Teachers will not have to swear “some funny oath”, Tristram Hunt has said after comments he made led to speculation that a “Hippocratic oath” for teachers could become Labour policy.

But he still thought a voluntary oath could help in raising teachers’ status.

Mr Hunt made the clarification after receiving a stream of criticism when news of his proposed oath for teachers emerged on the BBC.

At the weekend he said that he had been inspired by a visit to Singapore, where graduating teachers recite a five-point oath and are given a symbolic compass.

But he told Schools Week this week that he would only bring in such an oath on a voluntary basis. “We don’t want to impose it; we’re not going to make all teachers today swear some funny oath, but if we can have a symbolic moment that celebrates becoming a teacher and the importance of teachers in society, that seems to be a good thing.”

Mr Hunt compared the idea with citizenship ceremonies, now a very important part of becoming a British citizen.

“Anything that promotes a public debate about how we raise the status and standing of teachers is a good thing by me, whether it’s about licensing or about a voluntary oath that would celebrate the moment of qualification and becoming a teacher,” Mr Hunt said.

In Singapore, some reports suggest its teachers’ pledge is not respected within the profession. In 2012, one national newspaper quoted a teacher as saying staff did not know the words. “We are too preoccupied with our day-to-day activities. The teachers’ pledge is even harder to remember than our national pledge.”

Singapore is not the only country that has an oath for teachers. More than 250 schools in India, run by the Bharti Foundation, in August adopted an 11-point teachers’ oath, penned by the country’s former president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.


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