A National Teaching Force?

The news that Teach First with its national brand of teacher preparation is to expand into rural areas where schools are under-performing raises the interesting issue of how long two system of teacher preparation can co-exist within the same framework for teacher preparation?

By contrast to Teach First, School Direct, apparently also favoured by government, is a devolved, school controlled, training route where individual schools can decide from year to year whether to train teachers or not depending upon local circumstances. So long as they can ensure trainees reach QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) Schools with School Direct places allocated to them have considerable autonomy.

In many senses the two routes – School Direct and Teach First are at opposite end of the spectrum in relation to national control and management of the process and outcomes of teacher preparation. Caught between the two are the universities, and their tried and tested model of training that has consistently been well evaluated by Ofsted, but is irrationally unpopular in some political circles.

How much longer this range of different approaches can continue is a moot point. There seems to be a growing feeling at Westminster that schools need help to improve and, having created a decentralised model that diminished the role of local authorities, schools have in some cases become too isolated. It may well be that the lessons learnt from the improvements in London schools over the last decade show that the cohesive nature of the borough system, with its four yearly election cycle, has meant that the rhetoric about local authorities no longer having a key role to play has been ignored across most of the capital in a manner that hasn’t happened outside London. However, it may be that even in London it is the Directors of Children’s Services that have often provided the glue that holds the service together rather than local politicians, and it is directors that have helped the head teachers create the turnaround, especially in the primary sector.

In my view, the Cabinet system of government has been unhelpful for education as it has reduced the number of local politicians involved in the education service. The removal of the local authority presence on academy governing bodies has also broken the link between communities and bodies responsible for functions other than education, leaving heads sometimes not understanding the role of the school in the community. I wonder whether the re-introduction of a committee structure into local government that allowed greater democratic oversight to schooling might not be a bad idea. I am supported in that view by the fact that a parish council in Oxfordshire announced this week that it wants to open an academy without as far as I can tell any reference to the county council: local democracy in action?

On the other had I read today in the press that the president of ASCL seems to favour schools being allowed to used unqualified teachers despite his members turning their noses up at many applicants to the School Direct Salaried route with the freedoms it confers to schools in both the selection and training of new teachers. Perhaps, he is worried that with expansion of Teach First the idea of a national teaching force that can be deployed at the behest of government into under-performing schools might have moved a step closer.

It would surely be the height of irony if an organisation whose director of research once ran a right wing think tank posed a solution for teacher supply, training and employment that runs contrary to market principles: but didn’t the Chancellor say in Leeds earlier this week that markets don’t always get things right. Perhaps the day of the fully autonomous school is once again under scrutiny. If so, taking control of the teaching force might be an interesting place to start.

What’s wrong with career changers?

An analysis of data provided by UCAS yesterday on applications to teacher preparation courses, and offers made to applicants, suggested that this year recruiting to teacher preparation courses will be even more of a challenge than last year. There is now a risk that unless the 5,000 applicants with interview requests outstanding or awaiting offer have a different success rate to those applying earlier in the year even primary courses may not meet their targets across England.

By 16th June some 23,000 applicants had been placed, conditionally placed or were holding offers against a target in excess of 29,000 graduates, excluding Teach First. With no more than 10 weeks to go before courses start, and the skills tests to pass, not to mention the school holidays, it will need an unprecedented effort to hit the targets in all subjects even at the lower level indicated by the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model; the NCTL allocations in many subjects are just pie in the sky now.

Bearing in mind that these are places on courses for those that want to become teachers ,the conversion rates on the different courses are interesting:

HE 23%
HE 19%
All applicants 20%

School Centred courses appear to have made a higher percentage of offers to applicants than other routes. In primary, the School Direct training route has made the same percentage of offer to applicants as higher education, but in secondary courses higher education has made a higher percentage of offers despite having seen its number of places decline compared with last year.

The interesting outcome is the apparent low percentage of offers to career changers applying for the School Direct Salaried route where offers appear below the totals achieved in many years under the former Graduate Teacher Programme. Only around one in eight applications to the secondary courses have been accepted. This means that only 910 applicants have been placed, conditionally placed, or were holding an offer on the 16th June for secondary School Direct Salaried places. In primary the total is 1,500 offers.

It is worth exploring whether this means that career switchers are less suitable for teaching, despite their greater experience than new graduates, and older graduates applying for the other routes? The NCTL should also make clear whether any salaried places have been returned by schools and re-allocated to other routes following the recent requests for providers of all types to take additional places in many subjects and the primary phase.

It is also worth noting that the DfE/NCTL decision to allow all legitimate bids in physics and mathematics doesn’t seem to be working. As a result, it is important to know whether it is distorting the regional picture with more places being accepted in some parts of the country than others.

The Royal Society paper on Vision published yesterday recognised the need for more teachers. These figures show that in the areas they mentioned this isn’t happening. Time for plan B?


A submission to the Carter Review

I don’t normally post long pieces on this blog but I thought some readers might like to read the submission I have sent to the Carter Review.

Developing a World Class Teaching Profession in England


Cllr Professor John Howson


Education is a large-scale enterprise in England with more than half a million qualified teachers either working in schools or qualified to do so. For many years there has been anxiety about poor quality teachers. There have also been periods when recruiting and retaining enough teachers has been a challenge. The key questions as we enter a period of significant growth in the school population during the next decade is how to attract, retain and develop the next generation of teachers in sufficient numbers to ensure a high quality education for every child. For, as a Report commissioned by President Bush Senior once famously said, ‘no child should be left behind’.

This paper discusses the issues around recruitment, training and entry to the profession. However, the story does not end there. For teachers, just like other professionals, need a secure, rigorous, rewarding and demanding programme of professional development throughout their careers. The issues created are touched upon in this paper, but are not the main thrust of this paper.

There is ample evidence that the gap between the educational attainments of those at either end of the social scale has widened in recent years. There is certainly a noticeable difference in educational progress between children with different social backgrounds.

For those who believe in a just and equal society this gap in outcomes after more than 140 years of

State involvement in schooling is depressing. With a thriving private school sector across England, the State must recognise that it has the specific responsibility to educate the children of the least well-off in society.

Although there is a lively debate about the nature of teaching, it has long been recognised by academics of all persuasions that teaching quality is the strongest school-related factor that can improve student learning and achievement (Hanushek, 2011). As a result, how teachers are trained, developed during their professional careers, and motivated within their schools and other learning situations is of the utmost importance in creating a world-class education system. This paper considers two of these key issues;

  • how teachers should be prepared for the profession and,
  • the approach to staff development that can sustain and develop teachers through careers that could last for more than forty years, even if more flexible working patterns become the norm.

The third element, leadership, is also of vital importance since good leaders help to create the professional learning communities that enhance the likelihood of sustained and excellent pupil learning and achievement. However, it is a separate issue that needs considering apart from the generic issue of developing the wider teaching profession and is outside of the scope of this paper.

There have been discussions about what makes a good teacher for as long as there has been formal schooling. This paper explores how these and other issues relate to teacher preparation and development requirements in a society where children entering formal education this year will probably not leave the labour market until 2080, and an increasing number will live right through to the end of this century, and even beyond. More than ever before a good start in life will have a real impact on individuals, lasting many decades.

The two quotes below, separated by 170 years, reflect two aspects of the debate about teachers and teaching. The personal qualities, specific and the professional knowledge required to be an effective teacher lies at the heart of the debate.

It is not every person who can be fitted for the office of schoolteacher. Good temper and good sense, gentleness coupled with firmness, a certain seriousness of character blended with cheerfulness, and even liveliness of disposition and manner; a love of children, and that sympathy with their feelings which experience alone can never supply – such are the moral requirements which we seek in those to whom we commit the education of the young.

Annual Report of the National Society, 1842

A Department for Education spokesman said:

Independent schools and free schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got qualified teacher status (QTS). We are extending this flexibility to all academies so more schools can hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before. We expect the vast majority of teachers will continue to have QTS. This additional flexibility will help schools improve faster. No existing teacher contract is affected by this minor change.

DfE press Notice 27th July 2012

The nature of the teacher workforce

As already indicated, in England, the teacher workforce is significant in both its size and complexity. Around 450,000 teachers work in state funded schools in England alone. Add in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the private sector, and further education, and the number rises to probably in excess of 600,000. Once those who are trained as teachers, but now working in professions allied to teaching or working as teachers overseas, are added the total rises still further. Even allowing for just those currently working in mainstream schools, the annual demand for replacements to meet retirements, departures for other reasons, and the promotion of classroom teachers to more senior posts requires around 35-40,000 trainees each year under current arrangements.

For the past 50 years decisions about trainee numbers, and to some extent routes into teaching, have been decided by successive central governments at Westminster, and funded by the Treasury. Historically, teachers working in the primary sector always received some form of training, but it did not become compulsory for all teachers to be trained until the time of the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Even then, schools could employ teachers without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), commonly called ‘instructors’, if they were unable to recruit a teacher with QTS. In 2000, for example, there were more than 3,000 teachers without QTS working in schools across England and Wales: over 1,000 of them in London schools.

However, to provide carte blanche for free schools and academies to hire personnel without QTS to teach is not really a ‘minor change,’ as the DfE press notice quoted above suggested, especially in the primary sector. At the time of the launch of The Tail (2013) when asked about the need for teacher training Michael Gove apparently commented that ‘What’s good enough for Eton is good enough for Free Schools.’ Nevertheless, in making the case for planning and preparation time for primary teachers, during the first decade of this century, in order the achieve parity with their secondary colleagues, the teacher associations opened the door to the use of teaching assistants essentially undertaking some of the role of a teacher. This produced two possible changes to the notion of a fully qualified teacher:

  • the use of the expert with no training in pedagogy and,
  • the creation of para-professional teaching assistants with no requirement for a minimum standard of education.

Both were no doubt partly predicated upon the popular notion that teachers were ‘born not made’. A notion emphasised in the Nineteenth Century quote cited above.

How are teachers currently prepared?

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of the content and delivery of teacher preparation programmes, it is worth noting the many different ways that a person may acquire QTS. These can be sub-divided into three groups as shown in the following table.

CERTIFICATION Higher Education
School Direct – salaried
School Direct – training
OTHER APPROVED OVERSEAS TEACHERS from USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (may require work visa)
APPROVED HOLDERS QTLS (basically FE lecturers)

Five of the routes are the result of decisions made by the present government, including the introduction of the two professional certification routes based upon training led by schools – the School Direct pathways and the specific programme for those who have served in the armed forces such as Troops into Teachers. Given that the size of the British land army after recent cutbacks will only be little more than twice the size of the annual intake into teacher preparation courses that route is unlikely ever to be more than a marginal source of new entrants into teaching.

The School Centred Initial Teaching Route (SCITT) was the creation of the Conservative government of the early 1990s, and many of the longer-established programmes of this type are well into their second decade of operation. The granting of QTS to those with a qualification in teaching in further education reverses a decision taken when the two sectors split over twenty years ago.

Who becomes a teacher, and what type of preparation do they need?

Consider these candidates for teaching;

Jane is a recent graduate age 22 with an upper second degree in modern history. Since GCSE she has studied no history pre-1472. She wants to teach history in a secondary school.

Kevin is a 28-year-old policeman who is looking to change careers to work with young people in a positive way. He has a lower second-class degree in forensic science, and wonders what he might teach in the secondary sector

Helen is a 35-yearold mum with two school-age children. She has a degree in physics, and since the birth of her own children she has volunteered a day a week at a local primary school. She is interested in teaching children at Key Stage 1.

Wayne is studying for his ‘A’ levels in media studies, photography and theatre studies. He is 20 and had a chequered history as a teenager, but now wants to become a teacher and put something back into society.

Of the four all have different needs, and some are better served by the present routes than others.

Jane would have the option to select from the two School Direct routes, a higher education course, a SCITT course or Teach First. As history is a popular subject, attracting more applicants than places, she might be told by some course providers to acquire some experience of schools in a voluntary capacity before being considered. If she applied after Christmas for courses starting in September she would probably find her options severely limited. In most cases she would find herself having to pay another £9,000 in fees to study unless she was lucky enough to be accepted on either the Teach First programme or to find a School Direct salaried place.

Kevin has a degree that doesn’t fit a National Curriculum subject, so would either need to find a means of enhancing his subject knowledge or find a provider that felt he had enough science to be accepted onto a course. However, since the government split the sciences into the separate subjects of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, the general science courses that might have accepted him have largely disappeared. His work experience might count in his favour, especially if he had worked with young people, but his chances might depend upon when he applied. If he applied early in a recruitment round he might fare badly as providers might expect more suitable candidates with better subject knowledge would apply later in the recruitment round. However, if, later in the round, applications were sluggish he might fare better, especially if he interviewed well. He would not be eligible for Teach First, but would receive some financial support if he trains to teach a physical science subject. However, he would be looking at a sizeable reduction in pay for at least a year while training even if he found a School Direct salaried place.

Helen wants to teach children at the younger end of the primary school. Although there are currently fewer than two graduates chasing each place to train as a primary teacher that still means more than 20,000 applicants wanting to train as a primary school teacher each year. Although Helen has a Physics degree that isn’t likely by itself to put her near the front of the queue because currently there is no requirement for providers of primary training to consider recruiting a balance of candidates with different subject backgrounds. Assuming Helen has the basic GCSE qualifications required she, along with our other candidates, will still need to undertake the Skills Tests in numeracy and literacy required of intending teachers. Although she may not have studied any arts or humanities subjects for more than half her lifetime that probably won’t matter. She will receive basic training during her course. The time she has spent as a volunteer may help her be accepted if the head provides a good reference.

Wayne has selected ‘A’ levels that limit his chances of becoming a secondary school teacher because there are few training places to teach drama, media studies or photography even if he achieves the required degree with a minimum of a lower second. He could consider becoming a primary school teacher, and either enrols on an undergraduate degree leading to QTS or takes a subject degree and then competes with other graduates for one of the places. He would be well advised to undertake some youth work either as a part of his degree course or as a voluntary activity as this might strengthen his chance of being accepted.  It is unlikely that he would have a degree in a subject acceptable to Teach First, and there is a strong chance that he would have to pay fees and take out a loan to support his living costs through his training.

As the range of degrees available at universities becomes ever more diverse, so the link between the higher education experience and the needs of schools in terms of curriculum delivery becomes evermore decoupled. This may not seem to matter for much of the primary sector, where direct curriculum knowledge may not be required, but even at that level a need to understand the fundamentals of a subject may be important in both teaching it well and also in helping other teachers to deliver the subject as well.

What is needed within a teacher preparation programme to create a world-class teaching force?

Every teacher needs the following:

  1. Knowledge of what they are teaching that is continually kept up to date;
  2. Knowledge of how to teach and assess the outcomes of what they are teaching;
  3. Knowledge of those they are teaching and what these learners bring to the learning process.

The first might casually be called ‘subject knowledge’, but it wider than just subject knowledge and includes the ability to develop expertise in aspects of the subject with which a person is unfamiliar.

The second is clearly pedagogy, both in general terms, and as applied to specific age or subject and the ability and aptitude of each learner.

The third, and often most neglected part of teacher preparation programmes for the past thirty years, involves the understanding of child development and the context in which they are learning.

With the current focus in education circles on closing the cycle of deprivation this issue has permeated the policy framework, but has yet to be allowed back onto the teacher preparation agenda.

As we have seen from the examples above, different individuals wanting to become a teacher may have different training needs. All may have needs relating to pedagogy, most may need to understand about child development and societal issues, and some will require additional subject or other specific knowledge.

Fifty years ago the Newsom Report entitled ‘Half Our Future’ echoed the statement of the Eighth Report of the National Advisory Council on the Supply & Training of Teachers that:

“In the primary and secondary modern schools teaching methods and techniques, with all the specialized knowledge that lies behind them, are as essential as mastery of subject matter. The prospect of these schools staffed to an increasing extent by untrained graduates is, in our view, intolerable.”

Sadly, such a suggestion is no more intolerable to some politicians today than it was half a century ago

Are the present routes into teaching based upon meeting these needs during training?

Some programmes such as Teach First spend a large amount of money up front on the selection procedure in order to reduce the need to spend time later determining suitability for teaching, as their programme places trainees in the classroom immediately after a six-week induction programme. Whether this approach would work for 35,000 potential trainees is open to question, but better identification at selection might help with the design of appropriate programmes tailored to specific needs.

The government is currently embarking on a programme based upon devolving training to schools through the School Direct training programme. That is the aim of the School Direct programme. In evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee published in July 2013 The Geographical Association laid out a number of issues with a largely school-based programme of training such as School Direct. They are worth detailing in full:

Key concerns

  • The closure of good (Ofsted grade 2) geography courses in universities at the same time as some schools ‘requiring improvement’ (Ofsted grade 3) are being allocated School Direct geography places.
  • The proportion of new geography teachers who will be trained next year through School Direct schemes where no specialist geography tutor will be involved in the training.
  • That school-led training risks failing to train new teachers well in geography pedagogy and provides a narrow training based mainly on the experience of one school.
  • Geography teachers, as mentors, are being asked to take the major responsibility for training geography teachers without the time and resources to do so, and without having sufficient expertise in subject pedagogy. Many new schools and mentors are being expected to train for the first time, while existing highly experienced mentors with an excellent training record are not being involved.
  • Geography allocations are dependent on the overall quality of the ITE provider. Those judged “good” have been allocated no core places for geography, regardless of the quality of the geography training. Courses that have been previously graded as “outstanding” for geography are facing closure. Ofsted no longer reports on individual subjects.
  • If university geography ITE courses close, the loss of experienced geography educators will have a serious impact on the provision of curriculum development, professional development and research in geography education.
  • The GA believes that new teachers must have a secure understanding of subject pedagogy to teach their subject well. Most school-led routes have only a few trainees studying each subject; therefore they cannot resource a dedicated geography tutor. Training that takes place mainly in one school does not provide sufficient experience of a range of teaching approaches and techniques.
  • Mentors have very little time allocated to their ITE role. Most have few opportunities for subject specific professional development to update and develop their understanding of subject pedagogy. Therefore, they rely on a university geography tutor to provide challenging and wide ranging training in subject pedagogy – and incidentally provide them with professional development.
  • Experience shows that any new geography course takes several years to achieve high quality training; some never do. Teacher training expertise takes time to develop. Yet for 2013 the allocations indicate 23% of geography trainees will be training in new providers. This risks creating a significantly high proportion of inexperienced providers.
  • School Direct could work well if its introduction was managed and phased over several years.
  • University tutors are keen to involve good geography departments in training students and the School Direct scheme requires strong commitment to ITE; such involvement by schools should establish stronger partnerships.

The Geographical Association. source:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidencePdf/1089 Published by the Education Select Committee 25th July 2013

It is worth noting schools that established SCITT schemes two decades ago often grouped together to overcome some of these very issues raised by the Geographical Association in their analysis of School Direct.

Looking at our four potential teachers:

 Jane would only see one school in action for any length of time if she opted for some School Direct programmes, but might manage on her existing knowledge of history.

Kevin probably needs some subject updating, and may need to fill in the gaps in his knowledge left by his degree. A subject knowledge enhancement course before teacher training would cover those needs, but it would mean he spent longer as a student and not earning. The future of such subject knowledge enhancement courses is also currently in doubt.

Helen and Wayne face different problems. Both may have limited knowledge of many of the range of subjects that they would be required to teach in a primary school setting, and no knowledge of the complex environment that is a modern primary school. Most teacher preparation routes will offer them a rapid canter through the basics of both subject knowledge and pedagogy before they qualify and meet their first class, leaving them much to learn on the job.

Of course, our four applicants may have few options as to which route they choose depending upon where they live, and how mobile they are prepared to be during their course. Jane as a new graduate may be able to go anywhere in the country that she is offered a place, but Helen with children at school, and a stake in her community, may well be tied to a more limited geographical area.

Central planning or the market approach?

Are schools independent entities funded by the state or part of a larger infrastructure of education open to the whole of society and meeting both the needs of the individual and of society as a whole? The answer to that question may determine the appropriate degree of government involvement there should be in preparing teachers to work in schools and then in supporting their professional development. The government expressed their position as recently as January 2013 when the head of the National College for Teaching and Learning told an education conference:

In the future I would like to see local areas deciding on the numbers of teachers they will need each year rather than a fairly arbitrary figure passed down from the Department for Education. I have asked my officials at the TA to work with schools, academy chains and local authorities to help them to devise their own local teacher supply model. I don’t think Whitehall should be deciding that nationally we need 843 geography teachers, when a more accurate figure can be worked out locally

(DfE, 2103)


While this approach may work in the secondary sector, it is unclear how it could work in the primary sector where academy chains are currently barely represented, some schools are too small to become training hubs, and local authorities have generally neither the resources nor the inclination to undertake the responsibility, except perhaps where they have established SCITT schemes. It is also unclear who will provide the funding if government doesn’t operate a national scheme to determine the numbers required. Will schools be expected to fund such training from their own resources? The absence of dioceses from the list will also alarm some people in view of the importance of church schools in the primary education scene.

Such an approach might be likened to every branch of a large supermarket chain operating its own graduate entry scheme with little more than a training syllabus handed down from company headquarters, or the army expecting each unit to conduct officer training individually rather than through a central course at Sandhurst. There would be little control over quality at the admissions stage, and it would be difficult to know whether the numbers recruited in different subject and age phases would be sufficient for the longer-term health of the profession. Such a scheme might have the merit that those recruited locally could expect to be offered a teaching post. This has always been one of the shortcomings of the present arrangements where vacancies are usually advertised nationally, and local candidates are not afforded any preference even if they cannot relocate to fill a vacancy elsewhere. Both Teach First and School Direct addressed this issue by involving the schools more in the allocation of jobs, although there is no evidence to show that local candidates have received preference. How this would work in the primary sector might need more thought as, unlike most secondary schools, many schools do not recruit new teachers every year. At present, partnerships and cluster are not sufficiently developed to fulfil that role on a national basis. The whole issue of primary school training will be discussed in more detail later

The way forward

Preparation for teaching

The primary sector

Until recently most primary school teachers trained through the undergraduate degree route that was the successor to the former Certificate of Education training that moved from being employer-led into higher education after the outcomes of the Robbins (1963) and James (1974) Reports. However, as the percentage of school-leavers attending university has increased, especially amongst women, so the tendency to postpone career choices until after a subject-focused first degree has increased. This has been reflected in the growth of the postgraduate route into primary school teaching, and the relative decline in enrolments to the undergraduate route. In 2007/08, undergraduate enrolments accounted for 40% of higher education enrolments to train as a primary teacher. By 2010//11, the percentage was down to 36%; by 2013/14, and with the addition of School Direct, it is likely that less than a third of intending primary school teachers are being trained through the undergraduate route. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that some trainees on the undergraduate route in the past, especially those accepted through ‘clearing’ in the later summer, may have had lower academic standards than those not offered a place on the PGCE route. It has always seems curious that when the DfE imposed the degree class limit for graduates wishing to become a teacher it did not impose a similar point score cap for those entering through the undergraduate route. Maybe it was because the undergraduate route is of little consequence in the training of secondary school teachers and its importance for the primary sector was overlooked

Although most primary postgraduate trainees still opt to apply soon after leaving university a significant minority may well apply later in life like our example Karen.

PGCE Training route
Age at  training
GTTR Statistical Report does not differentiate by primary & secondary
2012 Application round – age of applicants comparison with a decade ago and 2002 entry
Male Female Total % Male Female Total %
20-22 4442 12165 16607 30% 20-22 4442 13501 17943 37%
23-24 4070 8763 12833 23% 23-24 2186 5160 7346 15%
25-26 2497 4644 7141 13% 25-26 1517 3181 4698 10%
27-28 1519 2595 4114 7% 27-28 1191 2089 3280 7%
29-30 1082 1703 2785 5% 78% 29-30 1055 1635 2690 6% 75%
31-35 1657 2756 4413 8% 31-35 1808 2894 4702 10%
36-40 1122 2019 3141 6% 14% 36-40 1342 2424 3766 8% 18%
41-45 830 1544 2374 4% 41-45 867 1404 2271 5%
45-50 549 840 1389 3% 7% 45-50 517 477 994 2% 7%
50+ 413 292 705 1% 1% 50+ 264 144 408 1% 1%
18181 37321 55502 100% 100% 15189 32909 48098 100%  

The undergraduate route allowed training to be spread across a three or four year degree course that could encompass a specialist subject, acquisition of subject knowledge in the full range of National Curriculum subjects; a development of skill in pedagogy; and school experience in a number of different schools. To try to fit the whole of this experience into 39 weeks is demanding, and inevitably leads to a concentration on the development of knowledge and skills in the key subjects. A significant part of the time is also spent in schools where there is no check on the level of subject knowledge of teachers across the curriculum, so gaps in preparation will inevitably occur. A recent report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on RE found that on PGCE courses the amount of time set aside to teach the subject and its pedagogy varied from as little as just two hours to eighteen hours (APPG, 2013, 13). No doubt similar statistics could be created for other subjects as well.

It is acknowledged that a return to the extended undergraduate degree as a training route is unlikely, and probably not a sensible solution where choice of career is delayed until after a first degree has been completed. This means that the issue of the primary PGCE needs urgent attention. The first step might be an evaluation jointly by the teaching profession, higher education and government into what is required of the training course, and how best it can be developed. At present, reforms in the primary sector, such as the introduction of School Direct and Teach First, seem to have been developed by merely adapting a model originally designed to serve the secondary sector as if younger children are just carbon copies of their teenage elders, but writ smaller. In practice, the teaching skills and pedagogy required to teach a five year old entering formal education for the first time are very different from those required to teach a fifteen year old mathematics or indeed any other subject.

A preparation programme for intending primary teachers should recognise the importance of the primary school in establishing the foundation for effective learning. To that end, preparation courses should contain an understanding of child development; an appreciation of society and its effects on learning readiness and progression of children from different backgrounds; a secure grounding in pedagogy; and time to learn and absorb the complex realities of delivering effective learning through teaching in a n increasingly technological age.

The secondary sector

The main emphasis is on the need for subject knowledge that can be translated into effective classroom teaching and pupil learning. Any programme must offer routes that address these issues and also reflect that fact that schools do not exist independently of the rest of society. As we have seen from the examples used above, candidates for teaching may present themselves with many different abilities and life experiences. At present, although they are trained on subject specific course according to targets allocated by the DfE, once a teacher obtains QTS they may teach anything to anyone in any phase of schooling. This is an out-dated notion of teaching that ignores the need both for subject knowledge and for subject related pedagogy in a rapidly changing technological world, a principle long-established in Scotland.

Those wanting to train as a teacher in the secondary sector should meet essential national standards assessed by a national body. As the General Teaching Council for England has been abolished it would be necessary to establish a new organisation, such as a Royal College of Teachers: there were, after all, Queen’s Scholars in the late Nineteenth Century (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/teachers.htm) so a Royal Charter would seem entirely appropriate for such a body from its foundation.

The standards set by such a national body could include personal fitness to teach, and specific levels of subject knowledge. The essential focus would be on the needs of the potential teacher to meet the standards to become a qualified teacher of a specific subject. The subject requirements would need to be met first, at a level equivalent to two years of an honours degree in the subject, before progress could be made onto the school-focussed element of the course. In shortage subjects either the State could fund the subject knowledge elements or the candidate could be required to acquire them as a precursor to entry to the core professional element of the preparation phase. Either way, learned societies and subject associations should work with government to identify and publish the required subject skills and knowledge required. Many professional bodies allow exemption for those following certain types of accredited degree courses, so this should not be an issue. Most honours degree courses in specific national curriculum subjects would allow the holder to progress to the professional phase of the training. Whether the subject knowledge was achieved as part of a first degree or subsequently would be affected by when an individual decided on teaching as a career.

Any Royal College would have the duty to assess both the standards and number of candidates presenting themselves for admission, and to report potential shortages against the government defined overall need in an annual report. The School Teacher’s Review Body has frequently complained about a lack of statistical information regarding teacher supply and, while it may be appropriate for individual schools to determine their own staffing needs, there is an overall responsibility to provide sufficient well-qualified individuals to meet the needs of all schools that the state cannot so easily shirk, but does not currently seem to fully understand.

The question then arises as to where the professional phase of training should take place.  There is merit in a relationship between schools and higher education, a partnership that has developed and deepened over the past two decades, but who should take the lead? If one starts from the basic premise that the person seeking to be a teacher is the most important part of the programme, along with the needs they have for their career as a teacher, certain questions become apparent. The most obvious is: should a trainee teacher experience life in more than one school? Most school-based programmes, and some of the internship models developed within higher education, restrict trainees to either one school for the whole period of the programme or provide only a limited experience of a second school. With the increasingly complexity of the school system this single school approach will not fully prepare teachers for life in the profession. It is already accepted that if a trainee is placed in an 11-16 school they will not experience any KS5 work, and this may impact upon their ability to secure a teaching post in an 11-18 school.

Trainees working in a single setting experience the strengths of that particular school. In some cases these strengths may not be aligned to their training needs. A department that is excellent at behaviour management, but less highly rated for its planning, may not be an issue for a trainee used to planning, but for one where this is a skill they need to develop during their training another school that was excellent at planning might be a better preparation ground for teaching. And what happens if the head of department or lead trainer leaves part way through the year or suddenly goes off sick after an unforeseen accident? Some of these and other issues were raised in the Geographical Association’s evidence to the Select Committee cited above.

One possibility is not to devolve the control of training to individual schools, but to retain larger training centres with economies of scale that allow groups of trainees in the same subject to share a common experience, both learning together and offering peer support that can be continued throughout their future teaching careers. Universities offer a bridge for many between the acquisition of subject knowledge and the school-based practical aspects of preparation programmes. Developing the SCITT model with groups of secondary schools combining together with a university to provide for all subjects taught within the schools would allow for local needs to be met within a wider national framework.

Such a model also has the merit that it would be easier to ‘quality assure’ a smaller number of partnerships than it would be a large number of schools operating independently of each other. There could also be interchange of staff between the schools and training centres which, if located in universities, could also become centres for research and development in pedagogy and provide a link between pedagogy and subject knowledge. Such centres could also play an important part in professional development both supporting the development of new teachers, a role formerly played by local authorities, and providing resources and support for more advanced studies in both the areas of pedagogy and school leadership.

It would be possible to locate these training centres in a secondary school. However it is worth noting that non-HEI provision had fewer outstanding courses than higher education providers, according to Osted’s data up to the end of August 2012.

Osfted grading for Initial Teacher Education – percentage of courses in each grade

Outstanding  Good  Satisfactory


Higher Education             47%                        51%          1%

School-Based                    27%                        62%        12%



Higher Education             52%                        47%        2%

School-based                    48%                        48%        3%



Both – all levels                               21%                        75%        4%

Based on 337 courses. No provision was judged inadequate. A new inspection framework came into effect in September 2012.

There is an important need to provide continuity of provision, and the development of quality programmes may well need a regular basic minimum number of trainees to provide both sufficient funds and staff with expertise in teaching adults. Only one in five of the employment-based programmes were judged to be outstanding by Ofsted. Some 12% of secondary school-based courses were only judged to be satisfactory compared with just one per cent of the higher education secondary courses. Interestingly, in an analysis of Chemistry provision carried out during July 2013, the courses at the universities with the greater number of places were more likely to be judged ‘outstanding’ at their most recent Ofsted visit than the courses at higher education institutions with fewer places. The larger courses are no doubt funded to be able to employ more specialist staff; provide more resources; and are often co-located in a university with a Chemistry department.

Transferring from training to employment

Professional development should be part of a seamless web between training and a career in teaching. However, the operation of the labour market for teachers has traditionally meant that ever since training was moved into higher education in the 1960s and 1970s, and away from employers, there has been no guarantee of a teaching post on the completion of training. The present Secretary of State, Mr Gove, recognised this issue and made employment opportunities a condition of the School Direct Salaried Scheme, just as the previous Labour government did for its short-lived Fast Track Scheme for entry into teaching. However, both schemes only covered a relatively small part of the market.

Consider our four potential teachers. It is likely that Helen, and possibly Kevin, will both have roots in their local communities. However, as already noted that will not prevent other teachers taking all the vacancies in their local area and thus, at least in the short-term, wasting their skills and talents developed during training if they cannot find a teaching post. If the market is operating efficiently, then the best trainees will be offered a teaching post first, and those regarded less favourably will have to wait for a job. When the supply of teachers exceeds the demand, as happened at the start of the recession, as large numbers of former teachers returned to teaching in a manner that could not have been predicted, then the less well trained teachers may well have had to wait for a teaching post or take a vacancy for which they had not been trained. At least if they find a teaching post they have access to the reduced timetable available to NQTs and the possibility of professional development. If they cannot find a teaching post their skills will not be developed, but their status as Qualified Teachers remains unless they work as a supply teacher for a period of time. Staying outside the profession does not start the clock on a teaching qualification.

In Scotland, newly trained teachers are able to access a teaching post for a year after qualifying, but that just moves the problem along for a year. However, by then it should normally be possible to determine whether or not a person is really suitable for a teaching career.

One solution would be to invite schools to hire trainees as super-numerary teachers and guarantee them employment subject to satisfactory progress during their training period wherever that is carried out. This has attractions, but it is challenging for individual schools to predict staffing needs a year ahead. It might also lead to more wealthy schools hoarding staff, and then making them redundant at short notice. Groups of schools, such as those in SCITT arrangements might have a better opportunity to predict staffing needs across the consortium, especially in the primary sector, and for subjects in secondary schools where new staff are not needed each year in every school. Additional staff could be recruited from the pool of those wanting to change schools or entering the labour market from overseas. However, it is important to decide whether the training regime is of more importance than overcoming initial employment issues.

A more radical solution would be for teachers to be hired by the government, as in some other European countries, and allocated to particular schools after completion of their training. This would have the merit of guaranteeing a teaching career for all who qualify as teachers, but might turn out to be an expensive and bureaucratic option. It would also be necessary to identify the point at which a teacher transferred from a national salary to the school’s own workforce. Of course, it would be possible for all teachers to be a part of the national workforce, and effectively civil servants, but that would run counter to government thinking during the past half-century of the drive towards a smaller civil service.

Nevertheless, it is worth recalling that for roughly the first 25 years of the operation of the 1944 Education Act the Ministry of Education specified each year how many newly trained teachers a local authority could hire, because in many years there were not enough teachers to meet the demand across the country, especially in the primary sector. Such a process might be an interesting intervention in today’s market-based approach.

Career Development

The professional development of teachers has to satisfy a number of different demands. Specifically, it must meet the career aspirations of the individual as well as the demands of the particular school where a teacher is working at the time. These demands may not always be in alignment. For instance, a teacher wishing to specialise in teaching children with special educational needs may wish to move schools after completing a qualification in that area, and their present school may not view the expenditure as worthwhile as it will confer no long-term benefit to the school. The same may be true for leadership development that will lead to promotion away from the school. The devolution of funds to individual schools has only served to heighten this dilemma. No doubt many schools will rationalise the situation by considering personal development should be paid for by the individual irrespective of the fact that it also brings benefits to the system as a whole. In a period in which salaries are restrained, this approach may lead to a lack of investment for the system as a whole as teachers cannot afford to pay for expensive programmes of career development.

As well as needing to satisfy a range of different objectives, professional development can come in a variety of different forms. All professionals have a duty to ensure their professional practice is fully up to date; after all that is one of the characteristics that marks a professional out from any other type of worker regardless of whether or not they practice their profession as part of their employment or on their own behalf. It is for that reason that the government sets professional standards for teachers.

This basic self-created professional development may simply take the form of: reading professional journals; belonging to a subject or sector related professional organisation; attending exhibitions and workshops; or making use of the internet and other resources available to everyone to update knowledge.   At the more structured level there are the five compulsory days of training required of all teachers who are on the staff of a school. This might be described as job-embedded professional development. American research suggests that short-term workshop-type activities of that type have little impact on student achievement (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson, and Orphanos, 2009) and it is probably time to review the effectiveness of these days that were imposed on schools when Kenneth Baker was Secretary of State. These so-called ‘Baker days’ are not monitored and may be used for essentially little more than staff meetings.

Other forms of staff development can involve either school or classroom-based action research projects, although to be effective they need those undertaking them to be equipped with the necessary skills to understand how to perform such research activities.

Most successful professional development will involve communities of teachers working together either within a school or department or through groups, often under the auspice of a university School of Education, coming together to learn and discuss developments in their subject knowledge, understanding of child development or approach to successful pedagogy. Such programmes away from the classroom, even if taken outside the school day, can be expensive for governments given the numbers of teachers in the profession. For that reason successive governments over the past forty years have reduced expenditure on professional development to a minimum. That is roughly the time period since the James Committee recommended a new approach to teacher training and development that included the notion of a term’s sabbatical every seven years linked to professional development and renewal.  These days only a lucky few teachers are able to receive paid time off under schemes such as the National Scholarship Fund. Currently, only about 0.1% of teachers have access to such government funds each year. (DfE, 23rd August 2013)

The present age profile of the teaching profession, with half the active workforce below the age of 35, and thus in the first half of their careers, suggests that there is a real need for the government to invest more in professional development. At present, the transfer of funds to schools means that the infrastructure for the provision of local professional development, where it is not appropriate to undertake it in a particular school, is weak in many parts of the country. This may affect provision of subject pedagogy and enhanced subject knowledge in the secondary sector, most professional development in the primary sector, and specific areas such as SEN training, leadership – especially middle leadership – development, and other specialist areas.

Traditionally, the universities have been the main source of much in-depth professional development beyond the single session activity that has often relied upon the private sector, often in the form of consultants or other professionals to deliver any training. However, with the transfer of initial training places to schools there is a distinct risk that universities may no longer find teacher education a worthwhile activity, and will transfer resources and assets to other types of higher education teaching and research. It would be possible to develop professional development based upon a private sector model, but it might be more expensive, both because of the need to make a profit and because universities can cross-subsidise between different activities in their schools of education. Thought needs to be paid to the appropriate procurement mechanisms for effective large-scale delivery of professional development programmes.

An Ofsted study published in 2010 on ‘good professional development in Schools’ (Ofsted, 2010) set out a list of recommendations for those below the level of government with responsibility of teacher development.

These included the following:

NCTL should:

–  disseminate more widely guidance to help schools monitor and evaluate the impact of their professional development on attainment and on other outcomes for pupils

–  make clear to schools the benefits of different types of coaching and mentoring

–  disseminate and support further the range of subject-specific continuing professional development that is available.

Those responsible for groups of schools should:

–  help less successful schools to plan well-targeted professional development by improving leaders’ skills in self-evaluation.

Schools should:

–  make sure that most professional development is school-based and focused on the school’s priorities.

–  improve their skills in monitoring and evaluating the impact of professional development

–  make sure that, in all areas of the curriculum, teachers’ subject knowledge is updated regularly

–  extend their understanding of, and expertise in, coaching and mentoring

– create sufficient time for staff to undertake relevant professional development and to discuss and reflect on what they have learnt

–  make sure that leaders at all levels can evaluate performance accurately and objectively and know how to deal with any shortcomings that they identify.

The Ofsted list was very school-focused and did not take into account the wider needs of the system as a whole despite reflecting that good leadership was an essential prerequisite for successful schools.

This tension between the needs of the school and of the system has always been recognised in the reward structure available to teachers. Successive governments have wrestled with the problem of how to reward teachers remaining in the classroom as opposed to following the leadership route to promotion where the financial rewards have always been clear. Advanced Skills Teachers, Excellent Teachers, and various other reward schemes have been tried over the years, but, with a remuneration scheme that has to provide for those working in a wide range of different types of establishment, none have so far really be successful.

One in eight primary teachers will eventually attain a leadership position, and a similar number of secondary teachers will have responsibility for subjects and other areas of leadership. However, the majority of the profession will remain in the classroom even with these additional responsibilities, and equipping them for the changing role of creating successful learning environments cannot be achieved without professional development in a structured way. It is no longer sensible to allow QTS to be granted for life with no monitoring of professional development. This also applies to those who take a break from teaching. Successive governments have all too often ignored the needs of this group for updating, and there is a strong case for QTS to be time limited if a teacher is not working in the profession unless they undertake programmes of professional development.

Finally, there is a need for professional development for life after teaching. With retirement often stretching for twenty years or more employers in the field of education could undoubtedly do more to help with pre-retirement planning and assisting with the development of the skills for a healthy and productive retirement.

Conclusions and recommendations

Across the world it is generally accepted that teachers need formal training to be successful in their profession. However, in England, the Coalition Government does not accept the need for training in pedagogy. This is presumably based upon the premise that any educated person can transfer their skills and knowledge to the next generation without the need for formal training. Although this may be the accepted view of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, at their 2013 Spring Conference passed a motion stating that ‘all those who wish to enter a career in teaching should experience a mixture of practical and theoretical high quality pre-entry training, as well as ongoing professional development throughout their careers.’ This would be in line with current thinking internationally and echoes the quote of half a century ago contained in the Newsom Report.

In order to achieve a successful school system able to prepare future generations to live and work in a rapidly changing world the government needs sufficient well-qualified individuals capable of meeting the diverse range of challenges teaching presents. These teachers need not just pre-entry preparation programmes but also high quality continuing professional development that recognises both the needs of the individual and of the system.

Recommendation 1: The Government should to ensure that only candidates with the highest qualifications and personal attributes to become a successful teacher should be allowed to train.

However, the Government also has a duty to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified teachers to meet the anticipated demand. It should publish an annual plan after consultation with interested parties.

Resolving that dilemma is the most important policy objective, and the reason why a comprehensive approach to teacher preparation on a national basis is essential.

Recommendation 2: The Government should look closely at the supply for both individual secondary subject areas, and primary teaching, to inform monitoring and identify any areas for potential action.

Recommendation 3: The granting ofQTS should be limited in scope, to a particular sector, and within the secondary sector to a particular subject area. Re-training opportunities should be available to those wishing to switch sectors or subjects. For those who leave teaching, QTS should not be allowed to continue indefinitely without a programme of professional development.

Recommendation 4: Schools should only be allowed to employ teachers without the correct QTS for limited periods of time, to allow them time to study for re-certification. If the school wishes them to continue to teach the subject then the school should bear the cost of the teacher obtaining re-certification.

Recommendation 5: The Government should recognise that different routes into teaching have different costs, and take this fact into account when deciding on how to allocate places between different training routes. The Government may need to consider more bursaries for primary ITE, to encourage sufficient supply in London.

Recommendation 6: The Government should investigate the use of quotas by subject area for training routes preparing teachers for the primary sector, to allow for the development of subject and Key Stage leaders with appropriate subject knowledge and expertise.

Recommendation 7: The Government should make clear the professional development requirements expected of teachers at different stages of their careers. Funding for professional development should be ring-fenced and allocated through an independent body that can take account of the needs of the school sector as a whole as well as that of individuals and of schools.

Recommendation 8: The government should establish a College of Teachers with a Royal Charter to oversee training and professional development plans and to monitor the demands for new teachers. Although a challenging role, this body should work with the teacher associations, government through bodies such as the NCSL and Ofsted, and those learned societies and other interested bodies that oversee specific bodies of knowledge, as well as the wider higher education community. As teaching is a profession it is important that it has a body that can relate to all these groups in an independent way that allows transferability of qualifications between sectors and across the world and facilitates the development of best practice in teaching.


All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education. (2013) RE: The Truth Unmasked. Religious Education Council of England and Wales.

Annual Report of the National Society, 1842 – quote in private possession of the author

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R., Andree, A,. Richardson, N., and Orphanos, S,. (2009) Professional Learning in the Learning Profession. National Staff Development Council. Dallas, Texas, USA

DfE (27th July 2012) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/academies-to-have-same-freedom-as-free-schools-over-teachers  Press notice. Accessed January 2014.

(DfE, 2103) http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/speeches/a00220299/charlie-taylor-keynote-speech      Accessed January 2014.

DfE, (23rd August 2013) More support for SEN teachers – Press notice https://www.gov.uk/government/news/more-support-for-special-educational-needs-teachers  Accessed January 2014

Hanushek, E. (2011) Valuing Teachers: How Much is a Good Teacher Worth?Education Next, 11(3),Summer 2011, pp. 40-45.

James, Lord of Rusholme. (1974) Teacher Education and Training. HMSO. London

Marshall, P. (Editor). (2013) The Tail. Profile books. London

National Archives. (2014) Queen’s Scholars in the late Nineteenth Century (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/teachers.htm) Accessed January 2014.

Newsom, J. (1963) Half Our Future. HMSO. London. A report of the Central Advisory Committee

Ofsted. (2010) ‘good professional development in Schools’ http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/surveys-and-good-practice/g/Good%20professional%20development%20in%20schools.pdfAccessed January 2014.

Robbins, L. (1963) Higher Education: A report of the committee appointed by the Prime minister. HMSO. London

The Geographical Association. (2013) http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidencePdf/1089 Published by the House of Commons Education Select Committee 25th July 2013. Accessed January 2014.










Supreme Court one; Parliament a half

This has been a busy week, so I am catching up on various issues. The Supreme Court decision announced last week that cautions are no longer to be required to be disclosed for life makes real sense in a world where a volunteer pensioner reading to under-fives can currently be required to disclose all criminal convictions, even those acquired half a century ago.

Now I think is the time to bring the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the disclosure rules into harmony so that everyone can easily understand what is required and why. This would include the police and the issue of ‘soft intelligence’. It would be silly if cautions, having been removed as part of the criminal record, reappeared in enhanced disclosures as part of ‘soft intelligence’ held by police and disclosed as part of the process of ensuring unsuitable people don’t work with children or vulnerable adults.

I have awarded a half to parliament because of the work of the group of parliamentarians that appeared at almost the same time as the Supreme Court judgement saying much the same thing. Less, helpful, as those who followed my blog after the stabbing of the Leeds teacher will know, was the actions of Labour and Conservative back bench MPs ganging up together to insert a new clause in the Bill currently going through parliament requiring mandatory prison sentences for anyone convicted of two offences of carrying a bladed instrument: a knife to you, me and the MPs.

To their credit most Liberal Democrats MPs voted against this proposal, and would presumably be happy to leave judgement on sentencing to the courts within the framework of a maximum tariff set down by parliament and the guidelines from the Sentencing Council.

How little there is to distinguish Labour and Tory policies also became apparent this morning in the interview the Labour Secretary of State gave to the Sunday Times. He is reported as saying that all two-year olds should be sent to school because basic skills such as counting and holding a pen are easier to grasp at school rather than at home or with under-qualified child minders. This sends a shudder through me. I suspect most two year olds aren’t ready for fine motor skills required in holding a pen, and as a colleague emailed me:

 Knowledge is now available through a keyboard and touchscreen and increasingly important works are available online. I was delighted to find Fuster’s “Prefrontal Cortex” and Hubel’s  “Eye, Brain, and Vision” available for free download. The basis skill for writing is therefore keyboarding, not pencil printing. And mathematical comprehension is derived from language not perception, so the best way to learn number is by playing with the symbol system on a calculator first. Remember: language is a set of arbitrary symbols with which children come to school equipped. When will politicians and academics understand that all improvement is technology-based? At present all appear to be in denial.

There is certainly a debate to be had about the importance of early writing skills in a technological age where two –year olds won’t retire from the labour market until the 2080s if present trends continue. By then, pens might be restricted to use in calligraphy as an art form.  I might have been more impressed if Mr Hunt had suggested the use of turtles and coding to make them run around the floor. But, he is a historian, so perhaps he is better at looking backwards than forwards.

Motivation not space for prep?

The Report on achievement by white working class boys published today by the Education Select Committee makes clear what educationalists have known for some time: this group underperform in school compared with almost all other groups except perhaps traveller children, and have been falling behind as other groups have improved at a faster rate. Why this is, and the solutions proposed by the Committee, reveals the complexity of the problem.

No doubt the one solution highlighted by many commentators will be the lengthening of the school day to provide both wraparound care and somewhere for older pupils to do their homework and participate in after-school activities. The homework facility is a good idea where pupils lack space and facilities at home. But, it will only work if pupils are motivated to learn, and there is a risk that this is too often not the case.

Absence rates for schools serving white working class communities are often above the national average, and it is well known that pupils falling behind early on in their education struggle to catch up. As a result, it might be worth exploring how we ensure the best quality teachers are working in the early years of schools serving these communities, and also how we create learning opportunities that cope with a less than perfect attendance pattern. This would be the opposite of the big stick, fine for non-attendance route that anyway doesn’t take into account the ability of a family to pay any fine.

With a looming teacher shortage in some parts of the country, addressing the problem of who teaches where is vital if the gap between white working class pupils and the rest of society isn’t to widen still further. Such school cannot be allowed to struggle to find teachers.

However, there is much to be done to motivate the parents, many of whom underachieved at school, and don’t see the reason for forcing a regular pattern of attendance on their offspring. But, society must engage with them, and offer help so their children can benefit from our future economic success as a nation.

With the structural changes to the labour market that have taken place over the past few decades many of the jobs that didn’t need much education have disappeared, and those that remain are often not well paid. Some years ago I noted an educationalist that had said that ‘the porter of yesterday had become the fork lift truck driver of today and the operator of a computer managed warehouse of tomorrow’. Well tomorrow has arrived. White working class boys with no qualifications sometimes have a choice between perhaps either window cleaning or driving white vans; and even window cleaning is becoming more skilled, and there are no jobs for van boys any longer.

Whatever society does to attack this problem of underachievement is likely to cost money, and reassessing how schools are funded, especially those offering the early years of schooling, remains an important consideration.

Now that schools are no longer the total responsibility of local authorities, the government must come forward with a programme to help address the underachievement: keeping schools open longer is only a small part of the solution; fining parents is no real solution, but ensuring the right teachers work in the schools where they will make the most difference is something worth trying. Achieving it will either cost money or mean a total rethink of how teachers are employed, and a challenge to school autonomy.

Pay primary teachers more?

Should we pay primary teachers more than their secondary colleagues? Figures published today by the DfE show that the average primary class, mostly taught by one teacher, but often with assistance from a teaching assistant, is now 26.9 pupils in size, up from 26.3 in 2006; an increase of 3.6 pupils per teacher over the period. During the same time period the average class faced by a secondary teacher declined in size from 21.5 to 20.1; a reduction of 1.4 pupils per teacher. Thus, overall, primary teachers on average face classes 6.8 pupils larger than their secondary colleagues. Put another way, in July a Year 6 teacher has around a third more pupils to cope with than a Year 7 teacher with the same children the following September.

Of course, older children demand more attention, have more behaviour issues with adults, require teachers with more specialist knowledge, sometimes have a longer teaching week, and there are no doubt a whole host of other reasons that could be advanced why secondary teachers should be paid the same as their primary counterparts despite teaching smaller classes. However, on sheer productivity grounds, the average primary teacher now has far more contact with pupils than their secondary colleagues even allowing for non-contact time during the school week.

Disaggregated by Key Stage, the figures look even worse; with Key Stage 1 teachers faced with an average of 27.4 pupils compared with 25.6 pupils in 2006; and Key Stage 2 teachers facing an average of 27.2; actually down on the 27.3 of 2006. These figures are taken from the DfE’s Schools and their Pupils Statistical Bulletin https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2014 that clearly show the pressure primary schools are under as rolls rise while their secondary colleagues enjoy the final years of declining numbers before the avalanche of rising rolls hits them in a couple of year time.

As the Teachers’ Pay Review body Report referred to in my previous post on this blog makes clear, the issue of how to calculate pay for teachers is complicated. However, for many years it has been agreed that the same basic scale applies to both primary and secondary teachers. Now pay is open to a free for all should this basic tenet of pay over the past three quarters of a century be open to discussion? With pupil numbers being a key component of a school’s funding, many primary teachers will no doubt want to know where the £15-£20,000 extra per class implied by the increase in class sizes since 2006 have gone in the school budget? For those schools that have just added to their reserves, there might be some challenging questions for the head and governing body to answer from their class teachers.

Last word is not the most important

It is not often that I get the last word, but that has literally happened in the latest Report of the Teachers’ Pay Review Body that can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/318574/STRB_24th_Report_Cm_8886_web_accessible.pdf Alright, I know it is only an acknowledgement of the fact that I and the Chief Executive both provided them with a briefing. In my case, one (unpublished) on teacher supply matters.

What remains of far more importance than my evidence is the discussions of the STRB about pay and recruitment to the profession that are neatly summarised in paragraph 3.56 of the Report:

3.56 As this chapter has identified, there is clear and consistent evidence that both the starting and profession-wide pay of teachers is less competitive relative to other professional occupations in several areas of the country, and that this gap is widening. Our evidence also suggests able graduates in other professions progress more quickly in the first three to five years and have more opportunity to reach higher levels of earnings as their careers progress subsequently. This heightens the risk of those in the profession feeling under-valued and recruitment and retention suffering as a consequence.

Now that is a real warning to government about teacher supply going forward. What is curious is that despite London being thought of as the least competitive part of the country in salary terms for new teachers, applications to train in London have been increasing at faster rates than elsewhere in the country this year. I don’t think it is because would-be teachers know that school teachers in Inner London do well compared to others entering the labour market with first degrees; and so they should after an extra year of training, since they fare less well against those entering the labour market with higher degrees. May be it is because of a separate London attraction factor despite the negative high prices of housing and transport in the capital.

I think the STRB have made clear that governments in the future have a real problem in relation to teacher supply that has been articulated on this blog before; but is good to read in an official publication. Increased pupil numbers, and increased demand for graduates from the wider economy, both exert real pressure on the labour market for teachers. While it was good to see that teachers joining the profession between 1997 and 2009 had relatively high retention rates, there is no guarantee in the next economic cycle that this outcome will continue unless pay keeps pace with the private sector. Interestingly, there is clear evidence that the pay reforms of the early 2000s boosted teacher retention by a couple of percentage point overall, and probably more in certain specific subjects and areas.

The STRB Report is useful evidence for NQTs negotiating starting salaries in the new market driven world. Any teachers except those in English, PE and history, are clearly in a position to start salary bargaining at say point M3 on the old scale as a starting salary just to take account of the training year. If they don’t already do so, the professional associations should be offering advice on pay bargaining to new members, and monitoring the results. I expect to be offering schools a new service along these lines, starting with secondary trainees in the class of 2014.