Tristram Hunt made errors on TV, says Toby Young. But are Young’s statements correct?

Janet Downs's picture
Tristram Hunt made four errors during an interview with Andrew Neil, claims Toby Young in the Telegraph. But is he right?

Young gave four statements which he alleges prove Hunt wrong. Summaries of these statements are given below in bold with my commentary underneath.

The opening of two free schools by Perry Beeches School in Birmingham with a third planned for September is proof that new schools are necessary.

The fact that two free schools have opened in Birmingham and one is in the pipeline doesn’t prove new schools are needed everywhere. The National Audit Office found 81% of secondary free schools had been set up in areas where there are already surplus places. When Perry Beeches II (PB2) was proposed there was a small surplus of secondary places in Birmingham although it was recognised extra places would be needed by 2017/18. The PB2 Impact Assessment recognised the academy would have a “moderate impact” on three nearby secondary schools until 2017/18. The Impact Assessment for Perry Beeches III which opened in September 2013 doesn’t seem to be available.

The South Leeds Academy did not advertise for an unqualified teacher.

The advertisement said:

"We are seeking to appoint an enthusiastic, reliable, and self-motivated Unqualified Teacher of Maths ... The ideal candidates will possess a minimum of 4 GCSE’s (Grades A*- C) including English and Mathematics or equivalent."

The South Leeds Academy subsequently said the advert was placed in "error" but there were rather too many "errors" for this to be credible (eg "Unqualified, "minimum of 4 GCSEs”, “UQT pay scale”). The academy issued this statement:

"The advert should have made clear that this post was for the appointment of trainees to support the teaching of Mathematics with the potential opportunity to then progress as a trainee teacher."

But how does this square with the academy chain's funding agreement cited in Parliament that the South Leeds Academy only employs teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)? The statement above clearly says the "trainee", who only needed 4 GCSEs, could have the opportunity to become a "trainee teacher". 4 GCSEs doesn't equal a degree.

Two thirds of Al-Madinah’s staff have QTS

The school’s website is under reconstruction and there’s no information about the qualifications of staff. There is mention, however, of QIS staff in a letter. It’s unclear what QIS stands for or whether it’s a typo. That said, Ofsted made it quite clear there was a large number of unqualified and inexperienced staff at the school when it was judged “dysfunctional” and this had contributed to the school’s Inadequate rating.

Seven schools in Stoke are Inadequate and they’re all local authority (LA) schools

This is correct. However, the figure needs putting in context. Although the majority of secondary schools are academies, the majority of primary schools are non-academies. The number of LA schools, therefore, greatly outnumbers the number of academies.

Only six academies in Stoke have been inspected so far: one primary academy Requires Improvement, three secondary academies Require Improvement and two are Good. A small sample of six reduces the chances of being judged Inadequate. And it would be equally wrong to gloat about how not a single academy in Stoke is Outstanding.

One of the four secondary non-academies is Good and one is judged to Require Improvement. The remaining two non-academy secondary schools are Inadequate. One of the latter was previously Good and was in the process of converting to academy status - this was put on hold because of concerns about low attainment. A cynic might say academy conversion was halted to avoid yet another academy being judged Inadequate. Much better to have Inadequate judgements slapped on local authority schools.

So what about non-academy primary schools? Five are Inadequate, nine Require Improvement/Satisfactory, thirty are Good and four Outstanding. Roughly 70% of non-academy primary schools are Good or better – this matches national figures.

It appears that Toby Young’s discovery of Tristram Hunt’s mistakes wasn’t quite such a discovery after all.

Thanks to FJMurphy for highlighting the Telegraph article. FJMurphy had submitted an unfinished post about the story which I attempted to complete. This was posted temporarily but has now been removed because my ending might not have been what FJMurphy intended. However, it was a point worth pursuing.

CORRECTION 4 March 09.55

The above has been amended to include one non-academy secondary school in Stoke which was judged Good. This had been missed from the analysis. To make it clear: there are four remaining non-academy secondary schools in Stoke: three Foundation schools and one Community School. There are four converter secondary academies which haven't been inspected yet. There are six sponsored academies: five have been inspected. There are also two Studio Schools (free schools) which have not yet been inspected.
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Liz Elliott's picture
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 18:53

4 GCSEs would not facilitate access to teacher training. A candidate would require A levels or equivalent qualifications or a recognised Access course to get onto a degree course with QTS. They would also have to have at least Grade C GCSE in English and Maths and pass the DfE Maths and English tests before entry onto any degree course with QTS. Otherwise it is QTS through a recognised post-graduate route.

Chris Manners's picture
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 21:45

How many of those Outstanding academies in Stoke are converters?

FJ Murphy's picture
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 22:16

Thank you, I accidentally pressed enter before finishing my post and was not able to complete it.
I paid careful attention to the interview, and as far as I recall, when pressed, Hunt would not unambiguously state that a Labour government would sack unqualified teachers. I can understand his reluctance: would you sack an unqualified teacher who might well be very successful, have been praised by inspections and be highly regarded?
Overall, I think Andrew Neal ran rings round him and exposed his inadequacy. Whatever we may think of Michael Gove, and I am by no means an uncritical fan, he would have performed much better than Hunt.

Patrick Hadley's picture
Mon, 03/03/2014 - 22:37

If there are a number of unqualified teachers in maintained schools after the next election, then it will necessary to deal with this situation in a way that is fair to everyone concerned, including the unqualified teachers. Labour should make it clear that all unqualified teachers will have to begin a process leading to QTS, and those who make the grade will be able to continue with their careers. Those who fail to achieve QTS in a reasonable time period can be assumed to be inadequate and should not be left as teachers in maintained schools.

FJ Murphy's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 07:43

You are assuming that after the next election there will be a Labour government. You also imply that so-called 'unqualified teachers' should be sacked as inadequate after a time. Is it reasonable to assume that a teacher without QTS is inadequate? What about an experienced teacher who has passed various inspections with flying colours and who is successful according to every criteria being sacked? Would this be 'fair to everyone concerned'?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 08:30

I have no idea how right or wrong Tristram Hunt was, but far far worse is the Education’s Secretary’s deliberate falsifications over the years to promote the supposed superiority of his schools (Free Schools and Academies) and to misrepresent research and data to demonstrate that maintained schools are inferior, by any measure.
Toby Young is hardly measured or accurate either. He is quick to rehash Tory policy virtually without question. His political point scoring achieves little. On this occasion, it is a rather feeble attempt to divert attention away from he fact that some Academies and Free Schools have failed.
To those of us who have followed and contributed to this debate over the years, this outcome is both predictable and depressing. A shift in school status was never going to transform schools and the government and it’s vociferous and unquestioning champions such as Young are now embarrassed to have this inconvenient untruth exposed to a public outside the circle of “educationalists” and by Ofsted itself, who have, quite rightly and possibly against government wishes, treated these schools with the same level of Gove-ian rigour that they apply to maintained schools.
This rather pointless tit for tat does nobody any favours and it’s worth pointing out once again than, when the whole Free School policy was being devised and initiated, one of the hallmarks of the arguments in support of them was the denigration and ridiculing of maintained schools and Toby Young was right at the forefront of this. It’s about time he and his ilk apologised and recognised that there are bad academies and maintained schools and there are good free schools as there are good LA schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 08:48

Chris - there are no academies, sponsored or academies, in Stoke which have yet been judged outstanding. However, as I said above, only six academies have been inspected. That's far too small a sample to come to any conclusion.

Several primary schools have recently converted. I did not include these in my figures above because in theory their previous Ofsted judgements no longer apply. Toby Young was making a point about local authority schools so I only looked at Ofsted judgements for non-academy primary schools.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 08:58

FJM is right. In the past untrained teachers could obtain QTS through an extended probationary period. Other conditions could be attached. That seems reasonable to me.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 09:11

FJMurphy - I've just watched the interview on line. You're correct. Hunt did NOT unambiguously say Labour would sack unqualified teachers so Toby Young's headline was misleading. What Hunt said was that if an unqualified teacher refused to undertake professional development to gain QTS then he didn't think they should be in the classroom.

The interview is downloadable here for a limited time (roughly 7 minutes in)

UPDATE 11.35 See new thread which discusses Hunt and QTS.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 09:16

FJMurphy - I think the issue of whether or not Labour would sack "teachers" without qualified status deserves a separate post (see here). This one, inspired by your incomplete post, was about the four facts which Toby Young said Hunt had got wrong.

Toby Young was right when he said Hunt was in error about all schools in Stoke being academies. I think Hunt was only talking about secondary schools in Stoke but even these are not all academies. But what Young did was to misrepresent the figures for all Stoke non-academies including primaries which are overwhelmingly non-academies to sneer about the 7 non-academies which were Inadequate.

But only 6 academies in Stoke have yet been inspected which reduces the odds of any of them being Inadequate. And none is yet Outstanding although with such a small sample it would be misleading to jump to any sort of conclusion.

Patrick Hadley's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 12:42

Ofsted spend at most twenty minutes in a classroom, and inspections may be five years apart. That is not sufficient to judge the quality of a teacher. A teacher working in a school who is unable to attain QTS in a reasonable period can safely be assumed to be inadequate in some way. I am not a Labour supporter but I think that it is a working hypothesis that the Conservatives will lose the next election. Even if that is not correct it is likely that Gove would be moved from Education, and then it would up to his replacement to deal with the problem of unqualified teachers in maintained schools.

Chris Manners's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 18:58

Didn't see it, but I find your judgement that Neil won easily all too likely.

Thoughtful guy, Hunt. Probably pacing himself to the election. But needs to be much sharper.

FJM's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 19:31

Hunt v. Gove: a teddy bear against a tiger. Gove is a man with a mission, and a bit careless about some of his assertions, but Hunt seems poorly briefed, unable to come up with any policies other than not quite sacking unqualified teachers and talking about the dreadful Al-Madinah soon-to-be ex-academy.

FJM's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 19:26

"Unable to obtain QTS'' What about unwilling to jump through the various hoops, given experience, proven ability etc? You do not seem to realise that teachers are not just seen every five years by Ofsted for 20 minutes but observed several times a year by colleagues, not to mention judged in other ways, by results, feedback from pupils and colleagues etc.

FJM's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 19:32

Unqualified teachers are not a problem in state schools; inadequate teachers, qualified or not, are a problem.

Brian's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 20:26

And also remember, 20 minutes or not, Ofsted do not judge the quality of individual teachers.

Chris Manners's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 21:56

The charitable view is that Hunt is picking his issues in his own time.
He's the first one to know (pretty much) for sure when the election is.
On the biggest issue, oversight of academies, he doesn't yet know what structure he'll inherit.

Chris Manners's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 21:58

Biggest lie of all was that LA schools are "run by bureaucrats".

Schools most run by bureaucrats are sponsored academies.

Had Twigg nailed this lie ages ago, we'd all be better off.

Andy V's picture
Tue, 04/03/2014 - 22:51

Not sure I can agree to that assertion. It has been my experience the historical track record of the effectiveness of LAs is chequered to say the least. It would also be true to say that in the good bad old days far too many LEA/LA consultants were side ways moves to get them out of schools and in some cases put them out to pasture pre-retirement. Yes, there were and still are some good LAs but the net impact was that a lot of HTs ran their schools to keep LAs happy and, yes, that meant a level of unwanted drag anchor bureaucratic nonsense.

Have academy chains done any better, no. They too have proven to have a chequered track record.

Chris Manners's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 00:15

A friend of mine is a chair of governors in an bog standard primary. He tells me they and the head run the school, not the LA.
Agree, plenty of problems with LAs. Some, like Hackney years ago, needed outsourcing completely, to the right people.

Brian's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 07:29

' ... but the net impact was that a lot of HTs ran their schools to keep LAs happy ...'

Difficult to counter that assertion as I don't know a lot of heads or LA's, probably about fifty of the former and four of the latter. That small sample would not support your assertion but I accept it isn't necessarily representative. I look forward to hearing about the wider evidence.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 08:53

LAs have not "controlled" schools since Local Management of Schools was introduced over 25 years ago. The Academies Commission heard evidence from heads of academies in chains saying they had LESS freedom than when they were LA maintained.

Academies v federations with support of LAs is discussed in Warwick Mansell's latest Guardian article:

A Cooper's picture
Wed, 05/03/2014 - 22:28

I still have a copy of the job description for the unqualified maths teacher positions, which I downloaded from South Leeds Academy website at the time it was first published. It very clearly states that the posts are for two maths teachers and that the successful candidates would be employed under the STPCD (School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document).

Mr Hunt was not fabricating the truth.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 07/03/2014 - 19:52

It would help if Tristram Hunt effectively nailed this lie now.

Trevor Fisher's picture
Sun, 09/03/2014 - 20:17

I am confused about the statements made about Stoke, which do not seem to relate to what was actually said. I have a transcript of a remarkable interview, worth tracking down.

I am researching |Stoke, and what Neil said was "in your own back yard in Stoke and the potteries (sic) only 34% of stoke pupils attend a good or outstanding school. You are 148th out of 150 of the worst performing authorities. Its a Labour controlled authority. Its a Labour controlled authority There are still terrible schools..."

and later "Now you've had plenty of time, Labour has had plenty of time to sort out these schools in Stoke and they are still among the worst performing in the country..."

Those were the only comments about Stoke. Whether Neil was aware that some of the secondary schools were academies and therefore outside LA control I can't make out. But he did not mention primaries, and did not mention 7 schools which were inadequate being all LA schools.

If Young is saying this, he has misquoted what was being discussed.

On Perry Beeches, I leave this to others to discuss. But visiting a friend in the Birmingham jewelry quarter last week he told me to look at the free school down the road.

I did. It was an old factory building on the corner of one of the busiest streets in the Jewelry quarter, (Newhall Street) opposite the Assay Office. As far as I could see there was no attempt to stop kids running onto the road. It was on first viewing just a factory. I will now be taking an interest.

Any information on what Neil said about Stoke would be valuable.

trevor fisher

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