QTS or not QTS, that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and arrows of the DfE,
Or to take arms against a sea of Ministers,
And by opposing end them?
To die: to sleep; To teach
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That every DfE policy brings; ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death
When we have but lost to workload and stress
What dreams may come of being free to teach
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
With sincere apologies to William Shakespere
I never understood Hamlet when it was a set text in English at my grammar school. When I got the chance to take part in a production of Hamlet with the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre in 1976 (I was the Player King), I understood it so much better.
My first English teacher – who failed to inspire me, was unqualified – he had a great Oxbridge degree, was a classics man through and through and I swear he wore a gown while teaching (I think that last memory is not real, however, gowns were worn for assembly). I passed the 11+. When the grammar school was shut in 1972, a result of Labour’s blitz on selective education in the mid-1960, many of the teachers, including him, were re-deployed to the new comprehensives. He continued to teach as if it was still a grammar school.
I had a few other teachers who were ‘not qualified’ (many I didn’t know were not qualified until I spoke to a former teacher some years later about my time in secondary education and he told me who was and who wasn’t qualified).
I failed English literature, twice. My chemistry teacher wasn’t qualified – but I had extra tuition to get my O level (Grade C). My best teachers were the young ones, the ‘bright new things’ from the teacher training colleges.
But this anecdote is not the core of my argument for having qualified teachers over ‘unqualified’ teachers.
I have a much more pragmatic approach to the QTS vs No QTS debate.
Why wouldn’t we want our teachers qualified to enter a profession that is so important?
What on earth makes someone think that simply having a degree in a subject makes you suited to be a good teacher? Why would we not want teachers to be trained to understand how children develop and learn and what’s wrong with providing teachers with skills that will help them be good or excellent classroom practitioners?
A Job vs A Profession
Teaching is not just a job. I’m not going down the ‘vocation’ path (that’s not a bad path, but it doesn’t mean those with a passion for being a teacher and wanting to teach will make good teachers). Jamie Martin’s (@jamieamartin1) core argument is to ‘let Heads decide’. If they wish to hire someone to teach who has no formal teaching qualifications then let them.
Until Gove abolished the need for QTS in academies and free schools, all Heads could employ ‘unqualified’ teachers – they were called instructors. So, that choice already existed. This is not some new ‘freedom’ that Heads have been gifted by Gove. In some instances Heads found it very difficult to employ someone for a specialist role, or they had difficulty in getting a specialist teacher say for maths or physics. For the latter, they would try to get them on a training route to gain QTS, perhaps via the GTP route. If the specialism was really niche they could employ them as instructors. In the 1970s one of my school rugby coaches was a member of the then almost unbeatable Welsh rugby squad – he took us for rugby and nothing else. He did not fulfill the duties of a full teacher.
Here then is the difference, instructors could not fulfill the complete role of a teacher. All Gove has done is make it cheaper to hire ‘teachers’ by abolishing the need for academies and free schools to hire trained professionals. Perhaps he was fully aware that school budgets were due to be severely cut in time. Staffing costs are a school’s biggest expenditure. This makes it the area where most saving could be made, provided the law was changed to stop any form of early years pay progression and the need for any formal teaching qualifications. The evidence is that unqualified staffing is on the rise.
Teaching is not just a job, it is a profession. The difference between a job – something you ‘do’, where perhaps your training has just been about the ‘mechanics’ of the job the day to day stuff – and a profession is that a professional is educated about the profession and not only are they trained in what to do, they also understand why they do it and they are on a continuous path of learning, greater understanding and improvement.
Who needs training? A good degree is all that matters!
Talking to Heads myself, of course they much prefer trained staff over unqualified staff – no matter how good their qualifications in a subject are. There are exceptions, e.g. Richard Cairns of Brighton College, one of the top private schools, does not believe that QTS confers any/much advantage. He would prefer to hire Oxbridge graduates direct. As a private school Head he can exercise that choice freely – as can all other Heads at private schools. But is this because an Oxbridge or even a Russell Group degree prepares you better for teaching? Or is it more likely that those who have been to Oxbridge are better placed to coach those students in how to work the system to their advantage and get, like them, to Oxbridge?
Increasingly in my time in ITT I see private schools hiring more and more qualified teachers and putting staff through QTS. I do not see them decreasing the number of qualified teachers in favour of the good Oxbridge degree (or any other good degree for that matter).
Then came a bizarre part of my conversation with Mr Martin.
Well, the evidence from the many calls, e-mails and conversations I have daily with Heads and our partnership schools is that most state Heads (including academies) want qualified teachers. I know that our Sussex trainees have been employed in all schools types from top private schools (including Brighton College before Mr Cairns tenure) to high profile free schools, such as the West London Free School. Our employment rate, consistently over 90% with, often, 100% in Primary and many shortage subjects, show our trainees to be coveted by our schools.
I’d be interested if any Head could cite a case where excellent QTS NQTs were passed over for unqualified teachers – excluding of course because of any cost related reason. A newly qualified teacher would start on around £22,244 but the unqualified rate could be as little as £16,298. Mr Martin would also abolish these pay rates allowing Heads (actually governing bodies and MATs) to set their own rates. A free market with choice. But as Simon Jenkins argues well in a recent Guardian article, the free market and schools do not go well together.
But the thing that struck me most was the claim from Mr Martin that he didn’t favour extensive training. Why? Surely you would not want someone who is a professional to not have been trained? He cited many large companies that take people on without training and then train them on the job.
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 7, 2016
(the phrase ‘train on the job’ came up a number of times and I also refer readers back to part one where I show that uni training is as much on the job as school direct). He also mentioned soldiers, but as I reminded him you would not send a ‘soldier’ straight into a battlefield situation to ‘train on the job’ all soldiers have basic training as a minimum before they get anywhere near a battlefield or a conflict zone.
Earlier in the conversation, Mr Martin stated that:
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 7, 2016
It’s still politicians choosing how people are trained. Remember, School Direct is the favoured approach and any limits put on numbers are put on HEIs first and School Direct Last. Politicians are also still determining that more places should go to School Direct regardless of its success rate.
Do ‘Qualified’ Teachers Make Better Teachers?
It would be nice if there was research which showed that teachers who were qualified (i.e. trained and certified as teachers) had a more positive effect on student achievement than those who were not. One extensive piece of research which shows just that was carried out 15 years ago in the US. It concluded, amongst other things that:
Among variables assessing teacher “quality,” the percentage of teachers with full certification and a major in the field is a more powerful predictor of student achievement than teachers’ education levels (Darling-Hammond, 2000 p.32)
In other words, by all means strive to hire those with good degrees, even masters or PhDs if you like, but combine that with training and certification as a qualified teacher and you will get better teachers overall.
What About the Trainee Teacher – do they have a choice in this?
There is also a fundamental ‘missing element’ here – so far the conversation has been all about Heads (and teachers) choosing how teachers should be trained, with his insistence that School Direct is the preferred choice of some (many?) Heads – though evidence as to how many actually wanted the system initially is glaringly absent.
What about those who wish to train to teach – they must have choice also. Prior to 2010 they had choice and many choose the University PGCE route. The BEd route is often the preferred route to primary. Post 2010 their choices have actually been reduced. The massive switch of provision to school direct only, the capping of places for ITT in university in favour of school direct for popular routes e.g. English, History, PE, primary forces candidates to choose school direct even if it is their wish to train in a university. They often do this, seeing the benefits of M level study and not just (in some cases) QTS. Heads must also ‘choose’ school direct and bid for places in the hope that a university partner will support and deliver what they want – even if they do not really wish to take on the extra burden of administration etc. involved in school direct. It’s either that or hope that enough trained teachers come out of the system that they can employ.
The ‘free choice’ market, beloved by Mr Martin is also not really a free choice. There is evidence that a number of school direct teaching schools are pre-selecting those who they perceive to be the best trainees and signing them up to jobs while other schools, who may be in partnership, but who are not leading or teaching schools, lose out.
At present there is a teacher recruitment crisis and it was amply predicted by all sectors well in advance. The DfE even to this day ignores the evidence from all the teaching unions and Heads leaders – their response to the ‘crisis’ is, in the words of one twitter user (not a teacher I may add, but a school governor) ‘delusional’. In a BBC report on 11th January 2016 the DfE response to the teacher recruitment crisis is as follows:
A Department for Education spokeswoman said it had worked with the profession to “raise the status of teaching”, adding that that a record number of highly-qualified graduates and “experienced career changers” were now teaching.
She added: “But we are determined to go further, and recognise that some schools find it harder to recruit the teachers they need, which is why we are expanding the great Teach First and Schools Direct programmes and we are launching the National Teaching Service, which will mean more great teachers in schools in every corner of the country.”
I’m sorry, but this is a pitiful response to a national teaching recruitment crisis.
How does abolishing the need for any formal qualifications in teaching ‘raise the status’ of teachers? It does just the opposite.
Pay has been massively eroded with a further 4 years of a maximum 1% rise – a rise which some schools are withholding due to budget cuts. This does nothing to ‘raise the status’ of teachers – again, quite the opposite.
The National Teaching Service – as far as I can see – is not about training more teachers, but taking good or excellent teachers from one school to place them in another.
Notice also, in the DfE comment, how university training routes does not even warrant a mention.
Teach First is still a very minor route into teaching and I doubt has the capacity to expand to adequately meet the crisis. And in all this chaos, the best recruiters, the majority recruiter with nearly 50% ‘outstanding’ provision, is being stopped from expanding and is being cut back, all so that Gove’s (now Morgan’s) reform can provide ‘choice’ to Heads – choice that they had before, but which now is no choice, but a forced position to bolster a flagging and failing route that was rushed and badly implemented. As I stated in Part 2, it’s no choice!
Choice, Forced Choice, No Choice
When is a choice not really a choice? When it’s a forced choice. Magicians can do this in card tricks. They force a choice then low and behold stun you by claiming they had magically predicted that choice in advance.
In my conversation with Jamie Martin (@jamieamartin1) his central thesis is that Gove provided Heads with choice. His reforms were all about taking power away from politicians and giving it to Heads. In addition, Mr Martin also defends robustly the ‘superiority of (the) pleural syst(em)’. The problem, I said, was that the implementation of School Direct was so badly done, so rushed that many universities were having to prop up the system to make it work – only for the sake of the schools who had been left in dire straights and in chaos when it first came in.
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 7, 2016
This pleural system is School Direct, Teach First, School Centered ITT (SCITT), the Undergraduate BEd and the University ‘led’ PGCE. In essence nothing to disagree with on a superficial level. Of course more choice is better than just ‘one’ route. But again this assumes that prior to Gove’s ITT reforms there was less or very limited choice.There was also the idea that the university route was less desirable as it was ‘university led’.
Prior to 2010 we had a number of routes into teaching. For primary the predominant route was the BEd (characterised by Mr Martin, you’ll recall from my first post, as ‘awful’) with also a PGCE route; there was the University PGCE with QTS route; there was the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) the ‘on the job’ training route, for secondary and primary; we also had School Centered Initial Teacher Education (SCITT) which may or may not lead to a PGCE but could recommend QTS and of course Teach First. So choice was always there. Post 2010 the ‘big’ innovation was the scrapping of the GTP and the introduction of School Direct. Heads could now, it was claimed, recruit and train teachers with minimal (or no) partnership with universities. This was the choice that schools, head teachers had.
Given the claims that it was the profession – the grassroots teachers and heads – who had cried out for this very reform, it should have been an instant success. If the BEd and PGCE was so awful and the 3rd rate programmes were failing to supply the teachers that Heads wanted then surely schools would be ditching other courses and embracing School Direct and making it a success. Of course the notion that there were many 3rd rate programmes in ITT that Gove shut down was refuted in Part 1 of my blog.
On the issue of the BEd and low entry qualifications, I have a degree of sympathy with that view. I do think that in some instances the grades required to enter a BEd were set too low in some institutions. The answer is not to shut down the courses, but raise the entry standards.
I could see that the idea of attracting, training then employing your own teachers might be snapped up eagerly by some schools and Heads. Yet after its introduction, School Direct was not the raging success it was built up to be. Alongside its introduction was the scrapping of the requirement for teachers employed in Academies and Free Schools to have any form of teacher qualification. The GTP route last ran in 2012/13 then came School Direct.
And so began the teacher recruitment crisis.
Professor Sir Tim Brighouse wrote about a government induced crisis in ITT it’s well worth reading in full. Many of the things he predicts as problems are a reality today.
Places for ITT in HEI were suddenly slashed by a third – no warning, just a cut. The evidence for high quality ITT in school-based training was poor, as Sir Tim noted:
“The 2010-11 Ofsted annual report found that Higher Education (HE) routes into teaching were more effective than employment based routes. Ofsted evidence: ‘shows that there is proportionately less outstanding provision in employment-based routes than in HEI-led partnerships’ (The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2010/11, HC 1633, page 76). The numbers are quite telling: 65 (47%) HEI-based courses gained outstanding whereas only 19 (19%) employment-based providers were found to be outstanding.”
at that point (2010/11), it’s should be emphasised that nearly 50% of all ITT in University provision was not just good or better, but outstanding if you add in the good provision as well, as my previous post showed, very few providers were less than good.
This is the choice provided to Heads, fewer teachers being trained in outstanding provision and lots of scope for setting up new provision that ‘may’ be good or better, but the record shows that just 20% reached the outstanding level. What sort of a choice is that?
In 2013/14 and 2014/15 there were further cuts to university ITT provision despite the fact that School Direct consistently under-recruited while university provision recruited incredibly well despite obvious downturns in numbers applying to teach. Universities still managed to get around 80% of its total allocation filled. In some cases universities had more applicants than places – the NCTL answer was to try and persuade people who had chosen university over School Direct to take a School Direct place – thereby artificially inflating the recruitment figures for School Direct.
When it came to advertising for teacher training – guess what, the advertising was centred on School Direct – there was little to no mention of university routes. That is still the case today. Rarely, if ever, will university routes in teaching be mentioned by any DfE spokesperson or any minister commenting on how there is ‘no crisis’ but just a ‘challenging’ situation.
It’s worth remembering as well that when School Direct was first introduced, the NCTL was not above instigating a dirty tricks campaign to try and poach potential applicants to PGCE courses. In 2013 providers were alerted to the following email:
(Source: Jonathan Savage’s excellent blog on School Direct which can be found here: http://www.jsavage.org.uk/category/ite/schools-direct/ )
If the Government wanted real choice for schools and Heads then they would have allowed the schools to decide where the allocation of teacher training numbers should be. Yes, allow Heads to bid, but then allow the heads to transfer numbers to the providers of their choice. That would be a real choice and to a large extent market led. If Heads do not like the type of teachers trained in a particular institution it could place numbers with another, or trade the numbers for changes in provision that suit the Heads. That would be a real choice. What we have here is a forced choice or no choice.
The teacher training applicant may feel initially that they have a free choice of routes into teaching, but with the current shenanigans resulting in caps on numbers and sudden closures of university routes, we have people who have been invited for interview suddenly being informed that no places are currently available and the only ‘choice’ is School Direct. Stop pretending DfE and NCTL: it’s a rigged market not a free choice and certainly not an open, level playing field. And please acknowledge that the recruitment crisis is real, then work with us to solve the problem. Don’t marginalise us. Tell the truth for once.
In Part 3 I will look at the QTS vs Non QTS debate – hopefully coming later this week.
It started innocently, but ended up as a very revealing conversation about Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and various other education matters. Jamie Martin (@jamieamartin1: former Michael Gove Spad, now doing writing and education consultancy) tweeted that schools have much more freedom since Gove’s reforms.
This is a claim that is often made, but also, is often refuted by Heads who claim that they are less free now than they were under the scrutiny of the Local Authority, or that reforms are forcing the curriculum being taught to a greater degree than ever before.
The twitter conversation was a long one, lasting many hours, across days.
There will be more than just two parts to this account, as to blog about everything in one go would be too onerous and take far too long. It is, of course ‘my take’ on the conversation.
In this part, I look at the claim that ‘schools are in charge of ITT.’ (as if that’s a new and a revolutionary notion) and that Gove removed ‘3rd rate courses based on inspections’
Who’s in Charge?
Schools, Mr Martin tweeted, are ‘in charge of ITT’.
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 5, 2016
So before 2010 who was ‘in charge’ of ITT? Certainly not the schools if Mr Martin is to be believed. Yet in all my time in ITT (18 years) the notion that Universities control ITT, that we are free to do what we like, comes as news to me.
Perhaps he meant that politicians were in charge of ITT – that’s something I could agree with. I’ve lived through an ITT curriculum (don’t even go there it was a disaster and a mess), various sets of standards until we get to the current state of play. Each and every time, if we wish to maintain our accreditation for teacher training, we must adhere to what the government (and OFSTED) require from us.
Of course we can create individual programmes, but ultimately all teachers must meet the QTS standards and this is an award not made by the university, but by the NCTL (National College for Training and Leadership and its various past incarnations). The academic award, the PGCE, does not qualify someone to teach, it shows they have met the academic requirements for our Post Graduate programme.
There is also that old canard of ‘on the job training’ something School Direct will do that Uni may not (at least that’s the implication when it’s trotted out time after time). Again I was at pains to point out that 24 weeks of the training is ‘on the job’ with trainees mentored and coached in schools, teaching and doing all the things we expect teachers to do. Even then, the 12 weeks with us at Uni are not spent in ‘lectures’ – granted we do have a programme of set lectures, 1 hour per week (if that), but lots of these involve teachers, Heads and Senior Leaders as well as those of us who have migrated from the classroom to the University.
This year, my most popular ‘lecture’ to date has been on ‘edumyths’ slaying the notions of learning styles, brain gym, left/right brain ideas and other such nonsense. At Sussex we also have a number of ITT tutors who are part time in school and part time with us working with trainees. How much more ‘on the job’ can we get?
Our steering committee – which drives our programme and any changes or reforms – is made up of Heads and teachers in partnership with University staff. It always has been since I moved to Sussex in 2003. It was in my last University post and at all the places I have acted as an external examiner in ITT across the country. The idea that schools are (just) now in charge of ITT and that this is a ‘new’ freedom is nonsense.
A major issue (and it still is to a certain extent) is getting schools to offer ITT places at all. In my time I’ve begged, sold myself (for CPD) or my books (at a very large discount) to get places. Schools are busy teaching children, they have so many pressures that being involved in ITT is sometimes the last thing they want or need (especially if OFSTED is looming). Luckily in Sussex we have the best partnership I’ve ever known, but even then, getting every student placed is an almighty task that can take months of work.
Gove’s reforms have closed 3rd Rate/poor ITT
Gove’s reforms, claims Mr Martin, stopped bad ITT courses running:
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 5, 2016
So the view was, under Gove, that there were third rate courses and the ‘old’ PGCE/BEd system was ‘awful’. There were no actual examples of these ‘awful’ courses, but claims that they had been ‘removed’.
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 5, 2016
When challenged, no actual courses that had been shut down were forthcoming from Mr Martin.
I named Bath as a casualty of the reform in ITT, but of course that was an ‘outstanding’ programme – the exact opposite of what was being claimed. Indeed following Bath’s exit another ‘outstanding’ provider left ITT – the Open University. Two outstanding providers shut their ITT provision as a direct response to School Direct.
So I had a look at all the ITT Inspection reports filed from 5th May 2010 – 1st January 2016. I looked at all providers (current and closed). I could not find a single OFSTED report on a University provider where provision had closed which was rated as a 3 or 4. What I did find was lots of GTP provision closed – we all had to close GTP as it was stopped dead awaiting School Direct.
I found that the Maryvale Institute had closed its RE ITT . This was rated as 4, but is not University provision and they only delivered RE teachers.
Interestingly I also found the Kent County Council EBITT provision report. This provision was closed, rated 4. This was the report that came out in 2014 after inspection of their School Direct provision. There was no formal university involvement in this that I could see.
It seems that the claims of ‘removing courses’ is baseless and actually undermines School Direct provision as evidenced by the Kent CC Inspection report
I have not had the time to check the OFSTED reports for all the closed provision in ITT since 2010, it would be interesting to know how many good or excellent GTP courses closed (that’s not to say they are not carrying on in a new reincarnated form under SD) and how many were grade 3 or 4 (also perhaps carrying on in a new reformed SD way, as yet not inspected).
It may also be the case that some providers closed courses rather than all their provision. I’m aware of many courses closing, not because of a bad OFSTED, but simply because the numbers given by the NCTL were laughable. This includes Geography provision at Sussex which, thankfully, we have now been able to revive.
As an example, let’s stick with RE and see how allocations decided closures rather than Inspection:
- Learning Institute: allocated 3 PGCE places
- The Marches consortium: allocated 5
- University of Warwick: allocated 7 PGCE places
- University of Hull: allocated 5
- Maryvale Institute: allocated 8
- University of East Anglia: allocated 7 PGCE places
- Oxford Brookes University: allocated 6
- University of East London: 5 allocated
(The source of this can be found at: http://www.religious-education-wales.org/news/itt-pgce-secondary-re-allocations-by-teaching-agency-ta )
The infrastructure needed to support high quality ITT means that the income for just a few trainees will never pay the bills. Courses had to close regardless of how good (or bad) they were.
We Don’t Trust Experts – but is a novice any better?
I asked what expertise Mr Martin had in ITT or education, or schools in general. His reply was quite revealing:
— James Williams (@edujdw) January 7, 2016
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 7, 2016
So, no expertise, just a ‘belief’.
I support Mr Martin his statement that teachers and Heads do know better than politicians what should be happening in schools, including ITT. But so far he has not provided the evidence that it was Heads and Teachers en masse who were calling for these changes to back his claims. He also forgets that the vast majority of ITT tutors are themselves former teachers, senior leaders and heads – not career academics who have never had any experience in the classroom. He has no direct experience of education, teaching or teacher training other than talking to ‘grassroots’ teachers and visiting some providers.
— jamie martin (@jamieamartin1) January 8, 2016
Good, I’m glad they talked to teachers. But, and here is the problem, how were the teachers/schools/heads selected? What was the structure of such conversations? how were they recorded? How were they analysed? I could go on, but you get the picture. I never take advice on my writing from my mother as she is biased and has no expertise in education. She thinks everything I write and do is wonderful. Did Gove visit his critics? Listen and take on board their comments? Those from ITT and HEI he did commission to advise him he seemed to ignore as their ‘answer’ didn’t fit his ideas. He called the education academics who attacked his curriculum reforms ‘prejudiced’. He even by-passed and ignored his own appointed expert panel.
Mr Martin makes a partially valid point, that you cannot exclude someone from making comments or decisions just because they have no experience. The view of an outsider can be informative, revealing and interesting. But how much weight is given to such comments and how any suggestions for change are assessed and backed, by evidence and scrutinised by a cross section of those who it affects on a day to day basis is something to carefully consider.
‘We spoke’ is not enough evidence on which to base fundamental reform of a system, especially if it is so critical to the whole sector. The reforms were rushed. I do not accept that there was a systematic analysis of the sector with properly gathered evidence that was unbiased. If there was, then please let us ( The ITT and teaching community) see this mountain of evidence and see for ourselves how wrong we are. I’m sure the counter claim will be that there was much much more that we cannot possibly see or know about.
In part 2 I will look at the notion of how much ‘free choice’ Heads and others actually have when it comes to education.
The central tenet of Mr Martin’s claims that Gove’s reforms (being carried on by Nicky Morgan) are working and good is that Heads should be free to choose and decide. If only they could.
Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Universities was characterised by Michael Gove as being run by ‘The Blob’. People like me were all ‘apologists for failure’ and ‘raving Trots’. Life’s too short (as is this blog) to explore in detail the history of Tory Education Ministers’ mistrust of university involvement in teacher education. Over the decades, many attacks have been initiated, but this Government, and the previous coalition, really have tried to deliver a fatal blow and sever what they see as the serpent’s head of Marxist teacher trainers.
From asserting that the ‘theory’ we teach is ‘useless’, to being blamed as the main perpetrators of teachers using edu-nonsense and wacky progressive pseudoscience coupled with idiotic neuroscience in their teaching, ITE in universities has been saddled with all the blame. The onslaught has been relentless.
The Race to Recruit
Today, instead of a full-on attack of our methods of training teachers, (methods which OFSTED consistently say work and can deliver high quality teachers – what Gove once called ‘The best generation of teachers ever’) The current Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, through the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), has set up a race for recruitment where there is only one institutional loser – university provision.
Ultimately there will be many losers, schools unable to recruit high quality teachers, graduates put off teacher training who embark on another career and children who will suffer from high teacher turnover and possibly unqualified staff.
We have already seen university provision for PE stopped this academic year, less than a month after it opened. Now we are on the brink of shutting History provision, with English and, possibly, Primary following swiftly.
Schools who have asked for places under the new School Direct route can relax, they are in no danger of being shut down. Their provision – regardless of how good it is, how new it is, how effective or ineffective – is protected. There is excellent school-based provision out there, there is also some that is poor.
We hear a lot about the ‘law of unintended consequences’, where making a change can have a result you never intended, perhaps never envisioned. However, the NCTL and DfE have set up the ITE recruitment cycle this year using, it seems, another ‘law’, the ‘law of intended consequences’.
Can this cutting of University Provision be anything other than deliberate?
I cannot accept that the NCTL and DfE couldn’t foresee the consequences of shutting off university routes, the most popular ones that often fill their places, while letting the unpopular places that never recruit to target overall as safe.
I cannot accept that intelligent people in charge of securing the supply of good teachers just did not envisage a situation where excellent providers would have their numbers cut off, almost at the drop of a hat.
I refuse to accept that they could not see that universities would have no option, if they have not recruited enough students to sustain a cohort once the axe falls, but to close the provision.
Conservatives Have Abandoned their Core Values, Simply to Destroy University ITE Provision
Cambridge is an outstanding provider. It naturally attracts some of the best graduates. It has long been the envy of other ITE providers because of the ease with which the Cambridge ‘brand’ coupled with excellent practitioners in teacher education will attract the best candidates.
I thought that the Conservative way was that of the ‘free market’ where those who offer a product that people want will succeed and those who don’t fail. I was under the impression that Conservatives were all in favour of ‘choice’ e.g. parental choice in where they send their child to school or a choice of private over state-maintained, academy or free school.
The new recruitment rules for ITE seem to defy all Conservative values.
The Age of Free Choice under the Conservatives is Over
No longer will graduates have a ‘choice’ over which ITE route they take, in many subjects it will be School Direct or nothing (I fear that many will choose ‘nothing’). Teacher training is becoming a ‘closed shop’, something that many Conservatives abhor.
The Free Market is Dead under the Conservatives
The current recruitment rules are specifically designed to shut down the most successful routes to ensure that the less popular route succeeds – almost at any cost, certainly at the cost of high quality providers.
Lies, Damned Lies and Ignore the Statistics
The narrative that justifies the wholesale reform of ITE recruitment is built on a bed of lies surrounded by a continuing narrative that misleads and misinforms.
Constantly the DfE ‘spokespeople’ and ministers talk about university training versus school-based training. The deliberate choice of words here is designed to infer that Universities somehow do not use schools or involve schools in ITE. Nothing could be further from the truth.
ALL initial teacher education takes place predominantly in schools.
ITE cannot take place without school involvement. In secondary ITE for example trainees must spend 120 training in schools, working with teachers, teaching children, being mentored by experienced teachers.
No University provider would gain any positive OFSTED grade if it ignored schools, did not have effective partnerships and did not involve schools in designing and implementing the ITE programme. No provider could ever achieve an ‘Outstanding’ grade without the strongest of school partnerships.
Universities Value their School Partners and their Input to developing excellent ITE provision
Schools regularly tell university providers what they would like to see in the training programmes, what sort of training they feel suits the partnership. Their knowledge and understanding is vital to our success. We succeed because of our partnership, not in spite of it.
ITE teaches ‘useless theory’ to students
‘Theory’ in education is difficult. With my scientist ‘hat’ on I could argue that there is no such thing as ‘theory’ in education – there are ideas, concepts etc. But scientifically acceptable theory (as in an evidenced explanation of ‘how’ or ‘why’ of a natural phenomenon, which can generate testable hypotheses, confirmed by repeated and repeatable experimentation or observation that is valid and reliable), no.
It’s true we teach about Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner, Bronfenbrenner, Maslow etc. But none of these is taught without criticism, as uncontentious and so highly evidenced that it could attain a ‘without exception’ status and must therefore be trusted and applied without question.
What’s important is that we teach trainees how to critique what they read, how to not take a face value something that’s been told to them.
We are not the wholesale sellers of ‘snake oil’ pseudo-educational activities.
I will not absolve all university ITE from having delivered ‘learning styles’ as a valid classroom pedagogy in the past, perhaps even now. That said I do not believe that the source of learning styles in teaching can ultimately be traced back to university ITE.
For the past 18 months, I have been informally trying to ask teachers where they hear about the ‘wacky’ classroom based edumyths and why they use them. Some do say they were taught about it during their training (often many years ago), but increasingly I am being provided with anecdotal evidence that such edumyths have in fact originated in business and often it is the ‘consultants’ engaged by schools to run INSET and CPD who are pushing such pedagogies. As Paschler et al (2008) say,
“There is a thriving industry devoted to publishing learning-styles tests and guidebooks for teachers, and many organizations offer professional development workshops for teachers and educators built around the concept of learning styles.” (p.105)
In my years in university teacher education, I’ve spent more time correcting edumyths peddled to trainees by teachers in schools than I care to recall.
In a bid to ‘prove’ that I (or indeed my university) ‘endorses’ edumyths. I have been called out on twitter for having some books on our reading list that do indeed have sections on Learning styles for example.
If we were to eliminate every book on education that contained something that teachers object to, the reading list would be very small. So small I doubt we would have one. What the critics never seem to appreciate is that books on education will always contain chapters/sections or ideas that are contentious. What is important is how the book is used and how we educate our trainees not to accept at face value everything that is written (or indeed said), but to critically analyse what they see, hear and read. In a book that ‘endorses’ (wrongly) learning styles, there may be 100 pages of excellent reading on other aspects of teaching and learning.
I am not a censor who tears out the pages I disagree with and I don’t believe that we should become censors in ITE.
I hope that Cambridge does not have to close any of its provision. I hope that no good ITE provider has to pull out of the ITE market (and that includes good School Direct provision and Good SCITT provision). I would prefer the DfE and NCTL supported all good ITE provision and routes into teaching and stop the negative narrative of there being two different routes into teaching – one based in schools and the other not.
Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 9.3 103-119.
Oh Teacher! (Source: Flickr Creative Commons)
In the Daily Telegraph recently, we had yet another ‘debate’ about whether or not teachers need to be ‘qualified’. There is a simple answer. Yes, yes and yes. Why three times a yes? well, it depends on which qualification you are specifying. The problem with these debates is the smoke and mirrors that many who oppose teacher qualifications use to confuse the matter. We have yet another example in this Telegraph debate, with Richard Cairns, the Headmaster of Brighton College arguing against a requirement for qualified teachers. Previously Toby Young, who set up the West London Free School, has scorned the idea of teacher qualifications, He talks about ‘union approved’ qualifications making teaching, in effect, a closed shop unless you gain this union ticket. He is wrong on so many counts. Firstly, neither a PGCE nor a BEd degree qualifies anyone to teach (they are both academic qualifications) and they are not ‘union approved’ in the sense that academic qualification approvals come via the host institution and no university would defer to a union on its academic qualifications and standards. If he means that the unions approve of teachers being trained to do the job, well, yes, naturally, why would they not approve? It is Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which makes a teacher qualified and these professional standards are set up and controlled by the DfE through the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). A BEd/BA/BSc or PGCE needs to be supported with QTS for that person to rightly be called a ‘qualified teacher’.
The ‘holy trinity’ for teachers
Excellent teachers are, in my opinion, possessed of a ‘holy trinity’: excellent subject knowledge; knowledge of how children grow, develop and learn alongside theories of teaching and learning, psychology etc; and the skills to plan, teach and impart knowledge and understanding, in conjunction with a set of professional attributes. This ‘holy trinity’ is summed up by the qualifications they achieve. A good subject degree, a postgraduate academic qualification related to teaching and learning and a professional qualification that recognises their skills on the job. In other words a first degree (or higher degree); a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), preferably at Masters level, if the first degree is only subject based and Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). All three are necessary to ensure the highest quality of teachers in our profession. My frustration is that all too often people confuse the BEd/PGCE and QTS and they believe that a subject qualification somehow automatically means a person can effectively impart their knowledge and understanding to others (in this case children in school).
The better the qualification, the better the teacher?
First, let’s briefly consider the possession of a degree as being ‘sufficient’ to become a teacher. Ask the question in the staffroom: “does a PhD in physics make you a better physics teacher than someone with a third class honours degree?” then stand back and watch the fights ensue. Yes! No! Maybe! As far as I am aware there is no empirical evidence that fully supports the contention that the best physics teachers have the best physics degrees. If someone is aware of any meta-research which does support such a contention, please let me know. Yes, people can point me towards research which supports either a YES or a NO stance, but nothing which bears scrutiny in such a way that it empirically shows such a link. Although a report appeared in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) recently stating the views of Pasi Sahlberg, that ‘those who underperform at school can make better teachers’ as they can better explain to children knowledge and ideas, I do not take this as ‘definitive’ proof.
Knowing how to teach what you know
In 1986 Lee Shulman coined the term Pedagogic Content Knowledge or PCK. Put very simply, this is ‘knowing how to teach what you know’ It’s not a tautology and it has its complexity. Shulman ends his paper by refuting the old adage ‘those who can, do; those who cannot, teach’ with a revised (and I think very true) version: Those who can, do; those who understand, teach.
If knowing your ‘subject’ is important, why isn’t knowing about education also important?
This leads us nicely to the second of my ‘trinity’, the BEd/BA (education) or Post Graduate Certificate in Education. The academic study of education is often derided by teachers and academics. If you are a through and through academic you ‘may’ have come to study education having first become a teacher. Though many academics who write and research in the discipline of education are academics who have never set foot in a classroom of children and taught over a sustained period. Such academics are (being kind here) viewed suspiciously by teachers who feel they cannot possibly ‘know’ about teaching if they have never done the job, paid their dues and have the scars to show for it. Others, like me, come to work in a university having ‘served’ my time in schools. People like me can also be eyed with suspicion by the academics who regard me as not being a fully paid up academic researcher. Likewise those who are still teaching in schools look at me and say that as soon as I leave the classroom my credibility is irrevocably damaged as clearly, if I was any good, I would still be teaching children. The academic study of education is also eyed suspiciously by teachers who see the ‘theory’ as a necessary evil, often not helpful and in some instances more akin to snake-oil rather than a robust, ‘evidenced’, acceptable and accepted body of knowledge and understanding.
Myths and Mythology
I have a degree of sympathy for this view, after all there are many myths, mythologies and intellectually bankrupt ideas that have infected our schools – from Brain Gym to Learning Styles and back via Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). None of these aforementioned ‘approaches’ (I will not grace them with the title ‘theory’ as I see this as an affront to science – my first degree discipline) can be sustained by anything like credible, empirical evidence. Yet they still persist. Only last week I was confronted by a school lesson plan pro forma (see extracts below) that suggested its teachers list the ‘learning styles’ and ‘brain gym’ activities they utilise. This school was part of a SCITT, there was no ‘progressive university input’. Often teachers, and politicians, including Nick Gibb in April 2015, lay the blame for such mythology entering the culture of teaching squarely at the foot of teacher training in universities. Gibb was unequivocal about the ‘fact’ that it is university education departments who promote ‘progressive’ teaching and says, who is to blame for our education system slipping down the international rankings? The answer is the academics in the education faculties of universities. I will not absolve all ITT in all universities from this charge but in nearly 20 years in teacher education and having seen numerous courses in science education across many universities I have never seen such things promoted as having any merit. I have, however, encountered many schools who pass it on to trainees under their care, just like the school last week who hosted a school-based SCITT trainee.
Surely gaining a skillset before you are let loose on children is common sense?
Finally, we come to QTS. These are the professional attributes and skills that EVERY teacher should achieve and continue to meet during their career, no matter how long or short that career is. I say ‘should’, not because I think it is optional, but because Michael Gove made these professional skills and attributes optional in one of the most audacious and arrogant attacks on the profession during his reign as Education Secretary. He changed the law so that Free schools and Academies (Free schools are of course academies and that’s another ‘moaning’ another post I may write someday) do not have to employ teachers with QTS. Gove made it acceptable to hire teachers on just their academic subject alone. They need not know anything about education, how children grow, develop, learn, how teachers teach, what teaching approaches have been shown to be effective etc. They simply need to know their own subject. As Janet Downs, reports on the Local Schools Network blog, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, as far back as 1966 “was quite clear: governments should require entrants to the teaching profession to have the ‘required professional knowledge and skills’. It is the responsibility of governments, UNESCO says, to ensure there are ‘sufficient places in appropriate institutions’ so trainee teachers can complete ‘an approved course in an appropriate teacher-preparation institution’.” So, there you have it. Teachers as professionals have various skillsets, knowledge and understanding. It’s time that the media and those who should know better, who lead schools and actually employ teachers, stopped trying to claim that ‘knowledge is king’ and the rest is simply either ‘natural talent’ or something that is easily picked up on the job watching others. We need to restore professionalism and high professional standards for teachers despite the best efforts of this government and the last coalition government to undermine teachers and teaching.
‘If I were education secretary…’ | A Schools Week article with more red herrings than a fishmonger’s shop!
Robert Peal, a history teacher at the West London Free School, makes a series of unsupported allegations, red herrings in fact, about what actually goes on in teacher training and how those who work in teacher education are feeding trainees on a diet of nonsense.
I’m pleased that new teachers are up for shaking the apple tree to see what falls out, and challenging the status quo, but that needs to be done with evidence and not anecdote.
This is how his Opinion piece in the new publication Schools Week begins:
“Over the past few years, there has been a grassroots professional rejection of bogus ideas within education, coupled with a wellspring of enthusiasm for more credible alternatives. New ideas — such as direct instruction, spaced and massed practice, curriculum sequencing, and mastery learning — are gaining popularity amongst certain teachers and schools. However, the 65 universities that provide English teacher training are slow to catch on.”
You can read the full article here.
My response is somewhat longer than his article.
The Carter Review of ITT is out. The purposes of the review were:
• To define effective ITT practice
• To assess the extent to which the system currently delivers effective ITT
• To recommend where and how improvements could be made
• To recommend ways to improve choice in the ITT system by improving the transparency of course content and method
A Missed Opportunity?
What the review didn’t do – though it was never asked to – is assess whether or not the current models for training teachers and the in-built timescales for training are really fit for purpose. Increasingly I am of the opinion that, rather than tinker with the current system of training in the belief that what we have is adequate and merely needs minor changes, we should take a long hard look at our teacher training and aim for a paradigm shift in ITT that would meet not just the needs to today’s schools and pupils, but future schools and pupils. Too much change and reform in education is short-term. Are we in danger here of taking a short-termist view of ITT in the belief that the current system is fine and merely needs a few cosmetic changes?
When review is undertaken two questions should always be.
- Is what we have in place now not just fit for current purpose, but also robust enough to respond to future change and development?
- Is the reform we aim to make merely a short-term response to current and near-future need, or is the reform aiming to be generational, with a longer term goal of overall improvement in mind?
The current system (more or less) of ITT that we have is much the same as the training I received in the mid-1980s. Subject knowledge was not addressed during training as there was/is insufficient time to incorporate meaningful enhancement. Teaching theory, child development, and how children learn is still patchy, seen as ‘useless’ by some trainees and serving teachers or as ‘unscientific’ pseudoscience. The most important and useful aspect of teacher training, according to many, is experience in school, in the classroom and learning to teach ‘on the job’. I was certainly of that inclination as a young trainee teacher – the ‘professional studies’ lectures were seen more as a necessary evil than an integral part of teacher training. Over time I realised that far from being ‘useless theory’ they were in fact the basis of professionalism. It’s not enough to what to do and how to do it (on-the-job training) you also need to understand why you are doing what you do. That is, for me, what makes teaching a profession. It is clear from the review that the current time available for ITT is insufficient. For example when it comes to subject knowledge, the review says that “the most effective courses make use of pre-course time for subject knowledge development.” (p.26) Advising trainees on what subject knowledge to acquire, at what level and ensuring that this is what is needed to enhance their teaching requires someone, somewhere, to put in place detailed information, advice, links to sites or even develop subject knowledge materials. Who is paying for this? Yes, providers will routinely ask for ITT students to prepare for the course, but surely something identified as crucial to good teaching (the teacher’s own subject knowledge) should be an integral part of the training. By acknowledging that this has to happen outside the official training time, even before training starts, and unfunded for both trainee and provider, surely is an admission that the time we have for training is insufficient. The Carter review acknowledges that subject knowledge cannot be addressed in the short time a PGCE has, so recommends that this is taken back into schools during the NQT induction year.
Why not Generational Change?
Generational change is not easy and requires institutions and politicians to look beyond the imminent political landscape to plan for change that will, over time, be transformational. For generational change in ITT I would look to have a pathway into teaching that begins during the undergraduate degrees of interested or talented students, which feeds into a postgraduate system that secures training in schools and university and leads to not just qualified teacher status but also a Master’s level academic award.
The two main routes to QTS are an undergraduate route (normally four years to incorporate a degree in education and professional experience for QTS) and a Postgraduate route which is just 36 weeks long (again this will vary on the route, e.g. Teach First with less initial training but longer support, or School Direct Salaried which technically could be a whole school year, but the standard Post Graduate Certificate in Education is funded for 36 weeks).
As school become more complex is a longer training needed?
Our schools have become ever more complex, the demands on teachers more widespread and multifaceted. The pressure to ‘deliver’ results – almost, it seems, at any and all costs, has never been as acute. But entry to this complex profession can be granted in just 36 weeks. The Initial training is, as the name suggests, and as the Carter review very helpfully points out, initial, but have we really got any agreed, validated and systematic pathways of further training and development which produces world-class professionals? Reading the review it’s clear that we haven’t and that is professionally very bad news. Granted some schools have excellent first year training and induction for newly qualified teachers, others have developed CPD pathways that suit the needs of their own schools. But for the profession to succeed and address the problem of early career burnout we have to ensure that the training is world-class.
How much would this cost?
Of course the major barrier to effecting changes such as these is cost. Can we afford to train teachers for any longer than we do at present? I’m no economist and do not pretend to have all the answers, but a route that identifies potential teachers during their undergraduate studies (as they do in Finland) and a steer from professionals as to what content would actually suit their aspiration of teaching would help address some of the subject knowledge issues, this is, again a welcome recommendation in the Carter review. For those who come to teaching after their degree has ended, a six month subject knowledge enhancement course is a must in my view. By combining training (which needs to be paid for e.g. in the same way that the current PGCE is funded) with employment and looking creatively to subsidies and bursaries across subjects to fund M level academic study, we should be able to provide a better training that is cost effective.
A departure from the norm
The year-long programme of initial teacher education to concentrate on ‘how to teach’ can work much as it does now, with some pressure taken off the need to deliver subject content.
At the end of the initial training year I would depart from the norm. Too often NQTs are employed as if they were fully experienced teachers. Too many schools place too much responsibility on NQTs and expect them to be ‘fully equipped, hitting the ground running’. Rather than give someone full QTS after their initial training I would provide them with a licence to teach – where the Licenced Teacher is part employed in schools and attending advanced M level professional and academic training leading to a full Master’s degree. If their teaching was restricted (along with the roles they have to take on and the responsibility they have to shoulder), Licenced Teachers would be able to carry on their ‘on-the-job’ training with the space and time to fully reflect on their teaching and the pupils’ learning as well as continue to develop professionally. Schools would have employees that they can evaluate over a year for potential posts. Follow this with a supported first year in teaching as a newly qualified teacher – again with a reduced timetable, increase pay from the licensed post but not quite full pay, and the individual further develops as a professional. Finally in year two they will be ready to take on a full teaching post at a full professional salary, with full qualified teacher status and a full Master’s degree. Such an entry to the profession is, in my view, more likely to lead to professional who can not only deliver the best teaching, but who will also have developed a resilience and understanding of the profession, meaning they are less likely to quit.
This is a quick ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the Carter Review – I have skimmed the document and see many valuable recommendations. Already the DfE has published its response – which I am yet to fully digest (though at 8 pages it will be a quicker read!).