by Kevin Brennan
At the end of what has been a busy week for Labour’s shadow education team, today exam regulator Ofqual has announced its planned changes to GCSEs. It is welcome that Ofqual want to strengthen the rigour and integrity of qualifications – but it is odd that David Cameron is doing the exact opposite when it comes to teaching standards. David Cameron’s policy of allowing unqualified teachers in our schools is damaging education standards in our classrooms- as we have seen from the case of Michael Gove’s Al-Madinah free school in Derby.
Labour would bring an end to the watering down of standards and guarantee that all teachers in state funded schools would have to become qualified. That is what this week has been about.
On Wednesday afternoon, in a fashion of which we have unfortunately come to expect from them, the Liberal Democrats performed a remarkable feat of political contortion.
Nick Clegg had surprised his own schools minister by declaring “we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.”
It was a relief to hear Clegg agree with Labour policy on this issue. We have long warned of the dangers of the Government’s policy which allows unqualified teachers to teach in Free Schools and academies, and the inevitable watering down of teacher standards that it will lead to.
All this was a tad inconvenient for the Lib Dem schools minister, David Laws who just a few days earlier had passionately defended the policy of allowing unqualified teachers.
In an education select committee hearing last Wednesday, Laws was questioned about his party’s policy on this issue. Laws claimed that he supported a resolution at the Liberal Democrat conference which stated that “every child deserves to be taught by an excellent teacher and appropriately-qualified teacher, or a dedicated professional who is working towards such a qualification.” Then when closing up the debate that took place on Wednesday this week on the subject, he again indicated that he agreed with his party’s position.
It was a rapid volte face but surely welcome as it would mean that the House of Commons could pass a motion supporting having qualified teachers with Lib Dem support.