Unions attack Michael Gove's 'muddled' teacher training plan

Oct 26, 2012

No marks for consistency as Gove first welcomes unqualified teachers and now deplores low standards

EDUCATION unions have accused Michael Gove of "muddled thinking" after he announced that aspiring state school teachers will face tougher entry tests.

The selection process for people wanting to become teachers will be more rigorous to "raise standards" and ensure "parents can be confident that we have the best teachers coming into our classrooms", the Education Secretary said.

The pass mark for English and maths tests will be raised to the equivalent of GCSE grade B, calculators will be banned from maths assessments, and verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning tests will be introduced.

But teachers' unions have pointed out that the government only recently enabled academies to employ unqualified teachers. This would allow academies to "hire brilliant people who have not got qualified teaching status", the Education Department claimed in July.

“Whatever the merits or demerits of Gove's plan to introduce tougher tests for trainee teachers, he doesn't win any marks for consistency,” says George Eaton in the New Statesman.

"There are good arguments for making it easier to become a teacher and there are good arguments for making it harder. But Gove can't expect to be taken seriously if he makes them at the same time.”

Alison Ryan, from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, accused Gove of "muddled thinking" and said the revised tests "betray an alarming lack of trust in the national exam system".

She added that ATL welcomes rigour in teacher training selection, but the "government needs to recognise that other qualities are equally important in becoming an excellent teacher".

Meanwhile, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said morale in the profession is at "an all time low".

She said: "Unless the Education Secretary addresses issues of teachers' pay, working conditions and pensions, there will be fewer and fewer recruits to a profession that has never been under such continual attack, regardless of the entry requirements."

Labour's shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan suggested that the move was an affront to teachers, claiming that "Government continues to insult teachers and damage morale with its extreme policies and out-of-touch rhetoric".

In The Spectator Isabel Hardman, who worked in a primary school as a student, said she would have thought teachers were not all that bothered by name-calling.

"After all, it's part of your job to tell an eight-year-old that just because he's been called a 'cheesehead' in the playground, it doesn't mean he actually is a 'cheesehead', whatever that is," she wrote.

If Brennan is worried that teachers might be upset by being called names, he'll be "enraged" by today's Daily Telegraph interview with David Laws, she adds.

Laws has claimed teachers are to blame for lack of ambition among pupils and attacked the "depressingly low expectations" that are holding back children in many parts of the country.

"If he's not already in the NUT's list of villains," says Hardman, "the new Lib Dem education minister will be now."

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