Teacher Training: Value for Money?

Tomorrow the National Audit Office (NAO) publishes a report into the training of new teachers. We know this because, yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster (PAC) that receives NAO Reports decided to hold an evidence session on the subject on the 7th March. Presumably, the Chair of the PAC had seen a draft of the Report and merited it of sufficient worth to hold an inquiry. As yet, we don’t know who will be called to give evidence, but we can assume the DfE will be there. Hopefully, by then, they will have a new Permanent Secretary.

We can also assume that value for money will feature largely in the NAO Report. I hope that the NAO Report looks at the centralised admissions process for postgraduate courses. This has many advantages, but as currently organised has costs, to UCAS, to course providers and to applicants that are higher than in the previous system.  UCAS can recover any additional costs, so the change from a consecutive to a concurrent system should have been cost neutral to their bottom line.

For applicants in popular subjects applying at the start of the process, they may need to attend three interviews with no guarantee of a place at any of them, but that was the situation under the previous system. For applicants in less popular subjects, unless they know that fact, they may make three applications when only one would be necessary to secure a place; but they have had more choice.

For providers, they no longer know whether applicants have their course as their first preference or even their highest remaining priority. This means potentially interviewing applicants that might turn down a place if offered one somewhere else. UCAS should be able to quantify how often this has happened to providers so an average cost could be determined.

Elsewhere in the Report, I assume the NAO will look into the value for money of the different routes into teaching. I assume that they will assess the relative spends on marketing and admissions and on course delivery. It will be interesting to see if the NAO has delved into how much universities charge as central overheads. This was an issue first raised in the early 1990s when the Teacher Training Agency was created, but providers were often left to battle it out at an institutional level with recharges of deficits by central administrations when they over-charged. The increase to £9,000 fees temporarily put the debate on the back burner. But, I suspect it is still a live issue.

Do larger provider make better use of public money or are small school-based courses nimbler and more efficient in their use of funds? Does the present system ensure a coherent supply of teachers each year of the right quality in the right place and with the right mix of expertise? And does the government know what happens to the new teacher after the State has funded their training up front?

After all, as I have pointed out before, we train more teachers each year than the total personnel in the Royal Navy, so this is not some hole in the corner business, but a large-scale organisation. We will wait for tomorrow to see what the NAO has to say for itself. Since I had a conversation with the officer responsible, I am especially interested in this Report.





6 thoughts on “Teacher Training: Value for Money?

  1. Well, the 54% of schools who serve deprived areas struggling to recruit stands out the most for me John. There is not enough local planning going into training teachers which your job site could easily help with.
    We have seen new SD applications fall off here (East England) so I wonder if students have moved their applications earlier in the cycle to try and get their preferred provider before the caps fell into place. Presumably, there will be a pinch point in the calendar where if they haven’t recruited a certain number for a particular subject then they will no longer be able to make their target, even if they re-opened the HEI route.

    • I think by the end of February we will be able to predict with some degree of certainty the overall outcome in different subjects unless one or more factors changes due to say, a massive slowdown in the Chinese economy or a German Bank going soft in its balance sheet.

      There Is always a spurt in the first two year sof any new programme due to pent up demand which usually levels off afterwards to give a view of long-term take-up. this may happen with School Direct as well.


  2. Like you John, I have read this report with particular interest and summarised some key messages on my blog today. In particular, it was pleasing to note that the NAO have agreed with what many of us have been saying about the costs associated with Teach First and the poor retention rates of graduates from their programme. Here are my thoughts on that part of the report in particular:


    • Jonathan,

      Thanks for the link to your blog. We must await developments. Coming just weeks after the DfE told parliament it needed extra time to file its annual accounts – not something we can do with HMRC – this wasn’t a great day for the Department’s image. It is worth recalling that in the 1980s some of the shortfall in teacher numbers were covered by the introduction of the Licensed and Articles teacher Schemes that were ‘off programme’. Now all routes except perhaps the Troops initiative are part of the TSM derived allocations.


  3. Agreed. This is no way to run an organisation. From what I’ve heard, the vast majority of civil servants within the department have been told to concentrate their work around Minister’s ‘pet’ projects – i.e. free schools and academies, and very little resource is available to cover all of the key areas (such as ensuring that a professional workforce is prepared).

    I also think that senior managers of the NCTL have been completed negligent in this respect too. There is little expertise there in relation to this area and all the experienced staff from the the previous body, the TDA, seems to have disappeared. It is a sorry state all round.

    • Jonathan,

      Is seems odd that there are areas where the government pays lots of money for consultants it probably doesn’t always need and other areas where it carrier son knowing it has large gaps in its knowledge and hence its thinking. the silence of the CBI, IoD and other employers over the consequences of alack of teachers for the wealth generating ability of this country has to be heard, or not heard to be believed.


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