Labour has called on the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, to abandon the policy of allowing unqualified teachers in the classroom, amid speculation that plans are being considered to extend initial teacher training from two years to three.
Morgan is due to address her first Conservative party conference as education secretary this week, where she will attempt to distinguish herself from her predecessor, Michael Gove, and set out her vision for teachers and schools. As part of a continuing charm offensive, she is expected to talk about teachers’ workloads.
The shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, told the Guardian: “It’s a big test for Nicky Morgan to see if she’s going to do anything serious about the Gove agenda and what it’s done for school standards. We are hearing a lot of rumours that what she is thinking of is extending the initial teacher training period from two years to three years as part of a general review into teacher training. But they are refusing to deal with the main issue, which is having unqualified teachers in the classroom.”
Gove introduced deregulation that allowed unqualified teachers into classrooms in academies and free schools. As a result, there has been a 16% increase in the number of unqualified teachers in the past year.
“Gove deregulated and allowed anyone to turn up and teach anything, anywhere. We saw some of this in some of the schools in Birmingham,” Hunt said. “Is Nicky Morgan going to seriously engage with public opinion and reverse some of this, or is she going to tinker around the edges?”
A Whitehall source said there would be no “significant rabbit-out-of-the-hat” announcements in Morgan’s conference speech, but that teacher training would be discussed in the next couple of months.
An independent review of initial teacher training (ITT) was set up by Gove this year as a response to growing concerns. Led by Andrew Carter, it has been assessing the quality and effectiveness of ITT and will report to the education secretary before the end of the year.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, has expressed doubts about the quality of teacher training, and has said new recruits to the teaching profession are quitting the classroom because they are inadequately prepared for the challenges.
Currently, most teachers spend a year training as teachers before being allowed to work in schools. They then have to sit a probation year as a newly qualified teacher, after which they become fully accredited.
Separately, Wilshaw said he believed that girls and boys learned better when taught together rather than at single-sex schools. He said mixed classrooms were “far more congenial”, and he had “much preferred” being head of a school where children of both sexes were taught.
The chief inspector of schools was head of a single-sex comprehensive in Newham, east London, before moving to a mixed academy in nearby Hackney.
He told the Sunday Times: “Boys and girls do better in a mixed-school setting … as long as it is a well-run school. A mixed-school setting is by far more congenial. I was head of an all-boys school. We did all right but I much preferred being head of a mixed school. Girls and boys mix socially in the workplace. They should be educated together too.”
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