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Teacher Training

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

Teaching is an increasingly popular career choice for the best and brightest. Some 73% of graduates starting teacher training hold a 2:1 or above—the highest proportion ever—and last year we recruited 94% of our postgraduate initial teacher training target. We have exceeded our postgraduate recruitment target for primary trainee teachers for 2015-16 and are making good progress with secondary recruitment, but we have more to do to ensure the best graduates enter training.

With only 61% of teacher training places being filled in 2014, with 38% of teachers leaving the profession after one year, with thousands of new teachers never reaching a classroom and with thousands more leaving the profession because of stress and exhaustion, will the Secretary of State acknowledge the crisis in teaching and tell us what she will do about it?

I am afraid that I do not recognise the hon. Lady’s figures. I just said that last year we recruited 94% of our postgraduate initial teacher training target. We also do not recognise the claim that so many teachers are leaving the profession after their first year. In fact, more than 90% are still in the profession after their first year. Of course, we recognise the pressures on teachers, who do a fantastic job up and down the country, which is why I launched the workload survey last year and why we have introduced specific schemes to recruit teachers to specific subjects. In addition, as I mentioned, we are already ahead of our primary teacher target for this year.

It is important not only to increase the number of teachers but to improve the quality of education. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that students get the best possible education from our teachers?

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for the question. She is absolutely right that the quality of teaching is the most critical factor in determining whether our young people get the best possible education, enabling them to fulfil their potential. As I have said, 73% of graduates starting teacher training hold a 2:1 degree or above, which is the highest proportion ever.

I am afraid that the Secretary of State is completely complacent and in total denial about the teacher recruitment crisis and the teacher training situation. I noticed how she glossed over the secondary figures in her answer and hoped we would not notice. If she will not listen to us—we know she will not—will she listen to headteachers, who consistently report difficulties recruiting teachers, and act now to train and retain more teaching staff?

It will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to know he is absolutely right: I will not listen to him. However, I do engage with headteachers up and down the country, who tell me about their successes with recruitment, as well as the challenges that remain. As I said, we recognise that there are pressures. As the economy recovers, of course recruitment to something as worthy as teaching will become more of an issue, but that does not mean it is worth talking down the profession, as Labour and the teaching unions sometimes do. The teacher vacancy rate remains as low as 1%, while 90% of those entering teaching are still in the profession after their first year.

Please can we have more former members of the armed forces in our schools? Members of Her Majesty’s armed forces display the very best of British values, so will she look to supercharge the Troops to Teachers programme to get more of these outstanding individuals into our classrooms?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that the skills that those who have served in our armed forces can bring to working with young people in schools up and down the country are enormous. I was delighted some months ago to visit the latest recruits to the Troops to Teachers training scheme in Bristol, all of whom were brilliantly engaged and will be a huge asset to the classroom. Of course, we believe in the military ethos programme, and I have also set aside £50 million to grow the cadet forces in our schools.

Will the Secretary of State recognise that in Northern Ireland we are training more teachers than we need or can use, but to a very high standard? Is she working with the devolved Governments to make sure we maximise the opportunities for everyone in all four countries?

I have not had that conversation with the devolved Government, but I am happy to do so. I think that the hon. Gentleman, like me and all Members, recognises that the quality of teaching is the single most important factor in helping our young people to reach their potential, and I am delighted to hear that things are going so well in Northern Ireland.