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Education: Initial Teacher Training

Volume 765: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2015


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the relative merits of different ways of delivering initial training of teachers.

My Lords, I beg leave to answer—no, to ask—the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Perhaps I could ask the noble Lord to be quicker on his feet in future, or perhaps I should be less eager.

My Lords, since 2010 we have reformed ITT to put greater control in the hands of the best schools. It is too early to conduct a thorough comparison of different routes. The first full cohort of School Direct trainees have only just completed their first year of training. However, the department regularly assesses demand, completion and employment rates, and how well different routes attract trainees and the quality of those trainees. The latest data show that candidates on school-led ITT routes have higher completion and employment rates than those on HEI-led ITT.

The Minister will be aware that, while teachers are probably of the highest quality that they have ever been, 17% fewer students have gone into teaching over the last five years. He will also be aware of the huge increase in the birth rate that is coming down the track, which will probably mean something in the order of 900,000 more pupils, who will obviously require extra teachers. As for university higher education, how can universities plan long term and strategically if future funding is not always guaranteed?

The noble Lord raises a very good point. Our current thinking is that the allocation of places on a year-by-year basis is the most accurate method and ensures that our future teachers train in only the highest-quality settings. The current system allows us to factor in market fluctuations and ensures that participation in ITT is dependent on Ofsted grade and proven ability to fill places. However, we keep these processes under constant review.

My Lords, the Minister indicated that it was too early to make an assessment about the quality of initial teacher training—yet in his concluding remarks he indicated a preference for School Direct rather than higher education initial teacher training, which implies to me that the Government have already made up their mind on this. Would he give us an assurance, first that there will be an independent assessment of the new way of initial teacher training and how it compares with the traditional system, and secondly that he can guarantee future teacher supply across the United Kingdom?

It is important to point out that this is not quite the dramatic change that some people think. After all, at least 60% of the one-year postgraduate ITT course—which the vast majority of trainees go on through HEI—is already in-school. This year, nearly half the trainees will be going through a school-led system, and this Government trust schools and heads to be in charge of teacher improvement.

Will my noble friend agree that probably the most important gift that teachers bring to their pupils is their knowledge of the subject they teach? Can he assure us that the new way of training teachers—through the school route—will still ensure that they have a strong mastery of and enthusiasm for the subject they teach?

I agree entirely. Subject knowledge is one of the most important things that teachers must have. The Carter review, while saying that the overall effectiveness of ITT was pretty good, pointed out that this was one of the weak areas. Our reforms to the curriculum, by attracting more highly qualified teachers into the system, will result in our next generation of teachers having greater subject knowledge. We are already seeing this in A-levels, where over the last five years the number of students has increased by 13% in maths, 16% in physics and 17% in chemistry.

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is aware of the concern that many employers have about many teachers’ lack of knowledge—not lack of interest—about how they can support industry and local employers to talk about apprenticeships and encourage their youngsters to apply for them. Will he assure the House that regardless of which scheme or method of training goes forward, there will be an element that requires teachers to relate to local employers, making sure apprenticeships become part of young people’s options?

Will my noble friend indicate how initial teacher training has been amended to reflect the new Prevent duty that teachers now have? Who is delivering that training—universities or the approved Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent co-ordinators, as listed by the Home Office? If it is those providers listed by Prevent, could he write to the House and put a letter in the Library with a list of those accredited providers?

My noble friend raises an extremely important point. We will look at this in the new ITT framework, which is under consideration. It is currently conducted by Prevent co-ordinators, but I shall certainly write to her further on this.

My Lords, with a YouGov poll showing that 50% of current teachers are considering leaving the profession within the next two years, when we are 8,000 teacher training places short of what we need and with rising school numbers, would the Minister not agree that, however good the quality of teacher training, the fact is we will not have enough trained teachers in our classrooms? What is he going to do about it?

If I may say so, this is slightly a case of creating a crisis out of a challenge. We actually have more teachers than ever before. We have a higher quality of teachers than ever before. We are improving behaviour management and workload to reduce the risk of teachers leaving the system. Many more teachers are returning to the workforce and the vacancy rate has remained at around 1% or below over the last 15 years. Indeed, frankly, over the last 15 years it has on several occasions, including under the last Government, been higher than it is at the moment.