As part of Ed Miliband’s modestly-titled plan to ‘rebuild the middle class’, shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt this week set out Labour’s new policy for raising standards of teaching. A Labour Government elected in 2015, he announced, would introduce a system of licensing for teachers, requiring them to ‘undertake regular professional development throughout their careers in order to keep their skills and knowledge up to date’. From the party that brought you a quality control regime that saw just 17 teachers struck off during 13 years in government, this latest wheeze, we are asked to believe, will help deliver ’a world class teacher in every classroom’.
Teachers were quick to point out professional development already happens in schools as part of performance management, while they already face examination of their competence from one government agency, Ofsted. Not that Labour’s thinking behind the new policy had probably got as far as to check what is actually happening in schools. As Hunt cheerfully admitted, Labour has yet to work out such minor details such as what the criteria should be for obtaining a teaching licence and what kind of professional development actually works (surely a fairly fundamental question if you’re arguing that professional development is crucial to raising standards of teaching), let alone ‘how best to raise the standard of professional development on offer’ and ‘the mechanisms for implementation’, i.e. how much the new policy will cost, how many thousands of bureaucrats it will take to administer, and how many teachers it is estimated will fail to keep their licence (if any).
It is not only these questions (and there are more, just read his speech on Wednesday) that remain unanswered. Hunt’s latest policy announcement comes just over 3 months to the day since I challenged him publicly to clarify some of the basic details about Labour’s policy on free schools, a challenge to which Hunt has failed to respond.