Much fuss is being made this morning over whether the Revd Flowers had the right expertise to chair a bank, and whether the regulators took any action to ensure his fitness for the post. Being chairman of a Board is an important post, arguably as important as the role of Chief Executive, but in a different way. For that reason it is unfortunate that unlike Ofsted or Qfqual the teaching profession no longer has a board to oversee the actions of the full-time officials working in the field of teacher preparation and development.
When the TTA and its successors in title were non-departmental bodies they had a Board to which the Chief Executive nominally reported. That did allow for some debate about issues of teacher preparation and development. It may not always have been the most challenging of Boards, but at least it was there. The same was true for the National College. Since the functions of teacher preparation and development have been taken back into the Department no such balance now exists, and the only checks on what is happening are either through the media or the parliamentary process. The absence of a balance to the Executive may well account for the extra scrutiny that teacher preparation changes have come under this year. However, to the good, there has been much more data published by the Department than in previous years, including the recent profiles of 2011-12 teaching graduates. Used properly, these data can help inform the debate.
It was inevitable that a switch to School Direct as a training route, especially for secondary teachers, would attract attention, as any change where there are winners and losers always does. Might a NCSL Board have aired some of the issues it has been left to the professional associations, politicians and participants in the teacher education process to raise in public? I would have hoped so. That is why I have worked with Chris Waterman to suggest the government establish an Advisory Committee on Teacher Supply and Training in order to bring together those concerned with the long-term development of a world-class teaching profession rather than just leave decisions to politicians and officials whose horizon rarely extends beyond the next funding cycle, and only as an election approaches beyond the end of the present parliament or term of office of the Secretary of State.
Next week sees the publication of the ITT Census for 2013, and the extent to which teaching has retain its glamour as a profession in all subjects and phases will become apparent. This week, the new UCAS application system is to go live, and the first applications by graduates wanting to train in 2014 as teachers will start to be made. Undergraduates have been applying ever since the UCAS system opened.
I hope 2014 will be a good year for recruitment, but I am pessimistic about whether the government has done enough to attract sufficient high quality applicants with the right range of academic knowledge into the profession. After all, social mobility will definitely be hindered if we run into another teacher supply crisis, even in just one part of the country.