Battle lines drawn in debate on teaching qualifications

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Education Secretary Michael Gove has rejected claims it is too easy to become a teacher, as he faced Tristram Hunt across the despatch box for the first time since he became shadow education secretary.

Labour tabled a motion in an opposition day debate on 30 October 2013, putting forward the view that teachers in state-funded schools should be qualified or working towards qualified teacher status.

Addressing Mr Gove, Labour's education spokesman said: "You have undermined the profession, sought to remove teacher training from universities, adopted a policy of wholesale deregulation, leading to a 141% increase in the number of qualified teachers in free schools and academies.

"The surprising truth is that under this government, you need more qualifications to get a job in a burger bar than you do to teach in an English school."

The secretary of state replied: "Your selective use of evidence has been designed to discredit a programme which just a few weeks ago you said you were going to put rocket boosters under. The problem I'm afraid is that those rocket boosters have blown up in your face.

"And as a historian you should know that excessive reliance on just one source leads to errors."

Mr Gove went on to compare Mr Hunt to Hugh Trevor-Roper, the historian who endorsed diaries falsely attributed to Hitler for the Sunday Times in 1983.

Andrew Percy, a Conservative MP who used to be a history teacher, said that when he taught under a Labour government "we saw a massive increase in the number of teaching assistants taking classes when we had protected planning and preparation time put in".

Pat Glass, a Labour MP and adviser to the previous government on education, noted: "Qualification does not make a good teacher but it's a damn good place to start."

Lib Dem MP David Ward focused on free schools, saying that "they are free to appoint a principal with no management or leadership experience" and that their "criteria for success is not about raising educational attainment".

The Lib Dems have come under some pressure over this issue, with party leader Nick Clegg denying that the government's support for free schools has caused a split in the coalition.

In a division at the end of the debate, Labour's motion was overturned by 263 votes to 229.

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