Ahead of his first major speech on schools (Wednesday January 15, 2014), in a press interview Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has set out Labour’s intention to ‘future-proof’ our education system, equipping it to deliver the skills and knowledge today’s children need for the future.
Mike O’Brien has said that he hopes this will be the start of a dialogue with parents and teachers about education which will be conducted in a new tone.
Key to this, in contrast to David Cameron’s obsession with school structures, will be a focus on raising the quality of teaching. Ofsted rightly says we have the ‘best generation of teachers ever’ but that more needs to be done to ensure there is a world class teacher in every classroom. There is a huge amount of excellent teaching happening in our schools but we need to spread that best practice and ensure it is delivered to every child in every part of the country.
We need all teachers to deliver a modern education based on an up-to-date understanding of developments in teaching practice, subject knowledge and technology. Teaching must be a dynamic profession, continually updating and improving, so it can deliver the skills employers are demanding and our young people and society needs.
It is clear from the highest performing school systems around the world that the quality of teaching and the status of the profession hold the key to success. Labour understands this, but David Cameron has presided over a downgrading of teaching, by allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms and by talking down teachers as ‘the enemies of promise’.
Tristram Hunt will announce Labour’s intention to re-professionalise teaching. The future of our education system and our economic recovery rely on our national teacher workforce.
He will argue that dramatically improving teaching will be a pre-requisite for future economic competition and growth in the 21st century. Labour will drive up standards in teaching by
Requiring teachers to get qualified and keep their skills and knowledge up to date throughout their careers:First, Labour would put an end to this watering-down of standards by ensuring that all teachers, in all state funded schools become qualified. Second, once qualified, we want to ensure - in line with other high status professions such a medicine, solicitors, veterinary surgeons – teachers can demonstrate they are developing and updating their skills and knowledge. Under Labour, teachers will undertake regular, high quality professional development and be revalidated on a rolling basis. Between now and 2015, we will be consulting on the criteria for this and how best to raise the standard of professional development on offer.
Delivering new career pathways for teachers: Currently, in order to progress in their careers, our best teachers are often encouraged out of the classroom and into administrative leadership positions, such as Head of Year. We will explore offering opportunities to teachers who want to progress by building their expertise in a particular subject or teaching practice. This could help us build cadres of highly skilled teachers - including in critical subjects such as maths, science and ICT where we currently have shortages - to raise standards in their schools, their local area and then in the wider education system. High performing systems, such as Singapore, already have these kinds of career paths which incentivise the best talent into teaching and help to motivate and retain the best teachers once they are there.
Commenting on the announcement, Mike O’Brien who is a qualified teacher and taught for six years, said,
“I hope this will be the start of a new approach to education. We need schools where teachers go to teach with the joy about fulfilling their vocation. they should know people respect and appreciate their profession. Let’s face it, kids know when their teachers feel battered and unappreciated because the teachers lack enthusiasm and teach less well.
“Most teachers began with enthusiasm and commitment, but maintaining that day after day, week after week and year after year is a challenge. It requires the support and respect of colleagues and leaders.
"Michael Gove’s leadership style involves an obsession with ferretting out poor teachers combined with hectoring criticism and a blizzard of bureaucratic initiatives designed to drive through his party political agenda. No one wants poor teachers and the means of removing them are now in place, so the dialogue needs to change.
“Tens of thousands of good teachers go to school every day committed to making a difference to the lives of children, but they have to sustain that in the face of the attacks from Mr Gove and they feel unappreciated.
“Labour by contrast needs to praise and highlight the best and encourage the rest to raise their game by stressing the importance of their role in raising standards. Teachers need to know that their leaders respect what they do. When we put forward ideas like Tristram’s we need to encourage a dialogue about them and seek the views and ideas of both teachers and parents.”