HC Deb 26 June 1996 vol 280 cc322-3
3. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent representations she has received regarding the reform of teacher training. [33198]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

There has been a warm welcome for my recent announcement of my intention to define a national curriculum for teacher training, beginning with the teaching of primary literacy and numeracy.

Mrs. Lait

May I offer my thanks and those of many of my constituents for the announcements that my right hon. Friend has made? Can she assure me that the national curriculum will include the difference between "its" and "it's", "their", "there" and "they're", and the plural and the apostrophe? Can she further assure me that 12-year-olds will be able to give a better definition of a verb than "a doing word" and that they will understand what a preposition is? Can she assure me that teachers will be instructed, whatever their subject, to correct basic mistakes in grammar, always assuming that they know what it is?

Mrs. Shephard

We have introduced a number of reforms to ensure proper teaching of the basics, but an Office for Standards in Education survey has shown that 46 per cent. of newly qualified teachers feel ill equipped with the practical skills that they need. They and the children deserve better. I shall announce in September the details of a curriculum for teacher training, which will start with the basic literacy skills about which my hon. Friend is rightly so concerned.

Mr. Bryan Davies

How can the country have confidence in Ministers if, after 17 long years, they are only now waking up to the question of how teachers learn to teach?

Mrs. Shephard

Perhaps I can remind the hon. Gentleman of what his party has done in the past 17 years. It has opposed every measure that we have introduced to improve standards, including the establishment of the Teacher Training Agency, so Opposition Members cannot now claim to be interested in high standards or in measures to improve them. If the Opposition are so concerned about higher standards, why do not they start putting matters right in the nine local education authorities that they control out of the 10 with the worst GCSE results?

Mr. Evennett

Does my right hon. Friend agree that teacher training must be effective and relevant when it is taught in the colleges? My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) highlighted literacy skills, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is also important to teach classroom skills, including discipline and how to manage a class? If teachers do not have those skills, they will not be effective however good their training is in their subjects.

Mrs. Shephard

Clearly, every teacher must be trained, through initial teacher training and through in-service training, in whole-class teaching; to use phonics to help early reading; to engage in active instruction rather than passive supervision; and, of course and most importantly, to keep discipline.