Clause 19 - Initial teacher training for further education

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:15 am ar 7 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 10:15, 7 Rhagfyr 2021

I beg to move amendment 23, in clause 19, page 22, line 34, leave out subsection (3).

This amendment leaves out clause 19(3) of the Bill (regulations about courses of initial teacher training for further education to include provision about special educational needs awareness training), which was inserted at Lords Report.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Ceidwadwyr, Basingstoke

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2—Lifelong learning: special educational needs—

“When exercising functions under this Act, the Secretary of State must ensure that providers of further education are required to include special educational needs awareness training to all teaching staff to ensure that all staff are able to identify and adequately support those students who have special educational needs.”

This new clause would place a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that there is adequate special educational needs training for teachers of students in further education.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We can all agree that it is vital for teachers to be trained to identify and respond to the needs of all their learners. That must include those with special educational needs and disabilities. However, the Government do not prescribe the content of further education initial teacher training. We believe that experts from the sector are best placed to design training programmes to meet the needs of learners, using a clear occupational standard as their benchmark.

The new occupational standard for FE teaching, published in September, has been developed by representatives from the sector who themselves work alongside and employ teachers. The standard clearly articulates the key knowledge, skills and behaviour that FE teachers must demonstrate. That includes an explicit requirement to actively promote equality of opportunity and inclusion by responding to the needs of all students. We believe that the standard is the right place to set out the expectations of teachers and what their training should cover, and that view is shared by sector experts themselves.

The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers has stated that the new occupational standard for teachers in the FE sector

“provides an appropriate framework for the design and delivery of FE initial teacher training programmes—including the new qualification that UCET and other sector groups are currently helping to develop”.

UCET is of the view that

“the standard and qualifications based on it will help to ensure that all new FE teachers are properly equipped to recognise and respond to the needs of their learners—including those with SEND”.

Furthermore, UCET has said:

“It is vital that providers of FE ITT should be able to use their expertise and judgement to tailor training programmes to the needs of trainees and learners within the framework provided by the occupational standard.”

It concludes that

“it would be unhelpful to remove this flexibility by mandating the content of FE ITT programmes in legislation.”

I believe that it is important that we listen to the voices of expertise in the sector and do not unduly tie their hands. We have been clear that we intend to make public funding available only to FE ITT programmes that meet the new occupational standard.

Clause 19(3) as drafted, although honourable in intent, is unhelpfully restrictive. It would require the Secretary of State, when making regulations for the first time under this power, to make provision relating to SEND awareness in FE ITT even if the regulations being made did not bear at all on the content of training programmes. This is, in our view, the wrong way to achieve the right aim.

I want to directly address new clause 2. The Government are already driving up the quality of teaching in further education and strengthening the professional development of the FE workforce. We provide significant funding for programmes to help to spread good, evidence-based practice in professional development. Examples are the T-level professional development offer, which integrates support for learners with SEND throughout its offer, and the FE professional development grant pilot. Making sure that teachers have access to high-quality training and professional development will ensure that learners, including those with SEND, receive the highest standard of teaching.

Our continuing professional development offer for teachers also includes provision delivered by the Education and Training Foundation. That training improves the capability and confidence of the FE workforce to identify and meet the needs of learners with SEND.

Ultimately, providers themselves must make decisions about what training is relevant and necessary for their teachers. That means that they can respond to the specific needs of their learners and those who teach them.

It is also important to note, outside professional development, that under the SEND code of practice there should be a named person with oversight of SEND provision in every college. Those people co-ordinate, support and contribute to the strategic and operational management of the college.

The Government are committed to ensuring that all learners, including those with SEND, are benefiting from outstanding teaching in the FE sector.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

I rise to oppose Government amendment 23, and to discuss new clause 2, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle. I believe that clause 19 is an important clarification added to the Bill by the Lords. The Minister spoke passionately about the need for ensuring that those who attended ITT further education courses have awareness of special needs. However, it is precisely because of that that we believe clause 19 is sensible. Government amendment 23 removes clause 19(3), which ensures the duty for initial teacher training providers to provide special educational needs awareness training.

That is particularly important because a huge number of people, later in life, are identifying that they have learning difficulties, be that autism, attention deficit disorder, or Asperger’s syndrome. These were not picked up throughout their school career because there has been such a low level of awareness about such issues within much of the teaching profession.

We know that awareness of issues like autism has improved a great deal in recent years, but there are still many people going through our school system with other conditions, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and others. With access to the right support, teaching could have been provided that recognised their disability and enabled them to access the curriculum to the best of their ability. It would have also enabled them to understand themselves. That is a crucial point about special needs; we must help people to understand themselves. I have spoken to many people who say, “I always knew I was different, but I never knew what it was. It was only in my 20s or my 30s that I realised.” There is a family member of mine in their 40s who has recently identified having a disability of this kind.

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Ceidwadwyr, Ipswich

I speak as someone with both dyslexia and dyspraxia; I was diagnosed when I was 12. Does the hon. Member agree that it is important to ensure that every single teacher—not just SEN specialists, but regular teachers—have a certain level of understanding of different types of disability, and that not all young people, or adults, process information in the same way?

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. That is precisely the value of this provision. It makes this not the responsibility of the special needs co-ordinator—who, if they get an opportunity to sit down with someone would have that professional awareness— but, instead, makes sure that people right across the sector are able to identify these needs. We would not expect every teacher to become a full SENCO expert, but it is about them having the awareness to identify that there may be issues that need to be given further consideration—that is what I think is of real value.

New clause 2 attempts to find a different way to deliver the same initiative as the one proposed by their noble lordships in clause 19, whose subsection (3) places a duty on teacher training providers to ensure that SEN training is part of their work. In new clause 2, the obligation is on all providers of FE colleges to ensure that all their staff have been provided with special needs awareness training. There are two different ways to deliver that training. It can be delivered at the point where someone is qualifying, or can be certified at the point where someone is employed. There is merit in either approach; simply to dismiss both approaches is really disappointing.

New clause 2 would place a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that there was adequate special educational needs training for teachers of students in further education. Given the high number of students with special educational needs who access further or adult education, often as a second chance when they have had a negative experience of school, it is particularly crucial that trainee teachers in the sector have an awareness of the issues the students face.

We must remember that people within the further education sector are far more likely to have an identified special educational need than those in mainstream schooling. The sector needs this kind of awareness. The Department for Education’s own figures show that the percentage of pupils with a special educational need, but no education, health and care plan, has increased to 12.2%, continuing an upward trend.

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Ceidwadwyr, Ipswich

As the hon. Member will know, it is important to provide support at that stage, but it is also important to start as early as possible. What are his views on the ten-minute rule Bill being introduced today by my right hon. Friend Matt Hancock, which would require the assessment of every primary school kid for dyslexia, and whether that should be extended to dyspraxia?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Ceidwadwyr, Basingstoke

I am sure Mr Perkins will draw that comment back to the subject of the debate here today, as opposed to what might be going on elsewhere.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

I am fiercely conscious of that point, Mrs Miller. I take the restriction that has been issued by the Chair, but would say briefly that there is real value in the hon. Gentleman’s point about identifying issues as early as possible—I think every one of us would appreciate that point. But, accepting that that has not happened, it is crucial to ensure that people at every level in the further education environment understand and are aware of the issues.

The new clause proposed by the noble Lords has real value, and I urge the Government to consider ensuring in the Bill that people across our FE sector have that awareness. The Minister has said there may be many people in that environment who do not have the need to have that awareness. As I have laid out, it is my view that it should be the responsibility of everyone to ensure that they are able to identify various kinds of special need and know how best to support learners with special needs in all kinds of environments.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

I rise to speak in favour of new clause 2 and against Government amendment 23. I have various concerns with clause 19 and where the Government seem to be going with the review on initial teacher training, including the market review that the Government are consulting on and where it seems to be heading. It would be easy to conclude that they are seeking to centralise control of how teacher training is being delivered and to move away from the diverse approach that we currently enjoy. I have real concerns about what clause 19 proposes, and specifically what the Government propose with amendment 23.

These amendments concern the inclusion of special educational needs training, as we have heard. Clause 19 was added by Lord Addington. Again, the Government are seeking to remove a clause that received widespread cross-party support. We have to understand the scale of special educational needs in our education system.

According to the National Autistic Society, one autistic child in four waits more than three years to receive the support they need in school—three years—which has a huge impact on families and loved ones, as well as those in the teaching profession. Further, 74% of parents who were polled by the society said that their child’s school did not fully meet their needs. In fact, dissatisfaction levels have doubled in the four years since the charity’s last education report. Proper education within the schools would certainly help to alleviate the matter. It is a shame that the initial teacher training market review did not spend more time focusing on the support that should be given to SEND students and trainee teachers to help to understand their needs.

Further education colleges have a proud record of supporting students with SEND and of providing an inclusive context. Some larger colleges cater for up to 500 SEND students, and a large minority of college students have some degree of SEND. According to the statistics, 21% of students in colleges have a learning difficulty and/or disability.

The situation has been made worse by the pandemic. According to a report from the National Children’s Bureau in Northern Ireland, families of children with special educational needs and disabilities felt forgotten in the last 22 months during the response to the covid-19 pandemic.

It is vital that teaching staff have access to good-quality training in SEND as part of their continued professional development, which will help them to identify and adequately support those students who have special educational needs. That is why I am pleased to speak to and support new clause 2, which has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle. She is the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for special educational needs and disabilities, which is why it is particularly important to give due support.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 10:30, 7 Rhagfyr 2021

We fully understand the sentiment behind the changes that the Lords and the Opposition are trying to make, but we disagree with the way that they are going about them. We think that the occupational standard is the best place to contain such provisions and that the occupational standard is best owned by the profession itself. We believe that the profession ought to hold the ring on such matters. We do not want to set a precedent that every detail of initial teacher training should be set out in primary legislation. For that reason, we are acting as we are.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 17 Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords] — Clause 19 - Initial teacher training for further education

Ie: 9 MPs

Na: 4 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 4.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment 23 agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

It is important that the further education sector has enough suitably trained teachers to deliver the high-quality outcomes all learners deserve and that we all want to see. That is why a consistently high-quality initial teacher training offer in further education is needed. Initial teacher training in further education is not regulated, nor is there any primary legislation to allow for regulation. The clause gives the Secretary of State the flexibility to introduce measures through secondary legislation to secure or improve the quality of further education initial teacher training provision. The clause does not place requirements on trainee or practising FE teachers. To be clear, the Government have no intention of reintroducing mandatory qualifications for individual teachers in the FE sector.

We are already working with the sector to bring about the change and improvement needed. For example, we worked with a group of sector employers to support the development of a revised employer-led occupational standard for further education teaching. The clause sends a clear message that the provision of high-quality FE initial teacher training is vital, and therefore that secondary legislation should be introduced to complement and strengthen non-legislative measures where appropriate.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

We do not oppose the clause. It is of real importance that initial teacher training for the further education sector is put on a statutory footing. We think that this is of particular importance given the scope and scale of the sector, and that many people in FE—probably more than in any other academic establishment—move directly into lecturing from the workplace. There has often been a two-way path between people in all kinds of different vocational environments. For example, mechanics, plumbers and painter-decorators may sometimes practise their chosen trade and at other times move into the further education sector. For that reason, it is important that the best standards of training for those teachers is in place, so we welcome the Government’s putting this on a statutory footing.

Obviously, it remains a regret that clause 19(3) has been deleted. We will continue to press the Government to ensure that, although that provision has been removed from the Bill, there is a real commitment to ensuring a high standard of awareness of special educational needs. On that basis, we will not oppose the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.