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

4  The provision of initial teacher training

The routes into teaching

59. As set out in the introduction, there are currently three main routes into teaching which lead to the award of qualified teacher status, and the subsequent potential for employment in the maintained school sector: provision led by higher education institutions (HEIs), SCITTs, and EBITTs.[87]

60. In 2009-10, HEI-led provision accounted for 78.7% of trainees, SCITTs for 5.6%, and EBITTs for 16.7%. The majority of trainees—79.4%—were on postgraduate training programmes, and slightly over half (51.7%) were training for secondary teaching.[88] In terms of number of providers, however, the picture is different: there were 75 HEIs offering training courses, which tend to accept more trainees, compared with 59 SCITTs and 100 EBITTs, some of which have as few as one or two trainees.[89]

61. Ofsted, which has responsibility for inspecting teacher training, found that between September 2008 and August 2011 there was "more outstanding provision in primary and secondary partnerships led by higher education institutions than in school-centred partnerships or employment-based routes".[90] Amongst the HEI-led provision, Smithers and Robinson found that the best programmes are consistently run by "the old established universities".[91] Smithers and Robinson also note, however, that the highest-performing SCITT (the Billericay Educational Consortium, from which we took evidence) outranks the highest-performing HEI partnership, and that—when all routes are compared—the best ten providers "comprise four SCITTs, four universities and two EBITTs", proving that there is high quality provision in all the teacher training routes.[92]

62. Whilst finding that HEI-led provision is best overall, Ofsted noted in its evidence to our inquiry that "the introduction of more routes into teaching" is "one of the success stories of recent years".[93] This message was echoed by numerous other witnesses, including trainee and practising teachers with whom we met, and who had themselves pursued a variety of routes into teaching. Headteachers giving evidence in York, for example, had trained on a variety of programmes[94] but did not, in the words of one, "favour one [route] over another" when appointing teachers to their schools.[95]

63. Moreover, we found during our investigations that different routes appear to suit different candidates better, for a variety of reasons. The 2011 Good Teacher Training Guide shows that:

-  SCITTs and EBITTs attract proportionately more male trainees than HEI-led provision;

-  people identifying as from ethnic minorities are slightly less likely to train in SCITTs than via other routes; and

-  trainees aged twenty-five years or over are most likely to train in EBITTs, where they account for 84.9% of primary trainees and 71.3% of secondary trainees, and least likely to train at university. [96]

Teachers at the various discussion groups we held agreed with our predecessor Committee, which wrote in its 2010 that "distance-learning, school-centred, and employment-based [routes] have removed many of the barriers to entry to the teaching profession, most notably for career-changers."[97] The Government has announced proposals for an additional EBITT scheme, Teach Next, "to attract high-fliers from other professions."[98]

64. The organisation Teach First was also praised by a number of witnesses for its impact on the status of the teaching profession,[99] for its recruitment of bright graduates who might not have considered teaching otherwise,[100] and particularly for its selection process, which Keele University said represented "excellent" practice[101] and which Ofsted suggested "certainly could" be utilised by other providers.[102] The Government announced, in its 2010 White Paper, that it would "provide funding to more than double the size of Teach First [...] by the end of this Parliament", including "extending it across the country, and into primary schools."[103] The Minister of Schools explained to us that potential dilution of Teach First's brand and quality were "always a factor that we took into account when discussing [...] expansion", but that Teach First was "confident that doubling the numbers will not do that"; however, the Minister said that that "is certainly why we are not going beyond the doubling initially".[104]

65. We agree with Ofsted that a diversity of routes into teaching is a welcome feature of the system, and note that all routes have outstanding provision within them.

66. We support the announced expansion and development of Teach First, which continues to provide a number of excellent teachers, including those who would not otherwise have considered the profession. We also agree with the cautious approach towards any further expansion, beyond the announced doubling, adopted by the Schools Minister.

The roles of universities and schools in teacher training

67. Whilst witnesses had a range of views on the merits and demerits of particular routes into teaching, there was almost unanimous consensus that school-based training was valuable, as part of any programme. James Noble-Rogers, of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, argued that "close school engagement with ITT", whoever the provider, is needed, and that that engagement brings "real benefits" to all partners, including the schools themselves.[105] We note the Institute of Education's assessment that "no other country in the world has training which is as school-based as England";[106] indeed, international comparison studies have hailed England's reputation in this regard.[107]

68. Trainee teachers explained that the partnership between schools and universities was often the recipe for successful provision, with a balance of theoretical and practical training vital for any teacher: the TDA's chief executive told us that "however we develop, the school/university partnership [...] needs to remain a key part" of the training system.[108] As Jacquie Nunn pointed out to us, some of the very best EBITT providers, like Teach First, deliver significant portions of their training through other partners, including universities.[109]

69. Witnesses were clear that both practical and theoretical training played an important part in the development of teachers, and the National Union of Teachers argued that trying to divide the two was "an absurd dichotomy".[110] Professor Peter Tymms argued that without integration of both, teachers would find themselves in a weaker position:

There is a kind of artificial divide operating between theory and practice [...] We need to get the ideas in the backpack of the teacher so that they are able to deal with very diverse populations [...] [if] you build up the backpack [...] you have a real integration between the theory and practice [...] That is to do with the strong partnerships that you have between the universities and the schools, and that is the way to go.[111]

Dr John Moss agreed, arguing that teachers needed a "foundation" which was "more than a technician's toolkit to get them through their first year or two".[112]

70. Moreover, the best systems internationally—such as Singapore and Finland, both of which the Committee has visited—have universities heavily involved in or leading the training of teachers. As one teacher union reminded us, trainees in Finland "are not only expected to become familiar with the knowledge base in education and human development, but they are required to write a research-based dissertation as the final requirement for the Masters degree."[113]

71. The Government has proposed the creation of University Training Schools, modelled on Finnish training schools, better to integrate university- and school-based training:

University Training Schools [...] will be run by some of our best providers of ITT and will deliver three core functions: teaching children, training teachers and undertaking research. Universities will be responsible for running UTSs and will operate outside the maintained sector as academies/free schools, so that a governance model can be put in place to give the university the appropriate level of control.[114]


72. Although the Government is intending to support the development of University Training Schools, it has also announced a desire to see "a significant increase in school-led teacher training" over the current Parliament.[115] The Schools Minister, however, said he did "not really have targets"[116] for the desired "significant increase"[117] in school-led training. The Children, Schools and Families Committee, in 2010, saw potential for expanding SCITT and EBITT provision (combined) to account for around 30% of training places, compared to 15% at the time of publication.[118] The 2011 Good Teacher Training Guide suggests that, already, there has been an increase to over 20% of places.[119]

73. Despite strong support for schools' involvement in ITT, we heard a number of concerns about the impact this could potentially have on the training landscape. Keele University argued that "there is little or no evidence that schools have either the appetite or the capacity to take over the responsibility for the recruitment and training of teachers to meet the national labour supply needs";[120] as one witness reminded us, those labour needs are by no means small, with "the number of training places available this year [...] about a third of the size of the British land Army."[121] Keele's rationale was supported by a number of the school leaders with whom we met. Anna Cornhill, head of an outstanding primary school, said she "certainly would not want the responsibility of taking [teacher training] on completely", but emphasised enthusiasm for providing training in partnership with universities—as her school already does.[122] Mrs Cornhill was supported by Trevor Burton, a secondary head, who was "frightened of losing the expertise that is within the universities", arguing that in his experience "the balance is fairly good at the moment".[123] Mr Burton opined that if the landscape "swung all the way to school-based training, I think a lot would be lost."[124] Martin Thompson, president of the National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers, argued that his sector was not "looking for a great change" and that there were "dangers in a lurch".[125]

74. Some witnesses raised specific concerns about a reduced role for universities in the new school-led training landscape. The TDA argued that universities provide "quality in terms of [...] subject knowledge",[126] perhaps of particular importance in undergraduate provision where trainees are unlikely to have a prior degree in their subject. As well as concerns around schools' capacity to lead training, John Moss voiced opinion that there are "economies of scale" provided by university-led provision, not least around library and electronic resources for trainees.[127] Although a number of serving teachers praised the practical nature of school-led training, several student teachers suggested that school-led training struggled to provide the sense of both camaraderie and professional networking offered by university courses, which invariably take on more trainees. They also suggested that school-led provision might, in some cases, equip candidates less well for teaching in a variety of schools, particularly if they were likely to be employed by the training provider post-qualification.

75. Such a scenario might prove more common with the creation of 'School Direct', a new system to encourage school-led teacher training. Under this scheme, schools will be able to advertise for and select a trainee, and select an accredited ITT provider "to work with to provide the training"; the school will then "be expected to employ the trainee" post-qualification.[128] In his evidence, the Schools Minister said the policy had met with such demand that nearly double as many places as envisaged will be offered initially.[129] However, the Institute for Education, in its evidence, raised concerns about the proposed system:

It is unlikely that schools will be able to predict where their staff shortages will be to facilitate such a system; the exception could be secondary schools with large departments in the core subjects, but even here the evidence would be that this is a risky assumption. Furthermore, the ITT system should be training teachers for the system as a whole, not for specific schools. However the training infrastructure is configured, trainees must continue to have access to placements in different and, ideally, contrasting schools. This enables trainees to learn from a range of practice to challenge their expectations about, for example, pupil behaviour. It also helps them to develop as versatile teachers who feel confident about teaching in different schools.[130]

76. A further innovation from the Coalition Government is the creation of Teaching Schools, outstanding schools which "will take a leading responsibility for providing and quality assuring initial teacher training in their area".[131] As part of that, they will work as part of an alliance which is expected to include university partners, and will be expected to train new teachers, lead peer-to-peer training, support other schools, and "spot and nurture leadership potential".[132] The first hundred Teaching Schools were designated in July 2011, and the first year of the programme is a "development year".[133] The creation of Teaching Schools was welcomed by school leader unions and by the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers.[134]

77. It is clear that school-based training is vital in preparing a teacher for their future career, and should continue to form a significant part of any training programme. As we suggested in our report on behaviour earlier this Parliament,[135] we welcome policies which encourage, or enable new, school-centred and employment-based providers, expansion of which should be demand-led, and which will ensure good balance between schools and universities in teacher training. Specifically, we believe that School Direct could provide a valuable opportunity for those schools which do have the capacity and appetite to offer teacher training, and support its creation. However, we recommend that, as a condition of the programme, trainees must undertake a placement in at least two schools, to ensure they are not trained specifically for one school where they will begin, but are unlikely to remain for the entirety of, their career.

78. We welcome the creation of Teaching Schools, and note that they will be expected to work with universities, which we strongly support: we believe that a diminution of universities' role in teacher training could bring considerable demerits, and would caution against it. Indeed, we have seen substantial evidence in favour of universities' continuing role in ITT, and recommend that school-centred and employment-based providers continue to work closely with universities, just as universities should make real efforts to involve schools in the design and content of their own courses. The evidence has left us 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, as in the best systems internationally and in much provision here.

School placements


79. Some teachers raised particular concerns about variation across the country regarding placements, which constitute a vital part of training in providing school-based experience, and explained that some training providers find it difficult to arrange suitable placements for trainees, including because of schools' reluctance to provide placements. As long as funding is directed towards the training provider, there is a disincentive for schools to offer placements, which involve considerable work and result in little devolved funding: our predecessor Committee noted, in 2010, that the typical daily funding passed on from providers to placement schools was significantly below that for hosting social work trainees in both statutory and voluntary sectors.[136]

80. We recommend that the Government develop preliminary proposals to provide more adequate funding to schools which provide placements to trainee teachers. We believe that a better level of funding, passed from lead providers to placement schools, might incentivise better partnership working between institutions. Ofsted should look carefully at the quality of placements when inspecting providers, including the ease with which they are arranged.


81. Our predecessor Committee noted that mentoring is "still not seen as a central requirement of all teachers, as it is, for example, for the medical profession."[137] The Children, Schools and Families Committee further noted concerns around both the quality of mentoring, and the time available to teachers to undertake or train for mentoring roles.[138] These concerns were similarly aired during our own inquiry, with particularly striking feedback from trainees on the variability in mentoring quality even within one training course. Mentors during school placements can, in the words of one, "make or break" a trainee's experience.

82. The consultation on new teacher training inspection measures has a proposal for an online questionnaire to gain trainees' views, which may provide evidence on the quality of mentoring available. The framework consultation does not, however, appear to make any express reference to the quality of mentoring during teacher training placements.[139]

83. We support the recommendation of our predecessor Committee that "those who mentor trainees on school placement should have at least three years' teaching experience and should have completed specific mentor training".[140] We further recommend that Ofsted look specifically at the quality of mentoring when inspecting providers of initial teacher training.

87   See paragraph 15 of this report for more information about each route. Back

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

89   Ibid., p. 4 Back

90   Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2010-11, p. 75 Back

91   Good Teacher Training Guide 2011, p. 5.  Back

92   Ibid., pp. 6 and 7 Back

93   Ev 292 Back

94   See Qq. 611- 612 (Steve Smith, Anna Cornhill, Trevor Burton and Richard Ludlow) Back

95   Q 611 (Steve Smith) Back

96   See Good Teacher Training Guide 2011, p. 17 Back

97   Training of Teachers, p. 24. Because trainees on the GTP, the biggest EBITT programme, receive a salary, it is particular popular with those who are changing career and by necessity need to continue earning. (See Martin Thompson, Q 77.) Back

98   Schools White Paper, p. 21 Back

99   For example, see Q 139 (Sir Peter Lampl) Back

100   For example, see Q 49 (Stephen Hillier) and Q 168 (Professor John Howson) Back

101   Ev 165 Back

102   Q 545 (Jean Humphrys) Back

103   Schools White Paper, p. 21 Back

104   Q 709 (Nick Gibb MP) Back

105   Qq. 197-198 Back

106   Ev 199 Back

107   See Barber and Mourshed 2007, p. 28 Back

108   Q 23 (Stephen Hillier) Back

109   See Q 189 Back

110   Ev 178 Back

111   Q 174 Back

112   Q 68 Back

113   Ev 178 Back

114   DfE Implementation plan, p. 13 Back

115   IdemBack

116   Q 724 (Nick Gibb MP) Back

117   DfE Implementation plan, p. 13 Back

118   See Training of Teachers, p. 25 Back

119   See Good Teacher Training Guide 2011, p. 16 Back

120   Ev 165 Back

121   Oral evidence on Ev 28 (Professor John Howson) Back

122   Q 582 Back

123   Q 580 Back

124   IdemBack

125   Q 57 Back

126   Q 55 (Stephen Hillier) Back

127   Q 73 Back

128   DfE Implementation plan, p. 12 Back

129   See Q 721 (Nick Gibb MP). The teacher training implementation plan announced 500 places in 2012-13, which the Minister explained will be over 900, with 103 schools taking part. Back

130   Ev 199 Back

131   Schools White Paper, p. 23 Back

132 Back

133   Ibid.  Back

134, where a list of the first hundred schools is also offered. Back

135   Behaviour and Discipline in Schools: First Report of the Education Committee, Session 2010-12, HC 516-I, p. 36 Back

136   See Training of Teachers, p. 30 Back

137   Training of Teachers, p. 33 Back

138   IdemBack

139   The consultation period closed on 31 January 2012, but the consultation document can be viewed at  Back

140   IdemBack

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