Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best - Education Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Background to the inquiry

1. In their introduction to The Importance of Teaching—the Schools White Paper 2010, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister wrote that "no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers".[2] It was in the spirit of that statement, and in light of the Government's subsequent consultation on and implementation plan for reforms to teacher training,[3] that we launched our inquiry into the recruitment, training and retention of teachers.

2. The quality and supply of teachers—who currently number nearly half a million, and work in thousands of schools and colleges up and down the country—is a vast subject area, and one with which previous Committees have grappled; most recently, the Children, Schools and Families Committee published its report into teacher training in January 2010.[4] We decided to return to the subject comparatively quickly, largely because of the huge and central importance of teacher quality to our education system and wider society, the clear, strong and growing evidence base for which we examine below. As the world changes and with the new global knowledge economy, along with a decline in the number of unskilled jobs, it is ever more important that the UK workforce is educated to the level of its international competitors, which in turn requires the highest quality teachers.

3. We also decided to conduct our inquiry because of the number of reforms which the new Coalition Government proposed in this field following the General Election in May 2010. These are summarised in relevant sections of this report, but include significant changes to the teacher training landscape; to the roles of schools and universities within the system; to the bursaries offered to trainees; to the admissions procedures for initial teacher training; and, partly via reforms to the curriculum and accountability system, to the emphasis placed on different subjects.

4. Our inquiry was designed not only to examine these Government reforms in more detail but also to focus specifically on how to define the qualities of an outstanding teacher, how to get strong candidates into the profession, how to develop them, and how to keep them. That, in turn, should ensure that fewer who are likely to perform poorly enter the profession, a clearly desirable aspiration. We have examined wider issues relating to the teaching profession, but primarily where these are directly related to the terms of reference for our inquiry, which were:

  • what evidence is available to help identify the sorts of applicants who become the most effective teachers, and the strategies known to be effective in attracting these applicants;
  • whether particular routes into teaching are more likely to attract high quality trainees, and whether the Government's proposed changes to initial teacher training will help to recruit these trainees;
  • what evidence is available about the type of training which produces the most effective teachers and whether the Government's proposed changes to initial teacher training, particularly the focus on more school-led training, will help to increase the number of good teachers in our schools;
  • how best to assess and reward good teachers and whether the Government's draft revised standards for teachers are a helpful tool;
  • what contribution professional development makes to the retention of good teachers; and
  • how to ensure that good teachers are retained where they are most needed, particularly in schools in challenging circumstances.

5. Woven through these key themes, and through much of the evidence we gathered, is the issue of teachers' status, as individuals and as a profession. Throughout our inquiry we have been mindful of the need to understand how best to promote the status and attractiveness of the profession to potential recruits, to current members and to society at large. We hope we make recommendations which will help do exactly that.

6. As always, the Committee has benefited hugely from the expertise of its two standing advisers on education, Professor Alan Smithers and Professor Geoff Whitty CBE, whose knowledge of and experience in the teacher training system has proven invaluable to us.[5]

The evidence base for our inquiry

7. Following the announcement of the inquiry on 15 July 2011, we received sixty-three written submissions, from a wide range of sources, including higher education institutions, school-centred and employment-based training providers, individual headteachers, teacher and school leader unions, and representative or subject-specialist organisations. We also received evidence from the Department for Education, the Training and Development Agency, the General Teaching Council for England, and Ofsted.

8. We held a series of oral evidence sessions where we heard, in public, from a range of experts and stakeholders. These sessions generally focussed on particular perspectives, rather than covering specific themes of the inquiry: for example, one panel offered the perspective of teacher training providers and included two university leaders, two representatives of school-centred provision, and a director from Teach First. Another offered the wider community perspective, with representatives of PTA-UK (parents), the National Governors' Association (governors) and the Association of Directors of Children's Services (local authorities). Witnesses are listed at the end of our report.

9. Alongside these public sessions, we held a number of seminars and other events where we were able to hear the views of those at the front line: teachers, heads and pupils. These included two discussion fora with outstanding teachers from across the country; three visits to schools meeting heads, teachers and pupils; two meetings with secondary school and college students at the House of Commons; and a lunch with trainee teachers from three different providers in the Yorkshire region. As ever, we benefited greatly from these perspectives and from the opportunity to learn from those engaging daily with the impact of policy changes.

10. We have, during the course of the inquiry, considered a wealth of other evidence as well, including the significant number of articles and reports previously published in this field. In particular, we have benefited from the work of our predecessor Committee, and from The Good Teacher Training Guide 2011, compiled by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson at the University of Buckingham, which provides valuable information about the teacher training system, the quality and characteristics of trainees, and the respective merits and characters of different routes into teaching.

11. Finally, ever-mindful of the importance of learning from best practice abroad, six members of the Committee undertook a short visit to Singapore, where meetings took place with a wide range of experts including headteachers and academics, school and private tutors, Government ministers and officials, and our own counterparts on the Parliamentary Education Committee. A note of our visit is annexed to this report.

Background information

12. There are currently over 460,000 teachers in English publicly-funded schools, and a full-time equivalent workforce of nearly 450,000. Of those, slightly more (204,200) work in primary schools than secondary (198,800); 15,600 are in special schools. Nearly three-quarters of teachers are female, and around a quarter are aged under 30 years. The majority of teachers (nearly 94%) are recorded in the 'White' ethnic groups.[6] In 2009-10, there were over 38,000 recruits to teacher training.[7]

13. Ofsted has responsibility for the inspection of teacher training, and has judged that 90% of existing provision is good or better.[8] Between 2008 and 2011, 337 inspections of training provision were carried out, all under the same inspection framework.[9] The inspectorate has recently consulted on a new framework for teacher training inspection; the consultation closed on 31 January 2012.[10]

14. Until 1 April 2012, the Training and Development Agency (TDA) was the "national agency and recognised sector body responsible for the training and development of the school workforce", including teachers.[11] It received an annual remit letter from the Secretary of State for Education; the 2011-12 letter set the Agency's budget at up to £543m for programme expenditure and £24.6m for administrative costs.[12] From 1 April, however, functions of the TDA have been enveloped within the new Teaching Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Education; its staff are civil servants and overseen by a Director General in the DfE.[13] This structural reform is part of the Government-wide reform to public bodies announced since October 2010.[14] The Teaching Agency has three key "areas of delivery": supply and retention of the teaching workforce; quality of the workforce; and regulation of teacher conduct.[15]

15. There are three main training routes leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS):

Partnerships led by higher education institutions

These account for nearly 80% of trainees, and include both undergraduate and postgraduate courses (though the number on the former has declined over recent years). Postgraduate training commonly leads towards the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education).

School-centred initial teacher training (SCITTs)

SCITTs are consortia of schools which offer training towards the PGCE; tuition fees are payable, as for university courses. With SCITTs, the consortium itself arranges the training and channels the funding for placements; with HEI-led partnerships, the university arranges placements and channels the funding. Universities validate the SCITTs' PGCEs. SCITTs currently count for less than 5% of trainees per year.

Employment-based initial teacher training (EBITTs)

EBITTs involve 'on-the-job' training and fall into three groups: the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) and the Registered Teacher Programme (RTP); Overseas Trained Teacher Programme (OTTP); and Teach First. Only Teach First offers a PGCE as an integral part of the training programme; all three, however, lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).[16]


16. A breakdown of recruitment over time, by the various routes into teaching, is given below.

Fig. 1: recruitment to teacher training courses since 2006-07
Programme 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 (autumn)
Undergraduate 7.960 7.6207.690 7,9207,660 7,290
Postgraduate 24,510 23,73023,530 25,11024,510 22,840
of which school-centred 1,7301,650 1,6501,810 1,7501,750
TOTAL RECRUITMENT (HEI-led and school-centred) 32,46031,350 31,22033,040 32,17030,130
GTP5,360 5,3005,120 5,1104,940 5,310
RTP180 150120 120110 80
OTTP1,580 1,300980 750600 180
Teach First250 260370 480550 710
Teach Next[17] -- -- -50

RECRUITMENT (employment-based)

7,3707,010 6,5906,460 6,2006,340
TOTAL RECRUITMENT (all routes) 39,83038,360 37,81039,500 38,37036,470

Source: Department for Education,

17. As a number of witnesses, including representatives of the TDA, explained to us, certain subjects have been traditionally harder to recruit to— including physics, chemistry, maths and languages. The Government's proposals for dealing with this potential and ongoing shortfall are discussed in Chapter 2. Overall, between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the ratio of applicants to places rose slightly (from 2.26 to 2.30); although both applications and places fell, the former did so less dramatically than the latter, and the number of both applicants and places for primary programmes rose between 2010-11 and 2011-12.[18]

18. In 2009-10, 62% of trainees had a 2.1 or above in their first degree, and 30% had a 2.2.[19]


19. The table below shows the number of trainees gaining Qualified Teacher Status over the past few years:[20]

Fig. 2: Trainees gaining Qualified Teacher Status since 2006-7
Training route 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
HEI-led and school-centred 26,98026,470 26,65028,420
Employment-based7,120 6,5106,470 6,260
TOTAL GAINING QTS34,100 32,98033,120 34,680
as a percentage of trainees recruited 85.6%86.0% 87.6%87.8%


20. The following table shows the percentage of trainees in teaching, six months after qualification, for the 2005-06 and 2009-10 intakes.

Fig. 3: Teaching status of trainees six months after qualification
2005-06 2009-10
Trainees teaching in maintained sector six months after qualification 58%70%
Trainees teaching in non-maintained sector six months after qualification 4%5%
Trainees teaching (sector not known) six months after qualification 5%5%
Trainees seeking teaching post six months after qualification 4%7%

Source: TDA

Retention rates over time are considered in Chapter 5, as are factors associated with teachers leaving the profession. The following table offers the key reasons given for a teacher's contract ending during the 2009-10 academic year.

Fig. 4: Reasons for cessation of teaching contracts in 2009-10
Reason Percentage of contracts ending
Remaining in the publicly funded schools sector 51.1%
Other education sector employment 1.9% (of which 0.5% was moves to independent schools)
Employment outside the education sector 0.6%
Other (including retirement, both at 'normal age' and prematurely, death or family reasons) 8.4%
Unknown destinations 38.0%

Source: TDA

This information, along with other data and more details, is based on submissions from the Training and Development Agency, which can be found in Volume II of our report.

Acronyms and abbreviations

21. The following acronyms and abbreviations are used in our report, as well as in much of the written evidence we received and which is published separately:

Training terminology

QTS    Qualified Teacher Status

NQT    Newly Qualified Teacher

ITT / ITE  Initial Teacher Training / Initial Teacher Education

CPD    Continuing Professional Development

Provider types

HEI    Higher Education Institution

EBITT    Employment-Based Initial Teacher Training

SCITT    School-Centred Initial Teacher Training

GTP    Graduate Teacher Programme

OTTP    Overseas Trained Teacher Programme

RTP    Registered Teacher Programme

Degree courses

BEd    Bachelor of Education

BA    Bachelor of Arts

PGCE    Postgraduate Certificate in Education

PgCE    Professional Certificate in Education

Government and related bodies

DfE    Department for Education

TDA    Training and Development Agency

GTCE    General Teaching Council for England

2   Department for Education (DfE), The Importance of Teaching-the Schools White Paper 2010 (November 2010), hereafter 'Schools White Paper', p. 3 Back

3   DfE, Training our next generation of outstanding teachers: An improvement strategy for discussion (June 2011), hereafter 'DfE Improvement strategy', and Training our next generation of outstanding teachers: Implementation plan (November 2011), hereafter 'DfE Implementation plan' Back

4   Training of Teachers: Fourth Report of the Children, Schools and Families Committee, Session 2009-10, HC 275-I, hereafter 'Training of TeachersBack

5   Professor Whitty, Director Emeritus of the Institute of Education, University of London, and Professor of Public Policy and Management, University of Bath, declared interests as a Trustee of the IFS School of Finance and as a Board Member of Ofsted. Professor Smithers, Director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Buckingham, declared no interests Back

6   For this, and other, information on the workforce, see School Workforce in England November 2010 (Provisional) (DfE Statistical First Release, 20 April 2011) Back

7   Smithers, A., and Robinson, P., The Good Teacher Training Guide 2011 (University of Buckingham), p. 16 Back

8   Ibid. Back

9   Ev 292 Back

10   See  Back

11  Back

12   The remit letter is available online at  Back

13   See DfE / Teaching Agency, Teaching Agency: Framework document (April 2012) Back

14   See Back

15   Ibid., p. 4 Back

16   For this, and more, information on the teacher training system, see predominantly The Good Teacher Training Guide 2011 (Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson, published by University of Buckingham), especially pp. 1 and 16, and Department for Education pages at Back

17   See para 63 Back

18   For more information, including a breakdown of applications and places by subject, see HC Deb 10 January 2012 col. 232W Back

19   Ev 217 Back

20   See Back

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Prepared 1 May 2012