In what is undeniably a controversial move, Labour have announced their intention to resuscitate the plans of former cabinet minister Ed Balls to introduce compulsory licensing for teachers in both primary and secondary schools.
The party’s plans outline that in order to work in a state school in England, teachers will need to be re-licensed every five years and undertake a reasonable amount of “personal development” to ensure that education in Britain is of the highest quality. Despite a similar system existing in both the legal and medical professions, the news has produced mixed responses from the public, teachers and unions. But for those fiercely opposing a system of “classroom MOTs”, one question must be asked: why?
“If you’re not willing to engage in re-licensing to update your skills then you really shouldn’t be in the classroom.” Harsh words, undoubtedly, but they reveal the position of shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt. And he has a good point, those individuals who have dedicated their lives to teaching should care greatly about the quality of education that children receive. If this is the prerogative of teachers across the country (which it should be), then there can be little opposition from schools.
If you look at the plans objectively, rather than as a source of additional work or stress, it is clear that teachers will benefit from the proposal. Regular “personal development” would allow staff to improve their own abilities and know that they are fulfilling their role commendably: creating a much greater level of job satisfaction. It would keep teachers on their toes; preventing complacency in long term members of staff and meaning that the next Ofsted visit is not a source of panic. Furthermore, ensuring that all members of the teaching profession meet certain criteria will promote consistency in education across the country, something the children in Britain greatly need.
What’s more, the benefits that the new plans will create for children should greatly outweigh the inconvenience to teachers. A higher quality, more consistent education would allow children from a wide range of backgrounds to have more equal opportunities in both higher education and their professional careers. Poor quality teaching can seriously affect a student’s exam results and consequently, their futures, through no fault of their own. Obviously, this is not fair.
Those who oppose the proposal have their reasons. The National Union of Teachers concluded that although the development could have some positive consequences for education, the “devil would be in the detail”. It stated it would not support a “denigration of teachers” while the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it would be a “bureaucratic nightmare”. Yes, the proposal will demand more effort, more paperwork and more inspections for teachers but surely these are small issues in relation to the concept of improving education.
So, to conclude, I cannot see why these so-called “classroom MOTs” are a source of so much outrage. They will ensure that teaching in state schools is of a higher, more consistent quality and will force teachers to remain engaged with and committed to their profession. The intention is not to victimise poor teachers, but to ensure that all children receive the best education possible. That is certainly worth a little more bureaucracy.