Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining – The Key Points

Big Ben

Here are the main conclusions and recommendations made in the Education Select Committee report titled ‘Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best‘ (dated 1st May 2012):

The impact and definition of the best teachers

The Government’s bursary scheme

1.  We (the House of Commons Education Committee) welcome the Government’s bursary scheme, trust that it will attract more people to consider the profession, and acknowledge the need to skew incentives towards subjects in which it is difficult to recruit. However, we caution that this alone will not do the job. Whilst bursaries will help to attract people with strong academic records, greater effort is also needed to identify which subset of these also possess the additional personal qualities that will make them well-suited to teaching. This is a key theme of this report that we will return to later. (Paragraph 39)

2.  We do, however, question the use of degree class as the determinant of bursary eligibility for primary school teachers. For this phase of education, a redesign of the criteria towards breadth of knowledge (at GCSE and A Level) may be more appropriate. Again, this of course needs to be complemented by a thorough testing of suitability as a teacher, as part of the course admissions process. (Paragraph 40)

Research into effective teachers

3.  We have been surprised by the lack of research into the qualities found to make for effective teaching, including any potential link between degree class and performance. Overall, the research base in both directions is fairly scant and could usefully be replenished with new methodologically-sound research looking at UK teachers and schools, both primary and secondary, which we recommend that the Government commission with some urgency. (Paragraph 42)

Attracting and assessing potential teachers

Entry tests

4.  We support the Government’s introduction of entry tests in literacy and numeracy skills: teachers must be highly skilled in both. We also welcome the concept of a test of interpersonal skills but, amidst concerns about the nature of such a test, we recommend—whilst acknowledging the Government’s desire to give providers autonomy over test design—that the Department for Education publish further details of what such a test might include, and that it keep the test under close review. (Paragraph 45)

5.  We recommend the Government engage with relevant experts to assist in designing and refining the interpersonal skills assessments, which we believe have potential to improve the predictive capability of the application/acceptance system. However, we remain to be convinced that a written test alone will constitute the most effective device. The added effectiveness that could come through deploying additional ‘assessment centre’ techniques (such as group exercises and presentation) and a demonstration lesson may well outweigh their cost and we recommend the Government consider these too. Such techniques could form part of the second of a two-round system, similar to that now used in Finland. As a starting point, we believe there may be much to be learned from the selection processes of Teach First. (Paragraph 45)

6.  We agree that teacher quality, actual or potential, cannot be fully established without observing a candidate teach. We would like to see all providers, wherever possible, include this as a key part of assessment before the offer of a training place is made. Assessment panels, where they do not already, must include the involvement of a high-quality practising headteacher or teacher. (Paragraph 49)

7.  All providers should develop strong partnerships with local universities, colleges and schools which enable potential teachers to ‘taste’ the profession, and experience first-hand its content, benefits and career potential, before entering training: we believe this could have a strong and positive effect on both trainee quality and drop-out rates. Alongside this, Government should consider development of a more formalised system of internships for school and college students, as exists in Singapore. We would envisage extensive availability of ‘Teaching Taster’ sessions for both sixth formers (for those considering undergraduate courses) and undergraduates (considering postgraduate training). Regardless of how long the taster session lasts, it must feature actual teaching, alongside the classroom teacher, and not just ‘observation’ or being a ‘teaching assistant’. Feedback on the individual’s performance should be given to the individual only and the taster sessions should be entirely separate from formal application/acceptance processes. Applying to do teacher training is a ‘high stakes’ decision and the purpose of these sessions is to give people a chance to try out their own aptitude before committing. We believe this approach could help both deter some people who are not best suited to teaching and persuade others to consider it. (Paragraph 50)

Marketing

8.  Whilst marketing campaigns to date have had some success in raising the possibility of a teaching career amongst graduates, England is clearly lagging behind its international peers with regard to the number of applications per place. We recommend that the Government, through the new Teaching Agency, commit to consistent marketing of teaching as a profession, with the explicit aim of increasing the number of applicants for each training position, and that marketing should communicate that teaching is rewarding in all senses of the word. (Paragraph 55)

9.  We strongly support the Government’s plans to implement a central admissions system for initial teacher training, which we consider could bring significant benefits for individuals and institutions, and could have a positive impact on increasing the number of applications for training which we consider must be a priority for Government. (Paragraph 58)

The provision of initial teacher training

Different routes

10.  We agree with Ofsted that a diversity of routes into teaching is a welcome feature of the system, and note that all routes have outstanding provision within them. (Paragraph 65)

11.  We support the announced expansion and development of Teach First, which continues to provide a number of excellent teachers, including those who would not otherwise have considered the profession. We also agree with the cautious approach towards any further expansion, beyond the announced doubling, adopted by the Schools Minister. (Paragraph 66)

School-based training

12.  It is clear that school-based training is vital in preparing a teacher for their future career, and should continue to form a significant part of any training programme. We welcome policies which encourage, or enable new, school-centred and employment-based providers, expansion of which should be demand-led, and which will ensure good balance between schools and universities in teacher training. Specifically, we believe that School Direct could provide a valuable opportunity for those schools which do have the capacity and appetite to offer teacher training, and support its creation. However, we recommend that, as a condition of the programme, trainees must undertake a placement in at least two schools, to ensure they are not trained specifically for one school where they will begin, but are unlikely to remain for the entirety of, their career. (Paragraph 77)

13.  We welcome the creation of Teaching Schools, and note that they will be expected to work with universities, which we strongly support: we believe that a diminution of universities’ role in teacher training could bring considerable demerits, and would caution against it. We have seen substantial evidence in favour of universities’ continuing role in ITT, and recommend that school-centred and employment-based providers continue to work closely with universities, just as universities should make real efforts to involve schools in the design and content of their own courses. The evidence has left us in little doubt that partnership between schools and universities is likely to provide the highest-quality initial teacher education, the content of which will involve significant school experience but include theoretical and research elements as well, as in the best systems internationally and in much provision here. (Paragraph 78)

School placements

14.  We recommend that the Government develop preliminary proposals to provide more adequate funding to schools which provide placements to trainee teachers. We believe that a better level of funding, passed from lead providers to placement schools, might incentivise better partnership working between institutions. Ofsted should look carefully at the quality of placements when inspecting providers, including the ease with which they are arranged. (Paragraph 80)

15.  We support the recommendation of our predecessor Committee that “those who mentor trainees on school placement should have at least three years’ teaching experience and should have completed specific mentor training”. We further recommend that Ofsted look specifically at the quality of mentoring when inspecting providers of initial teacher training. (Paragraph 83)

Retaining, valuing and developing teachers

Retention rates

16.  We agree with research arguing that movement and wastage must be distinguished from each other, and that in light of that (and comparable figures from other professions) retention rates amongst the profession as a whole perhaps present less cause of concern than sometimes suggested. However, the retention of the best teachers is clearly desirable, and we recommend that the Department for Education commission detailed research on the barriers to retention, better to inform the development of policy on teacher training and supply. The research should also look at the impact of, and potential to diminish (including through incentivising staff), the loss of the best teachers, particularly in the most challenged schools. Finally, it should examine the quality of those teachers leaving the profession: whilst retention of the best is clearly important, loss of the worst is not to be regretted. (Paragraph 89)

CPD

17.  We are clear that, for too long, CPD for teachers has lacked coherence and focus. Despite financial constraints which we acknowledge and appreciate, we are concerned that England lags seriously behind its international competitors in this regard, and recommend that the Government consult on the quality, range, scope and content of a high-level strategy for teachers’ CPD, and with an aim of introducing an entitlement for all teaching staff as soon as feasible. The consultation should include proposals for a new system of accrediting CPD, to ensure that opportunities are high-quality and consistent around the country. (Paragraph 99)

18.  We recommend that the Government develop and implement a National Teacher Sabbatical Scholarship scheme to allow outstanding teachers to undertake education-related research, teach in a different school, refresh themselves in their subjects, or work in an educational organisation or Government department. In addition to the likely positive impacts on individual teachers and schools, we believe such an investment would help raise the profession’s status amongst existing and potential teachers. (Paragraph 100)

Career structure

19.  We recommend that the Government introduce a formal and flexible career structure for teachers, with different pathways for those who wish to remain classroom teachers or become teaching specialists, linked to pay and conditions and professional development. We believe that the introduction of such a structure would bring significant advantages to the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers, and bring teaching into line with other graduate professions in this regard. (Paragraph 109)

College of Teaching

20.  We acknowledge and support the case for a new, member-driven College of Teaching, independent from but working with Government, which could play important roles, inter alia, in the accreditation of CPD and teacher standards. We are not convinced that the model of ‘Chartered Teacher’ status proposed by the existing College of Teachers will bring about the changes required to teachers’ CPD and career progression opportunities, or that the existing College has the public profile or capacity to implement such a scheme. We recommend that the Government work with teachers and others to develop proposals for a new College of Teaching, along the lines of the Royal Colleges and Chartered Institutions in other professions. (Paragraph 114)

Teacher standards

21.  We support the Government’s desire to reduce bureaucratic burdens on teachers and school leaders, and therefore welcome the simplification of the Teacher Standards. Following our call for a radical improvement in career opportunities for teachers, we would expect the Government to update the Standards when implementing a new and better career structure. (Paragraph 118)

Performance management and pay

22.  We encourage school governors to be rigorous in their scrutiny of performance management in schools, and recommend that the Department for Education, with Ofsted, provide additional information to governing bodies following inspections, aiding them better to hold headteachers to account for performance management arrangements. (Paragraph 119)

23.  We strongly recommend that the Department for Education seek to quantify, in a UK context, what scale of variation in teacher value-added equates to in terms of children’s later prospects. We further recommend that the Department develop proposals (based on consultation and a close study of systems abroad) for a pay system which rewards those teachers who add the greatest value to pupil performance. We acknowledge the potential political and practical difficulties in introducing such a system, but the comparative impact of an outstanding teacher is so great that we believe such difficulties must be overcome. (Paragraph 121)

Concluding remarks

24.  We urge the Government to consider how best it might continue to engage non-education sectors with the fantastic and inspiring work which goes on in many classrooms around the country. We similarly urge the Government to continue championing the work done by teachers up and down the country—not least through shadowing some of them, which the Secretary of State has committed to doing —and to sell the many benefits and rewards of the profession to the brightest and best candidates. (Paragraph 123)

The complete report can be found here:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeduc/1515/151502.htm

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