Ofsted Missing the Point of Teacher Training

Published on Friday, 16 November 2012 08:53
Posted by Scott Buckler

University-led teacher training receives better grades from Ofsted than school-led training, yet fewer of the trainees actually become teachers

"What is teacher training if the trainees do not become teachers?" asks the Centre for Education and Employment Research's Good Teacher Training Guide 2012 by Alan Smithers, Pamela Robinson and Mandy-D Coughlan.

Ofsted grades bore no relation to entry to teaching.  The inspectors are supposed to take entry to teaching into account in judging effectiveness.  But they appear not to be doing so.

43.8% of the university teacher training was judged outstanding compared with only 19.4% of employment-based training.  None of the top ten providers for entry to teaching, in either primary or secondary schools, was a university.

Professor Smithers said: "The difference in employment rates of teachers trained in schools and universities is understandable because schools recruit for their needs and universities to fill their courses."

Newly qualified teachers trained in schools rated the quality of their training higher than those trained on university courses.

In the latest figures, only 60.6% of the 37,724 final-year trainees went to teach in state schools on qualifying.

The most successful route in terms of providing teachers for schools was the Graduate Teacher Programme.  Eighty per cent were in post on qualifying compared with 68.7% from universities (all sectors of teaching including independent schools).

Professor Smithers commented: "I fear the government may be taking a risk in merging it into School Direct and funding it less well.  But given the figures for teaching take-up and the trainees' ratings, the government is right to be shifting the balance towards schools."

The government is planning to expand Teach First.  Less than half (40%) of those on this scheme remained in teaching for five years.

Dr Robinson said: "This can be claimed as a gain rather than a loss since those on Teach First committed to only two years and were originally intending to do something else.  But it has to be seen for what it is: a catalyst, not a miracle cure."

The government is keen to increase the quality of the entrants in terms of degree classes.  These have gone up in line with the continuing rise in good degrees awarded.  In other words, teaching is holding on to its share of good graduates, but not increasing it.

Degree class reflects ease of recruitment.  Recruits to science subjects were among the least well qualified.  Of those in physics, 20.2% had less than a lower-second.  In chemistry it was 18.2%, maths 15.4% and ICT 14.0%.  In modern languages, it was 14.0%, but shortfalls here were reduced by recruiting abroad (22.1%).

Subjects that struggle to fill their places are also more likely to lose trainees along the way.  Drop-out from physics was 18.0%, from chemistry 15.8%; from ICT 15.8%; and from maths 14.2%.

The government is tackling subject shortages with generous bursaries for graduates with firsts and upper seconds.  This begs the question of whether a good degree – regardless of where it is obtained – is a secure indicator of quality.

The Good Teacher Training Guide 2012 compares the training routes and individual providers.  The comparisons are based on information assembled by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, which is now part of the Teaching Agency.  The rankings incorporate data on intakes, Ofsted grades, recent trainees' ratings, and entry to teaching.

214 providers (74 universities, 53 school centred and 87 employment based) were compared.

The Billericay Educational Consortium (school centred) came top followed by the King Edward's Consortium (employment based).  The University of Cambridge was third.

Cambridge was the only university to make it into the top ten.  It did outstandingly well, apart from entry to teaching.

There was huge variation within routes with the same providers among the also-rans each year.

Dr Pamela Robinson said: "The Teaching Agency should act more decisively to improve the quality of the system by withdrawing places from providers which persistently perform poorly."

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