Tories to raise entry requirements for teachers

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The Independent Online

A Conservative Government would make it harder to become a teacher by raising entry requirements for the profession, the party's education spokesman Michael Gove declared tonight.

In a keynote speech setting out the priorities for the first year of a Conservative Government, he said all would-be primary teachers would have to have at least grade B passes in maths and English - instead of C grade passes as at present.

In addition, those opting for a PGCE course following a degree would have to have at least a 2:2 pass - instead of any degree as at present.

Mr Gove told a seminar organised by the Centre for Policy Studies:that "the emphasis will be on high quality teaching."

He said he was impressed by the Finnish and Singapore education systems - which head international league tables - where only those with top level degree passes were allowed into the classroom.

Mr Gove's comments will raise concerns from teachers' leaders over whether there will be enough recruits - particularly in maths, traditionally a shortage subject - to fill vacancies.

However, the tough economic climate has seen a rise in applications to teaching courses - particularly from older recruits seeking a second career.

Mr Gove made it plain he would launch a "Teach Now" recruitment scheme - under which trainees would do more of their learning on the job, making the package more attractive to mature entrants who could earn a salary from the start of their training.

The toughening up of the teaching regulations was just one of a series of measures outlined in his speech tonight.

For the first time, he was more specific on what measures the Conservatives would take to improve discipline against a background, he said, of 300,000 youngsters a year being suspended from school.

Teachers, he said, should have a right to anonymity in cases of abuse allegations until a case came to court - a key demand of some teachers' unions.

In addition, they should not be suspended unless there was a prima face case that the allegation would lead to disciplinary proceedings or criminal action.

In addition, government advice that teachers were "strongly advised" not to stop and search pupils for knives, weapons or drugs if the pupil objected to being searched would be removed. Guidance on the action teachers could take to restrain unruly pupils would be strengthened.

A ban on putting pupils into detention until at least 24 hours after any incident would also be removed to make the sentence closer linked to the offence.

Health and safety guidance to schools would be reviewed, too. "The culture in which children are forced to wear safety goggles to play with conkers or use blue-tac must end, he said.

Mr Gove repeated pledges to make it easier for independent groups such as parent or faith groups to run state-supported schools along the model adopted by Sweden and to replace national curriculum tests for seven-year-olds by a short reading test which would enable all parents to know whether their child had been taught to read properly.Otherwise, his speech was more significant for its omissions than its inclusions. He failed to repeat the suggestion he had made earlier that tests for 11-year-olds should be trabsferred from primary schools to the first term at secondary school - to avoid too much coaching for the tests in the last year of primary school.

This is likely to lead him into confrontation with the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Head Teachers over their threat to boycott the tests. The NAHT, in particular, had seen it as "an interesting idea" to solve this dilemma.

Meanwhile, the Government yesterday paved the way for all youngsters to receive at least one year of compulsory lessons about sex and relationships before they leave school.They made the subject a compulsory part of the curriculum and lowered the age whereby parents could withdraw their children from sex education lessons from 19 to 15. Schools Secretary Ed Balls said a majority of parents polled had been in favour of the idea.

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