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Schools: Teacher Training

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many six-month courses to train former City workers as teachers have been set up; and how many students have registered for them.

My Lords, the six-month intensive route to qualified teacher status will be trialled by the Institute of Education in the University of London. The courses will begin in September and conclude at Easter, with successful trainees employed by schools while they train. They plan to recruit up to 40 applicants: 15 in science, 15 in mathematics and 10 in information and communications technology.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and for the good news about the London institute, but would she accept that the announcement has caused a great deal of anxiety in many of those who provide courses of training for teachers? They feel that a course of six months will be of a lower standard than the current courses of 12 months and that this will create inequalities between those who have trained on the full 12-month course and those who have had only half that training.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that those in the teaching fraternity who are concerned about ensuring that teacher training is of the highest quality have expressed views about this initiative, and we are always extremely interested to learn. With this new six-month fast track, we are talking about a small pilot delivered by an extremely expert institution, which will be rigorously evaluated. It is not about any reduction in quality; it is about putting a small number of people through an incredibly intensive and testing training regime.

My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that this very short period of training will give enough time to teach the students about child safeguarding? As we have heard in the news this morning, if people working for the National Health Service are not able to recognise signs of abuse, we cannot expect City workers to do so.

My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that I am extremely concerned that all of us should give safeguarding the priority that is right and proper. Of course, that applies in teaching, as it does among health professionals. The important point about the six-month training course is that the trainees will have to achieve qualified teacher status during that time. That is what the evaluation is going to look at—at how effective that is, whether they can achieve that status and whether they go on to employment and through that employment are retained.

My Lords, it is a matter for the Institute of Education to develop exactly what criteria will apply most effectively, but we are looking at the top end of graduate applicants. We are looking at people who have experience and who you might term as “City high-flyers” who are looking to change career. It is a stretching requirement.

My Lords, does this scheme extend to primary schools, where there is a serious shortage of male teachers? Following on from the question about child protection asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will child development be taught on these courses?

My Lords, I think that it would be helpful for me to write to noble Lords setting out in some detail what the course will cover, but, as I understand it, it is not possible to achieve qualified teacher status without covering issues such as child development and without understanding child safeguarding. I am very happy to provide more detail on that.

My Lords, following on from my noble friend Lady Perry’s Question, have there been any added incentives or golden handshakes for this particular pilot?

No, my Lords. The incentive, as I would identify it, is the opportunity to qualify in a shorter period of time. My own experience is that my father came into teaching from industry and was encouraged to do so by the introduction of the PGCE in the 1970s—so the opportunity to train in a year was quite new then. The opportunity to train and become a qualified teacher quickly is in itself a great incentive for some people. We are trying to make sure that we have a flexible range of opportunities for people to come into teaching as we need these experts coming in.

My Lords, while this new course is very exciting, and the Government are to be congratulated on having introduced it, six months is a very short time. Can my noble friend assure the House that those undertaking it will do so in a context in which education is seen to be about developing questioning critical minds? It is not just a matter of the technical techniques of maths and the rest.

My Lords, I think that I can reassure the House on that. The Institute of Education is an internationally renowned institution. It is part of our higher education system, which delivers the highest quality of provision. The noble Lord should be reassured. He should also be reassured by the fact that we are rigorously evaluating this, and I am sure that noble Lords will be interested to see the outcome of that evaluation.

My Lords, the Minister will know that the Teach First programme has for the past seven years been taking top-grade graduates and giving them fast-track training. What retention rates have there been on the Teach First programme?

My Lords, 50 per cent of those who go through Teach First stay in the profession. The challenge of Teach First is to get people working in deprived schools. If they move out of teaching, they are expected to continue as an education ambassador. While 50 per cent continue teaching—which is great—we have the other 50 per cent promoting education and acting as mentors and ambassadors.