Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt unveiled some more detail of Labour’s intentions for education during a speech to the North of England Education Conference last week.
His main pledge was that all teachers in academies and free schools will be required to hold qualified teacher status. Mr Hunt said this would end the “scandal of an academy school advertising for an unqualified maths teacher”.
He explained: “My priority would be to make sure we have ‘a world class teacher in every classroom’ – a highly qualified, inspiring, self-motivating and dedicated professional workforce.
“Our starting point must be a commitment to ensuring that all teachers in our schools are qualified. Under a Labour government, all teachers in state schools would have qualified teacher status or be working towards it.”
His address also included more details on the Licence to Teach proposal that had already been revealed in the run-up to the conference.
The proposal would see teachers expected to undertake regular CPD throughout their careers to keep skills and knowledge up-to-date and in order to be ”relicensed” every few years.
Last week, unions warned that the policy must not be seen as a tool to “root out incompetence”, but as a way of supporting a high-quality profession.
Mr Hunt said: “This policy is not about bashing teachers. This is about elevating teachers to be all they can and should be – professionals whose job is so important it requires the very highest standards.”
He said he would be consulting with teachers and unions on the criteria for the scheme between now and 2015, adding that the proposed College of Teaching “might have an important and independent role to play in this process”.
Elsewhere, Mr Hunt said that Labour would be looking to ensure there are “sufficient career paths available” to allow top teachers to remain in the classroom.
He also said he was concerned about the “threat to creative subjects in the curriculum” and emphasised his support for the “broader range of activities which schools and youth services can provide to build exactly those classical attributes that a good education delivers”.
He added: “Whether we call it resilience, character, or mindfulness; whether we talk about social skills or emotional intelligence, it is clear that what employers want from young people and what points to further educational achievement is a range of attributes which often cannot be configured within five A* to C.”
The Association of School and College Leaders welcomed what it called Mr Hunt’s “encouraging messages”. However, general secretary Brian Lightman added: “As always, the devil will be in the detail and it is important that the Labour Party consults with the profession as they shape individual policies to make sure they will work in practice.”
The National Association of Head Teachers also warned about the “practicality and impact of a licensing scheme”.
General secretary Russell Hobby added: “Any scheme with teeth is likely to be both expensive and intrusive. What will make way to ensure the scheme is affordable, practical and motivational?
“Perhaps we could start by scaling back Ofsted, which currently provides a rather crude form of validation.”
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, is unhappy at plans to link the scheme to sacking teachers who are under-performing.
She said: “Of course, we do not believe that teachers who continue to perform poorly after help and support should stay in teaching, but the aim of Labour Party policy should be to support and encourage the high standards in teaching we all want.”
Teaching unions, meanwhile, were quick to welcome the proposals on qualified teacher status. General secretary of Voice, Deborah Lawson, said: “How do you raise teaching standards while encouraging the employment of unqualified teachers? Teachers are not just subject specialists. They are teaching specialists, too.”
Dr Bousted added: “We are pleased Mr Hunt wants to restore the professional standing of teachers. It’s a welcome contrast to Michael Gove believing that anyone with a first class degree, a bit of personality and a loud voice can be a good teacher.”
Mr Lightman also welcomed Mr Hunt’s support for the creative subjects and skills education.
He added: “School leaders have been saying very clearly that young people need a broad and balanced curriculum that gives them all the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. It is reassuring to hear Mr Hunt emphasise the need for breadth in education, which includes extended projects, fieldwork and practical science.”