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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. Robin Squire): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) for raising this subject, and for the thoughtful and intelligent way in which he developed his argument. He has long established a reputation for knowledge in this sphere of education and for not being afraid to express strong opinions. I welcome that, as does the House, and I thought that tonight he gave an excellent demonstration of his range of knowledge.

I will write to my hon. Friend in response to the specific query he raised about the impressive teaching skills demonstrated in the experiment during the summer months. Like my hon. Friend, I should like to see it developed further.

Ensuring that reading is taught effectively is, quite simply, essential. Pupils' progress depends on good reading skills. Without a sound grounding, their performance in other subjects is bound to suffer. For primary schools to fail to teach children to read well is simply unacceptable.

I share in full the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley about the weaknesses highlighted by last week's Ofsted report. The report exposes a shocking picture of poor teaching methods, coupled with a lack of leadership and monitoring of teachers' performance by head teachers. The use of teaching methods that were clearly not working is at the heart of the problem, and we cannot allow it to continue.

Unfortunately, as my hon. Friend has said tonight and as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has previously pointed out, other reports by Her Majesty's inspectorate and other sources suggest that the problem is not limited to a few London boroughs.

Our education reforms have set in place a framework designed to improve the standards of teaching and learning in all subjects. The national curriculum sets out clear expectations of pupils at key ages as a focus for teachers' efforts. There are arrangements for assessment to common national standards so that schools and teachers can see how well they are doing. Teaching quality is the subject of published reports by registered inspectors. How schools are serving their pupils is therefore much more a matter of public record and--now, as we all know--public debate.

That greater accountability is helping, and will help further, to lever up standards. Heads will know in future from Ofsted reports about the very good and very poor performers among their staff. In the light of the current review of appraisal arrangements, they should have regular and reliable information on the teaching quality of all their staff.

As my hon. Friend has said, how far and how fast we can raise standards will depend on the quality of the teaching force. We have many excellent teachers--as my hon. Friend is well aware, not only I but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State regularly make that point--but there is clearly much still to be done to improve standards.

We established the Teacher Training Agency about 18 months ago to tackle standards in initial and in-service training. The agency has made progress. It is linking funding and quality in initial training. It is working on a

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much clearer statement of essential teaching skills. From September, all primary teacher training courses must include at least 50 hours on the teaching of reading within at least 150 hours on the teaching of English. We must ensure that teacher training courses use that time well, and do not recycle the methods discredited by Ofsted's findings.

Thanks to the TTA, Her Majesty's inspectors can report publicly on the quality of initial training courses. They are nearing the end of a programme of inspection covering all primary initial teacher training, which has had a particular focus on the teaching of English. When institutions are identified as not providing quality training, the TTA will take vigorous action, including, if it proves necessary, withdrawing accreditation and the right to train teachers.

Those procedures are already having a real impact. We know that the publication of a recent critical Ofsted report on Charlotte Mason college has caused Lancaster university to consider its future role in initial teacher training. I know that discussions are continuing about the best future for the college, and I am sure that the university and the funding bodies will take full account of the views of students and staff; but we cannot disregard the great importance to pupils of well-trained teachers, and poor provision must be quickly brought up to scratch if it is to remain. Ofsted and the TTA are working together on a joint quality framework to tighten up inspection and quality assessment for the future.

My hon. Friend welcomed the fact that performance tables were to be produced for 11-year-olds, beginning with this year's tests, and I thank him for welcoming that development. We are now in a position to consider introducing performance tables for initial teacher training institutions. Tables would increase the information available to those considering training to be teachers, and stimulate providers to raise standards. The information might include Ofsted grades for training providers, as well as other performance indicators, such as how successful students are in finding employment, or how well newly qualified teachers are graded in Ofsted school inspections.

But it is not only new teachers who need training. There are only 20,000 newly qualified teachers each year, compared with 400,000 teachers already in classrooms. The TTA is working to improve in-service training for those teachers. It is defining the skills needed for expert classroom teaching; it has commissioned materials to help primary teachers assess their training needs in the core subjects, including English; and it is carrying out research into the effective teaching of literacy.

But we cannot yet be confident that the available in-service training is effective in meeting the needs of our teachers. We invest £400 million a year in such training, in cash and in teachers' time, so we need to be sure that we are getting value for the money and effort involved. The TTA produced an initial report last year, and my right hon. Friend has now asked it to work with Ofsted on a further review.

The Government have taken a specific initiative to tackle the teaching of literacy, with the establishment of 13 literacy centres, based in LEAs, under the national direction of John Stannard--a member of Her Majesty's inspectorate who is well placed to put Ofsted's messages about good teaching practice into effect.

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Each centre will work intensively with local schools to audit current strengths and weaknesses, to set targets for pupils' achievements, and to give teaching staff the necessary support and training to ensure that the targets are met. We shall ensure that the national training and other materials produced by the project are available to help schools all over the country. The project is being run by the Department in partnership with Ofsted, the TTA, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the Basic Skills Agency, as well as with the 13 LEAs involved.

The latest Ofsted report on reading in three London boroughs, which my hon. Friend and I have both already mentioned, revealed that school leadership was effective in promoting the teaching of reading in only one third of the primary schools. We know that the quality of leadership is crucial to the success of any school. That is why we have invested so significantly in training specifically for head teachers. Last year, the TTA launched the head teachers' leadership and management programme--HEADLAMP, as it is known--which provides up to £2,500 to meet the training needs of newly appointed head teachers.

But that is only a start. Through the tough new national professional qualification for headship, details of which were announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last week, we shall equip deputy head teachers with the skills necessary to become effective heads. The qualification will be available from next September, and will be rigorously assessed to national standards. For candidates to pass, they must be assessed in five key areas covering the full range of leadership and management skills.

Whatever other training they have received, head teachers must take a compulsory training module in strategic direction, and the implementation, monitoring and review of school policies and practices, so that they

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can make sure that policies on reading are followed through and carried out in every classroom and for the benefit of every pupil.

The Government have set the right framework, but there is a limit to what Government alone can do. Our role is to establish the framework; schools, LEAs and teacher trainers must accept their responsibilities for ensuring high standards of teaching. It is up to schools and their head teachers to ensure that they are complying with the national curriculum. It is inexcusable, for example, that almost half the schools covered by the recent Ofsted report were not meeting all the requirements of the national curriculum programmes of study for reading.

For far too long, too many primary schools, especially in inner-city areas, have been allowed to fail to meet their pupils' reading needs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will meet the three LEAs involved in the latest report and ask what action they intend to take. However, as the problems highlighted in the report are scarcely confined to those three LEAs, we shall also ensure that all LEAs are alerted to those Ofsted findings.

We owe it to pupils and to their parents to ensure that poor teaching of reading is not allowed to continue. Pupils in the most deprived areas have the most need for the skills that can offer them a better future. Our reforms have put in place the framework for delivering high standards, and the new measures announced last week will strengthen that. We must now press on until higher standards are delivered in each and every classroom. Schools, LEAs and teacher trainers have to take their responsibilities seriously, and we will ensure that their performance is carefully monitored.

Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley for raising the issue today. I hope that I have been able, in part, to satisfy him that the Government fully share the seriousness that he attaches to the teaching of reading in our schools.

Question put and agreed to.

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