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Union doubts over Labour plans for teacher licences

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: January 11, 2014

teaching

Should teachers have licences?

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Unions have expressed doubts about Labour plans to introduce licences for teachers.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said imposing regular checks on ability would help give teachers the same professional standing as doctors and lawyers.

A similar proposal was floated by the previous Labour government - and branded "classroom MoTs" by former schools secretary Ed Balls.

However, it was opposed by some teaching unions and dropped before the 2010 general election.

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Mr Hunt told the BBC he wanted the "enormously important" role of teachers to be recognised.

"Just like lawyers and doctors, they should have the same professional standing - which means re-licensing themselves, which means continued professional development, which means being the best possible they can be," he said.

"If you're not a motivated teacher - passionate about your subject, passionate about being in the classroom - then you shouldn't really be in this profession."

Mr Hunt told The Times: "If we want to re-professionalise the teachers it would be crazy not to do it.

"If teachers are not re-licensed they will not be allowed to teach."

Labour has previously said it would insist on all teachers having Qualified Teacher Status, with staff already working in academies given a deadline to acquire a formal qualification.

A Conservative Party spokesman said it was willing to look at any proposals which will "genuinely improve the quality of teaching".

He said: "We have already taken action by allowing heads to remove teachers from the classroom in a term, as opposed to a year previously, and scrapping the three-hour limit on classroom observations.

"We are improving teacher training, expanding Teach First and allowing heads to pay good teachers more. Thanks to our reforms, a record proportion of top graduates are entering the profession.

"Fixing the schools system so young people have the skills they need is a key part of our long-term economic plan."

But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said she had serious reservations.

"The fact is that teachers are very highly observed. Many of our members describe themselves as being surveilled the whole time," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What Tristram Hunt did not announce was any kind of a properly well-funded rigorous CPD (continuing professional development) system to which teachers have access.

"When he talks about lawyers and doctors they attend good quality CPD, they get the points.

"That does not sound like what he is announcing for teachers.

"There will be a good many teachers who will just see this as another hurdle."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT - the largest teachers' union, said: "If the proposal for Licence to Practise signals a commitment by a future Labour government to restore qualified teacher status (QTS) as a requirement for all teachers in state funded schools, to introduce, within a national framework of pay and conditions of service, a contractual entitlement for all teachers to continuing professional development and to re-establish a proper system of professional regulation which ensures that all headteachers have QTS and NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship) and are accredited to lead and manage schools, then this is a basis on which progress could be made."

She added that "important preconditions" would be needed if the move was introduced.

"As in medicine, a Licence to Practise in teaching should apply to headteachers and not just teachers, as it does to consultants as well as junior doctors. It should apply to state and independent schools.

"It is deeply debilitating and demoralising for teachers that any attempt to have a public debate about developing the teaching profession and the quality of teaching inevitably is hijacked by commentators and presented as a system to 'root out incompetent teachers' and present our public education system as failing.

"No group of workers, least of all teachers, deserves to be treated in this way. No wonder resignations from the profession are high and recruitment to teacher training is falling."

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  • North Glos EPC  |  January 12 2014, 1:20PM

    More red tape that will increase costs, serve no real purpose and just lead to fewer people wanting to teach. The vast majority of teachers do a good job under difficult conditions, I know a couple, but professionals in the same league as medical doctors? No disrespect intended but I wouldn't say so.

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