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Teacher Training

Volume 765: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure the supply of adequately trained teachers, particularly teachers trained by university departments of education.

The Government believe that our best schools should play a leading role in training new teachers, so that they are fully equipped to succeed in the classroom. Many schools are actively choosing to work closely with universities in delivering teacher training, recognising the benefits that they can bring. We are committed to ensuring that the teaching profession can attract and retain the very best people. We now have more, better-qualified teachers in England’s classrooms than ever before.

I thank the Minister for her reply, and I know that this is not her area of direct responsibility. However, she must be aware that we have an unstable teacher supply framework, that there are going to be shortages of teachers in some regions in both the short term and the medium term and that the unstable income stream for higher education might mean that some universities—particularly those in the Russell Group—will opt out of the connection with teacher education altogether. Does she really think that that adds up to a good policy for this Government?

I thank the noble Baroness for her question. She is right that we are moving to a school-led teacher training system, but that involves collaboration between universities and schools. A teacher-led or school-led system does not mean a university-excluded system, and we are seeing great collaboration whereby, for example, 70% of School Direct places are actually being delivered by universities. It is improving the link between schools and universities, but also putting in charge of teacher training those who know best what they want in their schools—the head teachers.

My Lords, in light of the proposal to make the EBacc compulsory, and of the welcome inclusion of statutory foreign languages at key stage 2, what specific steps do Her Majesty’s Government plan to take to reverse the shortfall of modern language teachers, which last year was 21% according to DfE figures? With the falling numbers of students taking a modern language degree, does the Minister agree that the supply chain for future languages NQTs needs urgent attention if government policies are going to be successfully implemented?

We certainly recognise that teacher recruitment is challenging. As the economy grows, graduates are in ever-increasing demand, and there are certain subjects where this is particularly challenging. That is why we are taking a broad approach, offering training bursaries and salary grants to the best graduates and career changers, putting schools at the centre of teacher training and trying to tackle the problems that teachers tell us bothered them the most once they were in posts, which were unnecessary workloads and poor pupil behaviour. We recognise that there are challenges ahead, but we also recognise that teaching is an extremely attractive profession, and is very fulfilling for those graduates who decide to take it up.

My Lords, in light of the answer that the Minister just gave, why have the Government cut the bursaries in some of the shortage subjects, such as design and technology and primary teaching?

I reassure the noble Baroness that this year we recruited the number of primary school teaching graduates that we wished to. That is very good news. We are increasing bursaries in a number of key subjects. From next year, there will be £30,000 bursaries for graduates who are going into teaching in some of the most difficult subjects.

How will the new national teaching service announced yesterday help to raise standards in schools that have difficulty recruiting teachers?

The new national teaching service is looking to help those schools that are struggling to recruit teachers in some of our most challenging areas. By 2020, we intend and hope to recruit and relocate 1,500 outstanding teachers to help underperforming schools. They will relocate for up to three years to help to improve those schools and to offer inspirational teaching to young people in those areas.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that it is as important to retain teachers once they have been recruited as it is to recruit them in the first place? I think she will, because she mentioned it already in one of her answers. Does she think that the current system of inspection and monitoring of teachers is conducive to their retention, and to their growing and developing into the kind of creative and innovative teachers that we need in the future?

I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that teacher retention is crucial. I put on record that some of the scare statistics on the number of teachers leaving the profession are simply untrue. In fact, the latest figures show that 90% of teachers are still teaching after their first year. More than three-quarters are teaching after five years. This shows the dedication of our teachers and the great rewards that teaching can bring.

My Lords, is it not a reality that, when we speak about adequately trained teachers, we are talking about a profession where 70% of teachers are not professionally trained? I do not want to decry those who, some after taking Mickey Mouse degrees, move into teaching and spend a year there when they cannot find anything else to do—there are many good people who have moved—but there are many failures who move in through the one-year supplementary course. Our primary schools are being abandoned by professionalism.

I am afraid I do not recognise the figures that the noble Lord used. In fact, 96% of teachers in the state sector are qualified. It is also right that head teachers have the chance to ask a RADA-trained actor to teach some drama to their young children, or perhaps have Premiership sports coaches come and teach PE. We want teachers who inspire young people. Of course they have to be trained and have the skills to do it, but anything that encourages a love of learning is something we should welcome in our schools.