. The university has little control and no power over the quality, but it will get the poor rating, while the school’s Ofsted grade will remain unaffected even if it messes up. It is not surprising, given the comparatively poor record of school-led teacher training in the past according to Ofsted judgments, that universities are worried about their reputations under the new arrangements. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are already beginning to cut their losses and pull out of teacher education.

The Government are presiding over a crisis in teacher education and supply that will get worse unless they act quickly. The limited opportunity to transfer allocations between different routes, which my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central has highlighted, has exacerbated the problem, impacting significantly on key subjects such as physics, mathematics and modern foreign languages. Overall, recruitment is 43% down in physics and 22% down in mathematics. Absurdly, the NCTL would not transfer unfilled School Direct places to universities, which consequently had to turn away good physics, maths and modern foreign languages candidates.

I do not want to abuse my position, but surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that because of the allocations that we gave to higher education institutes and to School Direct, higher education institutes were not turning away physics and maths graduates; they had unused space.

That is not what higher education establishments are saying. Only last week, I met Universities UK, which made it very clear that according to surveys of the universities that are part of its ambit, many universities had to turn people down. Universities had asked for School Direct places to be reallocated to them, but that did not happen. That demonstrates some of the confusion in the system. The Minister may be right, or Universities UK may be right; I am not sure. I am just listening to the noise.

Universities UK is calling for the Government to ensure that sufficient core allocation is granted to universities to enable them to sustain provision, including the support that they can offer School Direct partnerships. My hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West drew on the experience and testimony of Baroness Morris to illustrate how necessary that is for the stability of the system. Any rapid movement away from the current ratio of HE-led training and School Direct-led training will imperil that.

Confidence about future allocations is equally necessary for all proven initial teacher training partnerships, such as that in north Lincolnshire. As one school-centred initial teacher training programme manager recently said in exasperation,

“we still await confirmation of final allocations for both Core and School Direct places. Details of bursaries and scholarships were announced after the requests for places were submitted! Securing timely responses to our many and frequent enquiries to UCAS, Student Loans Company and NCTL is proving very difficult and making life extremely challenging and stressful for colleagues.”

Here are some questions for the Minister to focus on if he wants to turn the tide against this self-created crisis. In the light of current difficulties, will he resist the ideological temptation to increase School Direct allocations, and instead allow the system to stabilise? Will the Government provide greater certainty about the core allocation over the next few years to enable providers to plan and invest? Will the Government make it easier to transfer unfilled allocation between different routes to ensure that good candidates are not turned away? I note from the Minister’s intervention that he is, properly, concerned that that should be happening, and I hope that he is right about that. Will the Government take positive action to make HE equal partners in teaching schools by making it clear that HE partners should be invited to NCTL meetings and included in any correspondence about the teaching schools where they are partners? Will the Government look at getting Ofsted to inspect the lead organisation, whichever that may be, thereby better assuring future quality and putting accountability in the right place?

It is not too late to put the situation right, but teacher education is hurtling towards a shipwreck. If the Minister agrees with his party leader, the Deputy Prime Minister, that every child in a publicly funded school should have the right to be taught by a qualified teacher, he needs to say so today. He needs to take the necessary action to guarantee the quality of teacher education and secure future teacher supply. I am more optimistic—I am naturally optimistic—than the head teacher I bumped into at the weekend, but I do not have to run a school any more. I do not have to recruit the staff and secure the students’ future. I look to the Minister to act on those students’ behalf and take the actions that are clearly needed to avoid the rocks.

It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate my colleague and fellow member of the Select Committee on Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), on securing the debate. It is a pleasure to follow my colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who, like me, spent several decades of his career before coming into this place teaching and working in the education sector.

Until recently, the system of initial teacher training in this country was relatively simple and worked relatively well. I am the first to accept that schools have complained to me for decades that students coming out of university have to be taught how to teach, but when I have pressed them on the matter, they will accept—reluctantly, sometimes—that things have improved, that HE providers work well with schools, and that student teachers spend most of their final training year in classrooms teaching.

Until 2010, it was the job of the Department for Education, through the various reincarnations of the Teacher Training Agency, to decide each year how many teachers were needed and in what subjects. It was the job of the university-led teacher training institutions and schools, working together, to make sure that teachers in training had the right skills, knowledge and professionalism to work in our classrooms. Newly qualified teachers’ satisfaction with their courses was at an all-time high in 2010-11, which is the last year for which data are available. They rated their university courses as good or very good in 90% of cases. The proportion of graduate entrants holding a 2:1 or a first-class degree had been increasing steadily for years, prior to 2010. That is not perfect, and nor is there room for complacency, but it is a reasonably good picture, overall. There is recognition across the profession and, I think, throughout the House that we have a better, more qualified, knowledgeable and skilled teaching work force than at any time in our history. That is down to many things, not least of which is the quality of our ITT, which was recognised nationally and internationally as outstanding.

The Education Committee, on which I serve, looked into and reported on the issue of teacher training in some depth in the spring of 2012 as part of its “Great teachers” inquiry and report. I am sure that the Minister has studied it. We recognised the various and diverse routes into teaching and the role of the higher education institutions as well as school-based providers. It was clear to us that a sharp move from higher education and school-led partnerships to largely school-led provision was highly contentious and fraught with difficulties, not least because the school-led sector was not yet robust enough and did not have the capacity to replace the higher education sector. The Minister will no doubt say that he does not intend to replace the higher education ITT sector with school-led ITT, but that will be the outcome if the higher education-led ITT sector is not sufficiently funded and supported. Universities will simply reduce or withdraw from the market, closing their schools of education. As the Minister knows, that is beginning to happen.

As part of the inquiry the Select Committee visited Finland and Singapore, countries that are recognised as among the best in the world for ITT, and which the Secretary of State regularly cites as jurisdictions from which he wants to learn. They both have university-led teacher training and recognise that a knowledge base in education and child development, with a research-based dissertation through a university, are required to produce the best teaching force. In 2012 the Select Committee cautiously welcomed the extension of School Direct, but it had serious reservations that it wanted the Government to consider.

University-led ITT in England is recognised internationally as outstanding. Ofsted has confirmed that through its own inspection. If we truly believe that we need to learn from what is internationally outstanding, why would we not hesitate before putting the quality of that provision at risk? The Committee welcomed more school involvement in ITT, but we had reservations about whether schools are equipped to deliver the programme on their own and, in many cases, to lead it. We were particularly concerned about the time scale. Change is a fact of life, but to change too swiftly the balance from higher education-led to school-led ITT is to run the risk of damaging what is already a good—even outstanding—system. In the long run it will create a teacher shortage, which is exactly what appears to be happening.

My hon. Friend is making a sound contribution to the debate. Does she feel that the Select Committee’s prescient alertness to what was happening, and its warnings, should have been heeded? We would not then be in the position that we are in now.

I entirely agree. If the Government had attended to the warnings of the Select Committee in spring 2012 we would not be facing the crisis that my hon. Friend’s colleague and friend spoke about at the weekend. Since the Committee considered the issues it has been apparent that there is a worrying future for ITT in England, and for the future sufficiency of the teacher work force. The historical context is that every recent Tory Government has left office with a teacher shortage.

Some but not all School Direct places will offer an academic qualification such as the postgraduate certificate in education alongside qualified teacher status. However, accredited providers are accountable and responsible for the conferring of any academic qualification and QTS. In view of that, it is not surprising that students prefer to have an academic qualification including QTS from a university, rather than from a school, albeit one that is linked to a higher education provider. That is, if nothing else, an issue of status. All things being equal, what good maths graduate is going to choose school-based QTS over that awarded by a prestigious university? In that matter, I have some experience.

The problem is that Government policy is shifting funding from universities to school-led provision so quickly that, while universities may not be short of students applying for their teaching courses, they no longer have the funding to deliver courses of the quality and in the numbers that they have in the past. Universities are particularly concerned about the impact of the next round of ITT allocations on their ability to sustain teacher training. That includes the ability to sustain support for school-led routes such as the School Direct programme.

In 2013-14, as we have heard, ITT allocations and acceptances by Government have shifted by 25% to School Direct. More than 90% of postgraduate and undergraduate courses through universities were filled across the country and, in some cases, across subject areas, but only 66% of places allocated to School Direct have been met—well below the target allocation. In addition there has been over-recruitment in subjects including chemistry, history and PE, and that has masked much larger shortfalls in subjects such as maths and physics. Overall recruitment is 43% below target in physics and 22% below target in maths. The shortfall has been made worse because the Government have chosen to reduce allocations to HE institutions and universities, the bit in the system that we know works well and that has already been judged outstanding, while significantly shifting allocations to the School Direct programme, the bit in the system that is new, in many cases experimental and, as we now know, falling well short of targets. I understand that they have refused to shift the under-filled ITT places in School Direct to universities.

The hon. Lady mentioned the core allocation provided to higher education institutions. Bath Spa university, which provides ITT for many in my constituency, has outstanding status and therefore still enjoys some core allocation. Does she share its concern that, with changes in the Ofsted regime, the number of higher education institutions with a guaranteed core allocation will decline?

I agree entirely. I and others in the profession are extremely worried that the next round of ITT allocations will result in some universities cutting back further, or closing their education departments as they become financially unsustainable. If that happens, an even greater burden will fall on school-led provision without the support of the higher education element that everyone recognises as vital to the provision of good teaching.

Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I cannot understand the Government’s insistence on employing unqualified teachers in schools. I have an MSc and I think that, certainly in the past, I was qualified to teach mathematics, but a working knowledge of maths and statistics does not make a teacher. Without the benefit of a Bachelor of Education degree, I would not have had the necessary skills and knowledge of child development. I would not have known how children learn, or about differentiation and delivering a syllabus to a range of abilities. I would not have known about assessment, or understood what each child could or could not do, and what they needed to do next. I would not have been able to manage behaviour in a classroom, or to identify and meet the needs of children with special needs. Probably just as importantly, I would not have had credibility, or the trust of my colleagues, the parents, and the pupils. Pupils know who is or is not experienced, and they can quickly tell who is qualified. Often that will determine not only their willingness to listen and learn, but their classroom behaviour.

The Government need to step back and consider their future allocation for ITT carefully. They run the risk of irreversibly damaging a system that has worked well and served us well, that has provided us with the best teaching force that the country has ever had, and that is internationally recognised as outstanding. To plough ahead regardless is to risk destabilising the whole system, damaging it irreversibly and leaving the country with yet another Tory-made teacher shortage.

This must remind you, Mr Caton, of your election to the House of Commons in 1997, for a Welsh constituency, because we seem to be in a Tory-free zone in the Chamber. Is that a Tory on the Bench behind the Minister? [Interruption.] No, he is a Liberal as well—so it is a Tory-free zone.

I congratulate those who have come to take part: my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), who secured this important debate; my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson); and my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who once again drew on his experience. I visited his college when he was a head teacher and I was a Minister, and a fine and well-led college it was. I congratulate him on delivering his speech to the accompaniment of the Household Cavalry outside; it was impressive how he kept going despite the drumbeat. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass) also contributed, along with the occasional chipping in from the hon. Member for Chippenham (Duncan Hames), which was welcome. I found very little to disagree with in his interventions.

At the root of this debate is the fact that the Secretary of State for Education does not believe that teaching is a profession at all. He has made it clear that he thinks it is a craft to be picked up on the job, which is why he does not really care whether teachers in taxpayer-funded schools are qualified. That is his policy: teachers in academies and free schools need not be qualified. Bearing in mind that more than half of secondary schools are now academies, that represents the majority of schools in the country for children over the age of 11.

As far as the Secretary of State is concerned, as long as teachers have good subject knowledge, that is sufficient. Knowledge is important, but as the great Peter Kay said, knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. Let me make it clear that Labour believes, just as we now know the Deputy Prime Minister believes, that it is wisdom to ensure that teachers in our taxpayer-funded schools have or are en route to gaining a teaching qualification, and that they enhance those qualifications throughout their career through continuing professional development. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe, I did a postgraduate certificate in education many years ago. They were not always of the highest quality. We must always be trying to improve the quality of teacher training. During my teaching career, I went on to do an MSc in education management. It was an important part of the structure of a career.

I will not dwell on the disastrous recent news about the Al-Madinah free school, or from Pimlico, but the Government should reflect on some of those lessons during the next few weeks and months. In this debate, I will talk a little about current problems.

I apologise for not being here earlier; I had soldiers returning today, and I had to greet them downstairs. I am sorry that they made a bit of noise.

The Education Committee of which I was Chair did a thorough investigation into the quality of teacher training. It can be improved, but there is a whole culture out there. I am a visiting professor at the Institute of Education. This is the week of the professions, when 15 professions have come together to say how important the professions are in setting standards and creating the culture of a profession. Does my hon. Friend agree that is more important in teaching than in almost any other profession?

I certainly do. The distinguished former Chair of the Education Committee makes a powerful point. The mood music from Government is important too in whether teaching is regarded as a profession, and it is highly important that teaching, of all professions, should be. We have worked hard in recent years, including through the efforts of my hon. Friend and his former Committee, to raise the status of teachers to the point where we could say with confidence and Ofsted’s support that we had the best ever generation of teachers in this country. That is in danger of being undermined by the current Government’s approach to the issue.

On the current problems, we support and have supported the trend for student teachers to spend more time in schools. We started the support of Teach First when we were in government—to listen to the Secretary of State, one would think that he invented it—and we supported its expansion. However, the trend should be managed properly. The problem is that in their eagerness to propagandise and oversell the School Direct policy, the Government have abdicated their role in securing enough teacher training places, they are not ensuring an even geographical subject spread and they are destabilising university teacher training. We heard about the example of Bath, an institution rated outstanding in teacher training, is considering giving up its teacher training programme next year due to the uncertainty created.

I know that the hon. Gentleman did not find much to disagree with in my earlier remarks, but I certainly did not suggest that they were considering abandoning initial teacher training, although it is fair to remark that in its partnerships with schools, they rely on the talent that they can bring to its institutions with the certainty that their core numbers allow.

I agree that the hon. Gentleman may not have said so, but they have said it themselves, in evidence to the Education Committee. It is on the record if he wants to check it.

We say yes to a diversity of routes into teacher training and a greater role in teacher training for good schools, but no to leaving the supply of teachers to the vagueness of an imperfect market, generating greater uncertainty and possibly leading outstanding higher education providers to close down courses. Will the Minister listen to the concerns, ensure that core allocation to good universities is sufficient, bearing in mind that they also supply support to School Direct partnerships, and give enough certainty to allow them to commit to future investment in teacher training? I am sure that, as an economist, he will understand the importance for future investment of having some certainty within the market. Will the Minister also make it easier, as my hon. Friends have asked, to transfer or vire allocations between different routes, so that good candidates are not turned away from teacher training unnecessarily?

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that when my former Committee investigated the training of teachers, we also considered the training of social workers? Social worker training is an interesting warning sign. When we destabilised the training of social workers, many of the finest centres, such as the London School of Economics, said, “This is too much bother,” and withdrew from training social workers. We are in danger of doing that to the teaching professions. Good institutions will leave the market, as will some of the leading research institutions that also train teachers.

Once again, Ministers would do well to heed my hon. Friend’s words.

Should properly trained and qualified teachers be required at all? The Secretary of State says no, in academies and free schools. The Deputy Prime Minister says yes, as we learned this weekend, along with the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary and Environment Secretary. We all want to know what the Schools Minister says. I know that he has a first-class degree from Cambridge—

A double first-class degree! I hope that he will not choose to engage in sophistry in his answer. Heaven forfend that he would.

I want to wipe the slate clean after the Minister’s remarks in the House last week. I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friends, but I think that the current situation is beyond satire. I have thought about it, and I cannot quite do it. They can look at Nick Robinson’s blog on the BBC website tomorrow if they want to see an attempt at satirising the position in which the Schools Minister finds himself, but I will not check it.

Will the Minister give us a clear answer today? Does he agree with the Deputy Prime Minister, his party leader, that teachers in academies—which are now the majority of secondary schools—and free schools should have a teaching qualification or be on a path to acquire one? I will give way now. Does he want to take this opportunity to say that he agrees with his leader?

I have six. It will only take a second to say yes.

I want to help the Schools Minister out of his painful position. I have here the coalition agreement. It is a much spoken-about but rarely read document. I have performed a careful textual exegesis of the document, which says many things about teaching and schools. I accept that the Minister’s party is pledged to support what the agreement says about teaching; it signed up to the agreement, after all. I know, having been involved a little bit many years ago in helping to set up a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in the National Assembly for Wales, that they will want to try to stick to what they have agreed in the agreement. However, unless the Minister intervenes on me to tell me that I am wrong, I cannot find any mention at all of a commitment to allow free schools and academies to employ teachers without a teaching qualification or a pathway to one.

The Minister is not twitching to intervene to tell me that I am wrong. I am sure that he will refer to the coalition agreement in his speech on whether the commitment is in there, but as far as I can see, it is not.

My hon. Friend is, as always, very effective on the Front Bench. Does the coalition agreement not say that no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers? The evidence provided by members of the Select Committee shows that that is in peril at the moment.

Indeed. The agreement says:

“We will support Teach First, create Teach Now to build on the Graduate Teacher Programme, and seek other ways to improve the quality of the teaching profession”

et al., but I cannot see the policy anywhere in there. I am sure that the Minister will tell me I am wrong, because I cannot believe that he would support the policy unless it was in the agreement, because it seems to go against all previous Lib Dem pronouncements and is something with which the Deputy Prime Minister does not agree.

The Minister and his colleagues could have joined us when we tabled an amendment against the policy. Clearly, from what the Deputy Prime Minister has said, when the Lib Dems supported the Tories on the policy in the vote, it was not because they believed in the policy; it must have been because they believed that it was in the coalition agreement, and therefore they had to support it. However, the policy is not in the agreement, so they do not have to support it.

In a moment.

If the Minister supports his leader, he should say so now to the House. This is his opportunity. Let us pass a motion in the House to show that the will of Parliament is against allowing unqualified teachers to teach in taxpayer-funded schools. Let us get it on, shall we? Let us get it done now. There is no need to wait until the next election. It is not in breach of the coalition agreement. It is a chance to show that the Deputy Prime Minister’s words were real, that they were meant, and that they were not just a political stunt, because that would be to betray parents, pupils and the electorate, and to take the electorate for fools.

I challenge the Minister: stand up, show some spine and give us a straight answer. Does he agree with his leader—yes or no?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. May I say how delighted I am to have a debate today on teacher training and supply? I congratulate the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) on securing this debate on an important and topical issue, and on putting his case and concerns in a measured and informed way. I also pay tribute to other hon. Members who have contributed and commented on the important issues.

I will focus my comments primarily on School Direct, which is what the hon. Member for Sefton Central talked about. However, I will not disappoint the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), and I promise him that, before the end of my comments, I will have answered directly his questions on qualified teacher status.

Before I begin the main part of my speech, I ask hon. Members to put in a little context the important changes that we have been talking about today, particularly those on School Direct. If I understood the hon. Gentleman rightly, the Labour party supports School Direct and would not end it—he was challenging the method of allocation, not the policy direction.

One would get the impression from some of the debate that there has been a vast lurch away from a university-led or university-involved system, but the reality is that higher education institutions deliver 86% of all teacher training places. In absolute terms, HEIs will deliver more places in 2013-14 than in 2012-13. Obviously, many School Direct places are in partnership with HEIs; they are not stand-alone organisations. One good thing about School Direct is that schools often have a more constructive dialogue with HEIs, rather than getting whatever they are given.

I am going to make a bit more progress before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, because I do not want to fall behind and miss the opportunity to respond to the shadow Minister.

I was saddened to hear that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) was going to wipe the slate clean and not mention the comments made by the Minister last week. I am not as generous. Last week, the Minister said that Labour’s criticism of the lack of qualified teachers in the Al-Madinah free school was

“nothing other than total and utter opportunism”—[Official Report, 17 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 889.].

and that our policy on this area was “complete and utter incoherence”. Does he stand by those comments?

I certainly stand by the comments about Labour’s policy on free schools. However, I will respond to the points made by the hon. Member for Sefton Central on School Direct, and then—I assure the hon. Lady—I will return to the issue of QTS before we finish the debate.

As the hon. Member for Sefton Central knows, the 2010 White Paper, “The Importance of Teaching”, set out our ambition for a schools system that can compete with the best in the world. Improving teacher quality is at the heart of the plan, as he mentioned, in both attracting good applicants and ensuring a good supply of teachers in all subjects over time.

To improve teacher quality, it is vital that the teaching profession can attract and retain the best people. As the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues mentioned, top-performing education systems around the world, such as those in Finland and South Korea, draw their teachers from the most academically able candidates who demonstrate the right mix of personal and intellectual qualities. Candidates then go through high-quality training, often led by schools, focusing on the skills and knowledge that they need to become successful teachers.

By making teaching a highly attractive profession, we are seeing high-quality teachers enter and stay in teaching. More top graduates and career changers than ever before are coming into teaching. In spite of the economic upturn that we are now seeing, we expect to hit 96% of our recruitment target this year, after a period of recruiting above the target. There is currently no evidence of teacher vacancy rates rising.

Data published before the Select Committee hearing on 11 September provided an accurate picture of where we were with recruitment at that stage in the cycle. The picture is mixed across subjects, as the hon. Gentleman acknowledged. The data showed that we had exceeded our targets in some subjects: chemistry, where we achieved 110% of the target; English, 114%; and history, 137%. However, they also showed that we were likely to miss targets in subjects such as maths and physics. Final recruitment data will be published at the end of the year.

Importantly, we over-allocated—I will return to that point later—the allocations, particularly in this first year of School Direct, to ensure that we did not lose high-quality people across the board, particularly in physics, maths and computer sciences. The under-recruited areas referred to by a number of hon. Members were those where both higher education institutions themselves and School Direct did not fill up their full quotas; they both had shortages. It would be a far greater concern if HEIs had filled up their quotas but School Direct had come in under target, but they both came in below their allocated numbers.

Does the Minister not recognise that even though HEIs have fallen short, there is a huge difference between School Direct and HEIs in the missed targets in maths and physics?

I am happy to write to the hon. Lady with the exact figures, which I do not have to hand, but there were considerable undershoots on both, so we have not been suppressing demand for places in higher education institutions, particularly in those shortage subjects. As she will know, maths and physics are subjects that have traditionally been challenging to recruit for, although we recruited a record number of physics trainees last year. We would need 37% of all physics graduates to come into teacher training to meet our target for physics teachers alone.

We recognise that we need to do more to improve recruitment in shortage subjects, and to increase the number of people taking A-levels, which is likely to increase the pool of people who can be drawn into those subjects. That is why we announced last week that we will make more scholarships available and change bursaries to help recruit the most talented graduates in key subjects. Scholarships awarded by respected subject organisations will be made available to the top maths, physics, chemistry and computing trainees, which will build on the existing scholarships that have proved highly popular. Since the Government introduced scholarships in 2011, 425 high-quality graduates in maths, physics, chemistry and computing have been attracted to teaching through the scheme.

The Minister for Schools is yet again articulating the shortages in maths and physics. Does he subscribe to the view that universities ought to have a much greater specialism in training teachers so that there is a culture in which teaching is attractive to science and maths graduates generally?

Yes, I strongly agree. We must also do more to get more people to take both A-levels and degrees in those subjects.

A further 680 teacher training scholarships will be available for trainees starting in the 2014-15 academic year, with scholarships increasing to £25,000 in September 2014. Bursaries will continue to be available in maths, physics, chemistry, computing and languages, as well as in a range of other subjects, and we will increase some bursary payments for maths, physics and computing to reflect the challenges faced in recruitment to initial teacher training this year. Hon. Members will be aware of the new bursary figures that we published last week.

Furthermore, A-level results published in August by the Joint Council for Qualifications show that there has been a big rise in the number and proportion of young people taking A-levels in maths and physics. More students—both the number of entries and the percentage of the cohort—now do maths, further maths and physics at A-level than ever before, which means that we expect to have a bigger pool of potential shortage subject candidates.

Shortfalls in recruitment are mitigated by the fact that newly qualified teachers make up only about half—23,500—of the 45,000 new teachers in English state schools in 2010-11; of the rest, a third of the total or 14,700 people had qualified in previous years, and a fifth of the total or 8,200 people were returners. Initial teacher training targets are set in the context of longer-term recruitment patterns and anticipated need over a number of years, so over-recruitment in previous years, including in maths and chemistry, is taken into account in the targets set for future years. Therefore, over-recruitment in previous years gives some protection against under-recruitment in one year. We have over-recruited in some areas over the past few years.

Alongside getting teachers into the key subject areas, we must still maintain our strong focus on teacher quality in all subjects. We know that we have the highest quality of trainee teachers ever. In 2012, more than 70% of graduates starting teacher training had a 2:1 or higher, which is the highest proportion ever recorded. We are increasing teacher quality through a number of reforms. We have provided schools with increased flexibility to decide how much they pay a teacher and how quickly pay progresses, which will enable schools to target school-level recruitment and retention problems. We are reforming initial teacher training so that schools play a greater role in the selection and training of teachers, through the expansion of School Direct and with more schools becoming accredited ITT providers. That will provide schools with greater choice and influence over the quality of both training and trainees.

The introduction of School Direct marks a sea change in how schools are involved in the recruitment and training of teachers. It effectively gives head teachers more influence over training and recruitment issues. Many of them welcome that, which is why schools are so keen to participate in the School Direct programme, albeit that they have proved themselves, in the first year, to be highly discriminating about the applicants whom they decide to take on. That is a good thing, although it is a challenge to ensure that we get the allocations right. The director of the leading Arthur Terry teaching school in Birmingham has said:

“It is very much the vision that all future appointments will be from our pool of training teachers and reduce the need to advertise nationally.”

Over time, many teachers and head teachers will want to take more responsibility for managing initial teacher training. The number of schools that are interested in taking part in School Direct shows that there is an appetite for that, and it is right to respond positively to this enthusiasm. Although it is still early days, School Direct is proving a highly popular means of recruiting great candidates into high-quality school-led training. For 2013-14, more than 9,000 places were requested by 850 schools, more than a third of which were from teaching schools, and by May, about 22,500 people had applied for the 9,400 places available. Recruitment shortfalls cannot be attributed to the introduction of School Direct. So far School Direct has recruited 67% of the places it was allocated, and—I made this point earlier—the subjects that have struggled to recruit through School Direct have also struggled to recruit to core places in HEIs, which is why we are introducing more scholarships and increasing bursaries.

I merely encourage the Minister to answer the question whether he thinks that unqualified teachers are a better answer to our teaching shortage than qualified teachers. Does he agree or disagree with the Deputy Prime Minister? Will he deal with that in his remaining four minutes?

I will certainly answer that question if the hon. Gentleman gives me the time to do so.

Schools are quite rightly setting the bar high and are looking to recruit the best possible candidates. Where possible, we have over-allocated places to ensure that sufficient candidates of the necessary calibre can be recruited. There has been a healthy interest in School Direct for next year. Requests for places in 2014-15 from schools, school-centred initial teacher training providers and higher education institutions are being processed, and we shortly expect to make announcements on initial allocations. We look forward to building on the enthusiasm of schools that have requested places, and we continue to welcome new schools into the School Direct programme.

School Direct is not about removing the role of universities in initial teacher training. Many teachers will want to go through a traditional university route, and many schools are developing healthy partnerships with universities. We are moving to a system of greater choice and diversity, which is welcomed by most schools and potential teachers.

Along with School Direct, we are continuing other programmes that aim to ensure that teaching is attractive to the country’s most able people. We have committed to supporting the expansion of Teach First by giving more top graduates the opportunity to teach in challenging schools by providing 2,000 places by 2015-16. We have developed a Troops to Teachers programme, with the wider aim of attracting and recruiting high-quality service leavers into schools.

I want to turn to the issue of qualified teachers that has so excited the shadow Minister for Schools today. I recall that the late, great Robin Cook once said, “If you want to keep something secret, the best place to say it is the House of Commons.” I now say that the best place to keep secrets from the Labour party is on the floor of the Liberal Democrat conference. Today, we heard all this material from the shadow Minister, who has been beavering away: he has looked in the coalition agreement and searched through the press cuttings. It is all very impressive, but all he had to do was to listen to what went on at the Lib Dem conference in March, when we passed a motion, which I think I proposed, that was voted for by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister—[Hon. Members: “The Prime Minister!”] The Deputy Prime Minister, certainly. The motion set out our position on qualified teacher training, making it clear that we want it for every school. [Interruption.] It is not a secret, so what has happened to the research capabilities of the Labour party? Why is this such great news? [Interruption.]

On a point of order, Mr Caton. Is it in order for the Minister to engage in sophistry rather than answering the question?

Thank you, Mr Caton. The shadow Minister for Schools is just grumpy because he missed the public news about the debate that took place at the Liberal Democrat conference. He has not been reading his press cuttings and keeping up with the news. I make him a genuine offer of free tickets to attend the Liberal Democrat conference each year so that he can follow our debates, see the motions we pass and keep up with the news to enable him to understand the differences—we see them across the board, and I thought that he would understand them—between the responsibilities exercised by any Minister in a coalition Government at the Dispatch Box and each individual party’s policies. I extend that free offer to the next conference.