Some light on entry to the teaching profession

The NCTL issued an interesting set of reports yesterday. At present they aren’t on their main web site, or at least I couldn’t find them, but they are available at

Regular readers of this blog may find some of the Report linking ITT and workforce data somewhat familiar, but none the worse for that.

Here are the key findings that the authors believe stand up even though they have issues with the quality of the data.

  • Three regions of England – North East, North West and South West – appear to have large numbers of new qualified teachers who do not join a state-sector school immediately after achieving QTS.
  • Those studying on undergraduate with QTS courses have low initial retention rates in the profession, though we cannot know whether this results from subsequent choices made by the individual or recruitment decisions made by schools.
  • Teach First has very high two year retention rates, but thereafter their retention is poorer than other graduate routes.
  • Ethnic minority teacher trainees have very low retention rates.
  • Individuals who train part-time or who are older have much poorer retention rates, which may simply reflect other family commitments that interfere with continuous employment records.

The first point is no surprise given the official policy of allocating places by quality of provider rather than by labour market need. As the Report uses School Workforce data it largely predates the big shift into School Direct.

I am not sure whether the authors qualify the second point in relation to the first; too many primary trainees in the big four providers might have made a difference especially as the difference between HEI-led FT (I assume the graduate routes) and Undergraduate with QTS that is largely primary courses is only around three percentage points by Year 3 and in for the 2010 entry undergraduate routes were higher in terms of retention after three years than HEI-led. (Table 1).

EBITT did very well on retention and the early years of School Direct were above university courses rates, but below the former EBIT retention rates that they largely replaced. Teach First had the worst retention rates after three years. This isn’t surprising since its original raison d’etre was as a short-service type programme with the hope some would become career teachers: disappointingly less than half, even of those that entered during the years of recession, chose to do so. The exit of this group pushes up demand for replacements especially as Teach First expands.

The news about ethnic minority teachers isn’t surprising and reflect the study I did for NCTL a couple of years ago. While the last bullet point may be true, it could also reflect their location and job opportunities and the decisions schools make about the cost of teachers and the age profiles of their staff. Without more geographical information linked to TeachVac data on where the jobs are we can only speculate.

Finally, it would have been interesting to have had some contextual information such as the state of the economy and of the teacher labour market and whether the TSM numbers were over or under-recruited to for each cohort. Too many trainees against predicted demand can lead to wastage at the point of entry.


4 thoughts on “Some light on entry to the teaching profession

  1. Teach First is still the entry into teaching most-regarded by ministers. Michael Gove even mentioned it in his bid for the Tory leadership despite it having little to do with Brexit. He said it had ‘become a prestigious destination’ which ‘our best graduates fight to reach’. But with retention rates so low after two years, perhaps those who support Teach First should think again. What teaching needs is people committed to the long term, not people who consider it a short interlude which looks good on a CV before moving on to more high-powered, highly-paid jobs elsewhere.
    Gove said he had already extended the Teach First route to ‘recruiting students to become social workers through a new scheme called Frontline’. It’s foolish, perhaps dangerous, to expect graduates, however well-meaning, to enter social work with the minimum of training and who would be expected to learn on-the-job.

    • Janet,

      The pre-school experience on Teach First is now longer than on many PGCE courses and certainly longer than for School Direct salaried entrants. My anxiety is that TF was designed as a short-service route and as it grows that outcome pushes up turnover and creates a requirement for even more teachers until a balance is once again restored.

      John Howson

  2. I note in the report that it accepts that the common four year B.Ed course will feature badly in the data on account that it only looks at post year 3 HEI data. Is it really so difficult to turn post Year 4 B.Ed data into comparable data to post Year 3 data?

    • I think even more important is to ignore the fact that U/G courses are almost entirely primary whereas the PG route contains both os it is like comparing Worcester Pearmains with Cox’s Orange Pippins. both are apples, but of different varieties. Also, the problem of geographical distribution and over/under- recruitment doesn’t seem to have been taken fully into account.

      John Howson

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