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Education: Newly Qualified Teachers

Volume 778: debated on Monday 30 January 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of figures showing that nearly one-third of newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying, what steps they are taking, including continuing professional development entitlement, to retain them.

My Lords, the proportion of teachers leaving the profession within five years of qualifying has remained broadly stable since 1996, with around seven out of 10 teachers still employed in state-funded schools after that period. We are addressing key issues such as unnecessary workload and poor pupil behaviour, and we are investing around £75 million in the teaching and leadership innovation fund to support high-quality professional development for teachers and school leaders in areas of the country that need it most.

I thank the Minister for his Answer but the Government’s policy and complacency on this are staggering. I accept that there will always be some attrition rate but the record on continuing professional development is towards the bottom of the 36 OECD countries. In the light of the failure to recruit sufficient teachers and head teachers, how do the Government intend to address their failing policies?

I think the noble Baroness was referring mainly to CPD. Last July, we published an entirely new standard for teacher professional development to help schools understand more fully what was involved in good CPD. We spend a significant amount of money on subject enhancement courses. We continue with high-performing senior and middle leader courses. We are reforming the NPQs. We have a number of high-quality MAT CEO courses coming on stream provided by institutions such as Cranfield University and King’s College London. We also have the teaching and leadership innovation fund, to which I referred.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the working environment for teachers is so often determined by the quality and effectiveness of school leaders, and therefore it is essential to equip school leaders to ensure the flourishing of their staff as well as their pupils? Will he be pleased to note with me the launch this weekend of the Church’s Foundation for Educational Leadership to work in this field?

I am delighted to agree with the right reverend Prelate. I know that the Church is taking the lead in this. It has engaged in a big way with the Future Leaders Trust’s executive educators course. I believe it is sending 100 of its leaders on this course. As I say, we have other courses coming on stream from the likes of the University of Salford and a combination of the IoE and Deloitte. It is very encouraging to see these high-quality providers coming into this space.

My Lords, Ofsted has required an unsustainable level of personalised feedback from teachers to students. Although this guidance has been retracted, it is still common practice in many schools. An excessive workload, including data tasks, is damaging the well-being of teachers. What consideration of teachers’ welfare is measured by Ofsted during inspections?

The noble Baroness makes an extremely point. I know that this issue concerns us all—and Ofsted. We are committed to reducing teachers’ workload. We conducted the workload challenge and we are following all the recommendations from that. Our larger multi-academy trusts are developing extensive support programmes for their teachers to take a lot of the workload off them so that they can focus on the most important thing: teaching in the classroom.

My Lords, I declare an interest as I have a granddaughter who is just completing Teach First, a two-year course. Is the Minister aware that not only do the people benefit from doing these courses but the pupils benefit because they have very bright, interested people teaching them in those two years? It is understandable that they should have all opportunities open to them—teaching or anything else—at the end of that time. Does he agree?

I agree entirely with my noble friend. Teach First is expanding its programme to all areas of the country. It will have nearly 1,500 new recruits this summer, and it has some very high-quality, well-educated people.

My Lords, last year’s report from the National Audit Office recommended that the DfE should focus more on retention, especially as some subjects, including Spanish and German, are increasingly being taught by non-specialists. Does the Minister agree that the DfE should start monitoring retention by subject so that efforts to dissuade teachers from leaving could be better targeted?

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness and that is something we are looking at very closely. We have recently introduced a new scholarship, in partnership with the British Council, to recruit MFL teachers, worth £2,500 tax-free.

My Lords, I remind the House of my interests relating to my work at TES. Last Monday, the head of education for the OECD, Andreas Schleicher, was in London, at a meeting of more than 80 Education Ministers. He reminded them that this country is the world capital of rote learning—as opposed to the leading jurisdictions, such as Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, which have far less rote learning because they focus on deeper thinking through mastery. Is not the retention problem in this country that bored teachers are having to fill bored pupils with too much shallow-level content and not enough deep thinking?

I do not agree with the noble Lord, although I have lot of respect for his experience in this area. One thing we have done is improve the knowledge in the curriculum because cognitive science is absolutely clear that to develop skills such as critical thinking, you need knowledge to apply. We are also clear that some of our best groups are now developing much better teaching resources for teachers so that they do not have to spend time devising lesson plans and can spend much more time developing the kind of techniques that the noble Lord refers to.

My Lords, it beggars belief that just last week the Treasury cancelled a promised £384 million payment to schools—this at a time when the DfE itself is cutting school budgets. The Minister has said that he will address the very real issue of workload but the initial teacher training figures for this Session show that only 89% of secondary school places were filled—just as the “pupil bulge” begins to impact at secondary level. Does the Minister have anything positive to say about levels of professional pay to ensure that teaching remains an attractive profession?

We have a very strong economy, as this Government and the previous Government have created what has sometimes been referred to as a jobs miracle, and many areas are struggling to recruit. I am sure the noble Lord will be delighted to hear that this year we are 12% up on maths and science teachers and 15% up on physics teachers. The number of returners to the profession is also up by 20% on 2011.