By Claire West

Responding to the publication of the Government’s education White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, Miles Templeman, Director General of the IoD, said:

“From the perspective of employers, there is much to welcome in the White Paper, particularly the emphasis on improving teaching quality, extending school autonomy and on early intervention to raise achievement in reading. The White Paper shifts the emphasis of reform from the structural to the practical. It deepens the Government’s reform agenda and takes it directly into the classroom. In this way, the proposals will immediately touch parts of the system that Free Schools and Academies will take time to reach.

“There are some omissions — the White Paper has much less detail on how the Government will improve numeracy skills than it does on improving literacy, there could have been greater emphasis on supporting schools to offer a wider range of competitor qualifications to GCSEs and A-levels, and raising the participation age is unnecessary if early achievement rises. But overall the White Paper continues the Government’s strong start in addressing current underperformance.”

On teaching

“The White Paper proposals to improve the system of teacher training, extend professional development, and give schools more freedom to reward good performance and tackle poor, are particularly welcome. Excellent teaching is the cornerstone of successful education systems and teacher quality is the most important influence on education standards. Ultimately, an education system depends on the quality of its teachers.”

On the basics of literacy and numeracy

“Improving achievement in the basics of literacy and numeracy has to be a top priority. This year only two-thirds of 11 year olds reached the expected standard for their age in the ‘3Rs’, and the failure to equip so many pupils with the skills they need for later success is the country’s most acute educational weakness. The focus on improving reading is therefore badly needed, but needs to be accompanied by a similarly determined effort to raise achievement in numeracy.”

On plans for GCSEs, A levels and an ‘English Baccalaureate’

“The White Paper contains some interesting proposals on qualifications reform. IoD members support GCSEs and A-levels, but employers are clear that both need strengthening to retain their cachet and credibility. However, there is absolutely no business appetite for complete upheaval in the qualifications system, so it is right that the Government’s plans for an English Baccalaureate build on the foundations of the system we already have and don’t seek to reinvent the wheel.”

Miles Templeman concluded:

“Any education reform can stir controversy. But we need to stay focused on the real battle: the fight for the UK’s future economic competitiveness. Education is on the frontline of this fight. If we are not prepared aggressively to target educational improvement, we will not be preparing pupils to compete in the global marketplace and we will not be developing the highly skilled workforce businesses increasingly depend on. If our education system is genuinely to match the quality of the best in the world, more of the same simply isn’t good enough.”