Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Teachers 'need better qualifications'

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education and family

The MPs said teaching should become a masters-level profession

Entry requirements for teacher training in England are too low and damage the status of the profession, the Commons education select committee has said.

The MPs said graduates applying for post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE) courses should have at least a lower second at degree level.

The MPs welcomed government plans to require teachers to hold a licence to practise to "weed out poor performers".

Teaching should also be established as a Masters-level profession in time.

The cross-party Commons education select committee said it was clear "the bar must be raised across the board".

Its Training of Teachers report said: "It is of great concern to us that those with no A-levels, or those with just a pass degree, can gain entry to the teaching profession."

Radical changes must take place
Barry Sheerman, committee chairman

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families stressed that those with no A-levels held alternative qualifications such as advanced GNVQs or the advanced Diploma and did have degrees.

The MPs' report said it was essential that entrants to the teaching profession should have a "sound grasp" of literacy, numeracy and ICT (information and communication technology) skills.

Currently students have to pass tests in these subjects, set by the Training and Development Agency, at the end of their course.

But the MPs said the tests should become an entry requirement for courses and should be made harder.

The MPs say funding for undergraduate degree courses for secondary teachers should be scrapped, because of "particularly low" entry qualifications.

They also called for the entry requirements for undergraduate primary programmes to be be raised.

The report adds: "We would like to see access to post-graduate initial teacher training programmes restricted to those with at least a lower second degree as soon as possible.

"This should be with a view to moving, in time, to higher entry requirements still - to an upper-second degree or above."

In 2007/08 just 43.5% of modern language teacher trainees, 42.6% of maths trainees and 38.9% of ICT trainees had a first or upper second degree, the report noted.

Licence to practise

The MPs' report also calls for teachers in England to have a licence to practise which must be renewed on a regular basis to "weed out poor performers" from the profession.

MPs also want to see a "chartered teacher status" framework to link professional development, qualifications, pay and the licence to practise.

And the teaching profession should be established as a Masters-level profession, with Masters degrees in teaching and learning being a "demanding qualification".

The report calls on the government to bring supply teachers into the mainstream of the professions, saying they served an "essential role" but remained neglected.

Trainee and newly-qualified teachers should be offered better mentoring and support, the MPs added.

'Radical changes'

Committee chairman Barry Sheerman said: "Recruiting and retaining the best teachers can transform pupil attainment and bring new vision and energy into schools.

"It is not enough to make-do-and-mend existing policies: radical changes must take place.

"Teaching must be seen as an attractive career option for high achieving individuals. Entry requirements should be raised, and there must be better support for teachers once they are in post.

"A failure to tackle the pressures faced by new teachers risks not only a dearth of teachers from the profession but also lasting damage to the educational experience of pupils. This must not be allowed to happen."

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said teaching and teacher training had been radically transformed over the past decade "to become the number one career choice for graduates".

Mr Coaker said the government was already introducing a licence to practice, with a right for all teachers to get ongoing career development, and was planning a roll-out of a Masters in teaching in learning for newly qualified teachers.

"But we want to go even further, which is why we are already doubling successful programmes like Teach First to fast-track the best graduates into teaching," he said.

"And to attract professionals to make a career change into teaching we are already working with over 400 leading employers, focusing on key subjects like maths and science."

Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove said: "Our policy has been that primary teachers should have at least Bs in English and maths GCSE and we should make it harder to qualify for taxpayer-funded training.

"Further, we will give head teachers the freedom to pay good teachers more and protect teachers from violent pupils."

Praise for teachers

The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) welcomed the recommendations to raise entry requirements and improve qualifications for those in the teaching profession.

But it raised concerns about some of the report's recommendations, notably the closing of secondary undergraduate programmes.

"While some of the report's recommendations need further thought, it does provide a firm basis for future discussion and debate on the future of teacher education," said UCET's executive director James Noble-Rogers.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "There is no evidence that young and new teachers are anything other than of extremely high calibre."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the select committee's report reached some "laudable conclusions".

But she added that today's new teachers were widely recognised as the best there have ever been.

"By concentrating on entry qualifications for student teachers the committee ignores the trend for career changers, who have a wealth of skills and knowledge more valuable than exam results, to go into teaching," she said.

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