The Lib Dems are discussing a motion at their spring conference on Saturday that recognises the need for trained teachers and for continuing professional development once in the profession. Although not called to speak in the debate here is a draft of what I would have said to the conference:
There was a report in The Times this week that trainee teachers were to be required to spend time in top independent schools. In doing so they may help the UK export industry, and would no doubt come into contact with the children of Tory voters, but let me tell you that they won’t learn anything about teaching they could not find out just as easily by working in state schools.
A glance at figures from Mr Cameron’s own Oxfordshire constituency show it is the less advantaged that our education system is failing in large numbers – in one school in West Oxfordshire, according to Ofsted, only 13% of disadvantaged pupils made the expected progress in 2012.
By all means show new teachers how to stretch the children of the richest in society; but that’s not the problem we need to solve in most of our schools.
Trainees tell us they need better behaviour management skills; again, not an issue in most private schools – so that can’t be the reason for sending trainees there. Ministers, you should read the evidence from Ofsted before trying to reorganise teacher preparation programmes yet again.
This motion supports our teachers, and recognises that one silly scheme after another emanating from Sanctuary Buildings won’t improve teaching one iota. Last year, Mr Gove said teachers didn’t need training at all. That would put them on a par with MPs – who some might say are just a bunch of mostly amateurs fumbling around at law making. Ofsted wants training for governors, is that a more demanding role than teaching? I doubt it.
This motion recognises the value of our teachers and what needs to be done to make them even more effective in the future.
And I warn ministers that unless they sort out the funding for trainees there won’t be any new teachers to send into Eton, Rugby or Roedean. Those who attend such schools may be able to repay more than £70,000 in student loans, but those who teach them, and especially those who dedicate their lives to teaching our most challenging children, certainly cannot. We should push for equal funding for all who are prepared to train as teachers.
Finally, let me end by saying to the Secretary of State, ‘Saranoya’, although no doubt he would prefer it if I had said ‘Ave atque vale’.