Warning over Licence to Practise proposal

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Labour’s proposed “Licence to Practise” must not be seen as a tool to “root out incompetence”, but as a way of supporting a high-quality profession, unions have warned.

The proposal emerged earlier this week and would see teachers updating their skills every few years in order to be “licensed” to continue in the classroom.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt was due to discuss the proposal and unveil more of Labour’s ideas for education in a speech this week.

Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, Mr Hunt said: “This is about believing that teachers have this enormous importance and just like lawyers and doctors they should have the same professional standing, which means relicensing themselves, which means continual professional development.

“If you’re not willing to engage in relicensing to update your skills, then you really shouldn’t be in the classroom.”

There has been mixed reaction to the plans. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “If the proposal for Licence to Practise signals a commitment by a future Labour government to restore Qualified Teacher Status 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 CPD and to re-establish a proper system of professional regulation ... then this is a basis on which progress could be made.”

However, she warned: “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.”

The Association of School and College Leaders also warned that any scheme must recognise that the majority teachers are good at their jobs. General secretary Brian Lightman said: “While pockets of underperformance do exist, most teachers are good at their job and many are exceptionally good. It is important that any proposal for a national teacher licensing scheme recognises this.” 

Mr Lightman also warned that adequate funding must be available to support the training that would be required as part of the scheme.


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