Labour plans to tear up School Direct

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A Labour government would overhaul initial teacher training after shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt claimed the current School Direct model was “not working”.

Mr Hunt said his party faces a “big, bloody challenge” in terms of teacher recruitment, which he claimed was a result of a “random, haphazard” recruitment system introduced by the previous government.

Fears of a looming teacher recruitment crisis deepened toward the end of last year after official figures revealed that the School Direct scheme had managed to fill just 61 per cent of its places. This compared to 90 per cent of university places. Last year 68 per cent of School Direct places were filled.

And speaking exclusively to TES, the former historian added that a future Labour government will be faced with a “double bind” of working with a misfiring teacher recruitment system, while trying to retain an increasingly dispirited workforce.

“The School Direct model is not working, particularly in large parts of the country,” Mr Hunt said. “We will inherit a double bind, which is on the one hand a demoralised profession – decried as the blob and the enemies of promise – and secondly a School Direct recruitment process, which is random and haphazard.”

The politician, who is defending his seat in Stoke-on-Trent Central in next month’s general election, said there needed to be a more carefully considered recruitment system, using higher education providers and based more closely on medical training.

“What we need to do is to take the best of the School Direct system, which is school-based training and practical training, but re-introduce some order into it. [We must] continue a role for higher education providers, which would be obliterated under a future Tory government, and have a regional model, rather like a medical deanery model, [made up] of excellent higher education institutions at the regional core of teacher training programmes.”

School Direct was piloted in 2012 with 900 places as part of a government drive for schools to take a greater role in training new teachers. Since the scheme was introduced, both the Open University and Bath University have closed their PGCE courses, both of which were rated as outstanding.

However, the government predicted back in October that the number of training places on the School Direct scheme will overtake university PGCE places this year.

A Conservative Party spokesman dismissed Mr Hunt's criticisms of the programme, adding that it was "yet another example of Labour not trusting schools or teachers.

"Tristram Hunt has no plan for raising teaching standards – his only idea was to make teachers pledge a patronising oath," the spokesman said. 

"School Direct is hugely popular with schools – with a record number of applications from schools for places this year. It means teachers are trained in the classroom from day one – so that rather than learning out of date theories in lecture halls, they learn the vital skills of great teaching in a hands on way – from other experienced professionals. Ofsted and independent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies agree that this teacher training route is part of the reason we have a million more children in good or outstanding schools."

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Richard Vaughan
Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1
Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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