Labour plan for teacher licences to 'update skills'


Tristram Hunt: ''This is about believing that teachers have this enormous importance''

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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.

Unions criticised it as "pointless".

The Conservatives said they had already taken steps to improve teaching standards.

When former schools secretary Ed Balls proposed a so-called "licence to practise" 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.

At the moment teachers are not licensed.

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 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 relicensing 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 relicensing 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.

Nick Wigmore, a primary school teacher, said the plans were "unnecessary"

"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 relicensing 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.

"It could be very positive for education."

However, NUT general secretary Christine Blower added: "There will be a good many teachers who will just see this as another hurdle."

Ian Fenn, the head teacher of Burnage Media Arts College in Manchester, told BBC Breakfast that in principle he would welcome the licensing plan.

But he warned: "If it's going to be a test, that would be absolutely the wrong way to go about it - we're not cars, we don't need an MoT."

Start Quote

If it's going to be a test, that would be absolutely the wrong way to go about it - we're not cars, we don't need an MoT”

End Quote Ian Fenn Head teacher

The largest teaching union NASUWT said "important preconditions" needed to be met before the move could be introduced.

And Chris Keates, the union's general secretary, hit out at commentators for hijacking any debate about how to improve the profession and turning it into an attempt to "root out incompetent teachers".

"No group of workers, least of all teachers, deserves to be treated in this way," she said.

Classroom standards

Labour plans 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.

Kevin Courtney, NUT: ''This is more denigration of teachers''

There have been calls from across the political spectrum for the creation of a new professional body like the General Medical Council which would be separate from both the unions and the government.

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

They also want to show that they are willing to stand up to the unions.

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.

A Conservative Party spokesman said the party would look at any proposals which would genuinely improve the quality of teaching.

"We have already taken action by allowing heads to remove teachers from the classroom in a term, as opposed to a year previously, and scrapping the three-hour limit on classroom observations.

"We are improving teacher training, expanding Teach First and allowing heads to pay good teachers more. Thanks to our reforms, a record proportion of top graduates are entering the profession.

"Fixing the schools system so young people have the skills they need is a key part of our long-term economic plan. That will mean better schools for our communities and a better education for young people who want to get on," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    173. As an ex-headteacher I'm afraid that is absolute rubbish! I know because on more than one occasion I 'got rid of' underperforming teachers. There are procedures to follow, quite rightly and suppport and oppotunities to imporove but in the end if this isn't successful, teachers go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.


    Don't you mean rubber-stamped through the system every year? There are many excellent teachers but there are quite a few dreadful ones - yet they all seem to get through the evaluations pretty much no matter what. My stepsons A-level science teachers - 2 of the 3 are useless. And I mean not fit for purpose. One tries but is not educated the other is just plain lazy on top of incompetence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Kevin Courtney, NUT: ''This is more denigration of teachers''.

    Absolutely agreed and its more Labour control & dictatorship if they get back into power which is a distinctly horrifying thought.

    I am against all career Politicians and would see a distinct change from the corrupt 3 main party domination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    More Knee Jerk stuff . We cannot run a society where the dice are loaded against the professional classes. Teachers/Doctors etc are all now to be under even more scrutiny. OK , up to a point, but these measures must already be in place. It seems all it takes is one professional to be bad ( i.e Dr Shipman ) and everyone else gets the fallout. All teachers cannot be bad. Target the obvious failures!

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    I think that it is wrong that teachers should be able to teach in state funded schools without any qualifications.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    When government performs social engineering and timkers with education we find out the results years later. After 11 years in school many children leave knowing what many more learn in the first 3 years. Children are not robots. One size does not fit all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Another employment tax / government wheeze. HGV drivers, Nurses etc etc, are all being fleeced. Compulsory schemes and licences at great cost to the individual.
    No child will receive a better education because of some phoney licence. Another money making scam, much like the abandoned ID card wheeze.
    Good news for the Tories sadly, Labour are shooting themselves in the foot yet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    I assume that if we are to have professional teachers "Just like lawyers and doctors" they will be paid a professional wage "Just like lawyers and doctors" (and MPs; although MPs do not have to be professionally qualified).

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    To all those people posting regarding ministers and politicians having a similar "check-up", they do. Its called an election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    What a complete and utter waste of time and money.
    Bad teachers can already be sacked. This adds nothing but costs us more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Jeff - 175. Tristram was chosen by New Labour for his telegenic appeal, not his knowledge or skills. Try to keep up with the ways of modern politics Jeff!

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    @117 Subject knowledge is only half of what makes a good teacher. The PGCE is a qualification in how to teach. I have known a number of very brilliantly educated individuals who couldn't teach for toffee (a la David Starkey), whilst some of the best teachers I knew at university came from a secondary school background.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    In principle the idea has some merit, but in practice it will degenerate into yet another way of imposing politically correct ideologies, as well as making teachers fearful for their jobs on an annual basis.
    Good teachers have nothing to fear, I hear you say. Sadly, the grasp by successive governments of what constitutes a good teacher or good teaching has been and remains consistently inadequate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    if you haven't done the job you don't know and most of the negative "yeah lets inspect them and yeah teachers are rubbish" comments on here are by people who have an axe to grind - let me remind you that the kid thieving/getting drunk/dysfunctional home/bullied/stressed/ well they are all in a class of 30 Monday morning - and the teacher has a target for each and held to account my friends

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I love it when elections are nearing, here come all the "we will do this and we will do that" stuff
    and as usual when they get in power they dont follow through , and as usual, we like lemmings keep voting them in !
    -term limits for all . its the only time the rich and wealthy in power need us-the common people....

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Ofsted inspections regularly, performance management annually, up to three hours of classroom observations as well as "drop in" walkabouts. Termly discussions of individual students target grades with "management" who have been in the job for five years at most. After 20 years of teaching I quit because I was tired of justifying my ability to do the job. This is just another layer of bureaucracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Teachers are assessed and evaluated every year. What is need is better training and development. We don't need a repeat of paper work and bureaucracy to eat up time and money which is short supply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    I went to University for 4 years to get my B.Ed(Hons) degree, I have been teaching for 20 years, been through 5 OFSTED inspections successfully, now appraised every term. I've had few opps for training in last 10yrs as given to NQTs. If every driver had to be re-licensed every 5 years imagine how that would go down - and they'd have had a lot less training in driving than I have had in teaching!

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I realise that teachers have become a politically unassailable sacred cow in the same way as nurses, but the truth is that like any profession, there are good ones and not so good ones. But rather than throw yet more bureaucracy at them, we should just properly empower the heads, parents and governors to weed out the bad apples - they at least actually know what's going on on the ground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Just looked this Tristram Hunt up on the web and his occupations are given as historian, broadcaster, journalist and politician. How much time does he spend in Parliament and how much on the other jobs.? Thought it enlightening that his work as a politician was listed last,. Would it not be nice for all the teachers he wants to licence could have three other jobs.


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