Lord Baker: 'The best teachers go to schools, not colleges'

23rd March 2014 at 00:00

The standard of teachers in colleges is lower than in schools, Lord Baker has claimed.

In an exclusive interview with TES, the former education secretary said that the “best” teachers work in schools, rather than in the FE sector.

He also argued that his new breed of career colleges – standalone 14-18 colleges that will be established by FE colleges, focusing on a particular occupation – will help raise standards in the sector.

Lord Baker (pictured), chair of the Edge Foundation, has long been critical of the FE sector. Earlier this year, he said it had a “huge responsibility” for the skills shortages in some sectors.

But ahead of the publication of his new report The Skills Mismatch this week, Lord Baker said that the difficulty attracting the best teachers was a fundamental problem for colleges.

“The best teachers go to schools, not colleges,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”

Lord Baker's intervention comes after plans for a Teach First-style scheme to recruit “high calibre and ambitious graduates” to teach in FE were announced earlier this month.

He also criticised the “absolutely appalling” standards of careers advice available in schools, and called for students to be given greater access to people working in a range of careers.

The location of the first career colleges to open is expected to be announced this spring. Lord Baker said there had been expressions of interest from around 60 colleges.

Career colleges, which would be based within an existing college but be a separate legal entity, will also improve FE teaching by “infusing” colleges with best practice from university technical colleges, Lord Baker said. “We want to improve FE colleges through the new career colleges,” he added.

Lord Baker's criticism was rejected by Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, who said there was "no evidence" to back up the claims.

Stephan Jungnitz, colleges specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders, said Lord Baker’s comments amounted to an “unhelpful generalisation”.

“It’s like comparing apples and pears,” he said. “Across vocational courses you have to have dual professionalism. You need to have industry experience and teaching experience.

“I don't think you can compare schools provision and general FE provision. It’s unhelpful to say that teachers in one sector are better or worse than the other.”

In The Skills Mismatch, Lord Baker argues that the increase in graduate numbers over the last two decades has created a mismatch between skills and the labour market.

“A degree,” he writes, “is no longer the passport to success.”

He calls for an expansion in 14-18 technical and vocational provision to provide young people with the skills they need to succeed in the jobs market.

“This is about new opportunities for anyone who wants to combine rigorous study with hands-on learning,” he writes.

“Anyone who wants a career in the modern economy. Anyone who understands that a degree is no longer a guarantee of a prosperous future.”

Lord Baker also blasts Labour's description of those who study vocational qualifications as the "forgotten 50 per cent", arguing that technical training should also be considered by the most able students. "It is an option for all," he insists.


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