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Labour plan for teacher licences to 'update skills'

January 10, 2014 10:08 PM
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Labour plan for teacher licences to 'update skills'

Teachers would have to be licensed every few years in order to work in England's state schools under a future Labour government, the BBC has learned.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said regular re-licensing of teachers would allow the worst ones to be sacked whilst helping others to receive more training and development.

The last government made a similar proposal for what became known as "classroom MOTs" but then dropped it.

When former schools secretary Ed Balls proposed a so-called "licence to practice" in 2009, the National Union of Teachers said it would be "another unnecessary hurdle" for teachers while the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it would be a "bureaucratic nightmare" to introduce.

But the NASUWT and National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) came out in favour of the plans at the time.

Indeed, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have criticised the fact that some of those working in the government's new "free schools" can teach without having "qualified teacher status".

Tristram Hunt told the BBC said the idea was about recognising the "enormously important" role that teachers played and helping the profession "grow".

"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.

"So if you're not willing to engage in re-licensing to update your skills then you really shouldn't be in the classroom," he added.

Although the "devil would be in the detail", the NUT said it could potentially be a positive development.

"If this turned out to be a continuation of the Michael Gove denigration of teachers a top-down judgemental prescription of how teachers teach it would be very negative," said union official Kevin Courtney.

"But if re-licensing were truly based on a new entitlement to high quality professional development that was controlled by the teacher profession then we could talk about the details of how to improve it.

Labour now plan to consult with the unions on how a new system of licensing might be made more acceptable to them.

The assessments would be continuous, based in the classroom and would involve external assessors and not just school staff. Re-licensing of teachers could take place every seven or nine years and not five as under the Balls plan.

A newly strengthened Royal College of Teaching could be used to issue and supervise the licences.

Labour is hoping to use this announcement to claim it is interested in classroom standards whilst the Conservatives are, instead, focusing on school structures.

The coalition has recently introduced annual appraisals for doctors supervised by the General Medical Council. They face a decision every five years on whether they can continue to practice.

The Conservatives opposed the Balls plan in 2009 and Education Secretary Michael Gove's is likely to do so again, pointing out that the government has already made it easier for heads to sack teachers.


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