The impact and definition of outstanding teaching
Everyone remembers their best teacher. Our inquiry
made explicit the profound impact that the bestand worstteachers
can have. Evidence from the US has suggested that a 'high value-added'
teacher can generate significant additional earnings for their
students during the course of adult lives, and that poorly-performing
teachers can have the opposite effect. This has wider benefits,
because of the impact of higher salaries, savings and education
on society more broadly. We therefore believe that the recruitment
and retention of those most likely to be outstanding teachers
should be firmly at the top of our education system's agenda.
Defining the qualities associated with outstanding
teaching is a complex exercise. We support the Government's new
bursary scheme, which offers financial incentives for trainees
with higher class degrees: we trust that this will attract more
people to consider the profession, but caution that this approach
alone will not do the job. Whilst strong subject knowledge is
vital, particularly at secondary level, greater effort is needed
to identify which additional personal qualities make candidates
well-suited to teaching. For primary teaching, where breadth of
knowledge is vital, we question the use of degree class as the
determinant of bursary eligibility.
Attracting and assessing potential teachers
Alongside entry tests in literacy and numeracy and
a proposed interpersonal skills assessment, the design of which
we make proposals about, our evidence was clear that teacher quality
cannot be fully established without observing a candidate actually
teach. We therefore recommend that all providers include teaching
observation as a key part of assessment before the offer of a
training place is made.
As training to be a teacher is a 'high stakes' decision,
we also recommend the development of 'teaching taster' opportunities,
for sixth formers and undergraduates to experience first-hand
the content, benefits and potential of a career in teaching. Critically,
these tasters must include actual teaching, and not just observation
or being a teaching assistant. We believe this move could have
a strong and positive effect on both trainee quality and drop-out
The provision of initial teacher training
Initial teacher training is a complex system, involving
both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in university-led,
school-centred and employment-based provision.
Our evidence was clear that a diversity of routes into teaching
is a welcome feature of the system, and we note that all routes
have outstanding provision within them. We are left in little
doubt that partnership between schools and universities is likely
to provide the highest-quality initial teacher education, the
content of which will involve significant school experience but
include theoretical and research elements as well. We note concerns
about the funding and organisation of school placements, and particularly
about the variable quality of mentors. Ofsted should look at both
when inspecting providers.
We welcome the development of Teaching Schools, and
strongly support the expectation that they will work with universities.
We believe that a diminution of universities' role in teaching
training could bring considerable demerits, and would caution
against it, but we also welcome policies which encourage, or enable
new, school-centred and employment-based providers, expansion
of which should be demand-led, and believe that School Direct
could provide a valuable opportunity for schools to offer teacher
training. We also support the announced expansion and development
of Teach First.
Retaining, valuing and developing teachers
The retention of the best teachers is clearly desirable,
given the huge impact we know them to have on their students,
and we make four key recommendations to improve retention. Amongst
other barriers to recruitment and retention of the best teachers,
we believe that the lack of opportunities for (and structure to)
professional development and career progression for teachers are
in need of urgent remedy. Therefore, we recommend that the Government
consult on the quality, range, scope and content of a high-level
strategy for teachers' professional development, and with an aim
of introducing an entitlement for all teaching staff as soon as
Secondly, we recommend the creation of a National
Teacher Sabbatical Scholarship programme, where outstanding teachers
can apply for a substantial period of sabbatical, supported by
Government and closely linked to their professional activities.
Thirdly, we believe changes to the existing career
structure, or lack of it, for teachers would have similarly positive
results, and recommend that the Government introduce new, formal
and flexible career ladders for teachers, with different pathways
for those who wish to remain as a classroom teacher or teaching
specialist, linked to pay and conditions and professional development.
International evidence has made clear the value of such paths,
which will enable the profession to offer real structure and opportunities
to progress, bringing teaching into line with other graduate professions.
Teaching is unusual, amongst comparable professions,
in its lack of a chartered institute or substantial national college.
Fourthly, therefore, we acknowledge and support the case for a
new, member-driven College of Teaching, independent from but working
with Government. The College could play important roles in accrediting
CPD and developing teacher standards, amongst others.
The teacher standards themselves have recently been
simplified, which we welcome; we support the Government's desire
to reduce bureaucratic burdens on teachers and school leaders.
These will need to be updated in light of changes to career structure
which we recommend. We recommend that the DfE develop proposals
for a pay system which rewards those teachers adding the greatest
value to pupil performance. Whilst there are political and practical
difficulties with such a model, the comparative impact of an outstanding
teacher is so great that hurdles must be overcome.
Our inquiry brought us into contact with teachers
and learners from all over the country, and we have been consistently
struck by the passion, expertise and skill of the vast majority
of practitioners, and by the commitment with which they tackle
a vital and often challenging role in society. We urge the Government
to continue championing the work done by teachers, and to sell
the many benefits and rewards of the profession to the brightest
and best candidates. The impact of the bestand worstteachers
is dramatic: there is a moral imperative to improve teaching yet
further and to ensure that there is only room in our system for
the very best.
1 See paragraph 15 for explanation of terms Back