Annex 3: Note of the Committee's visit
to Rugby, 12 January 2012|
This note offers a brief record of a visit to Rugby
School by two members of the Education Committee, as part of its
inquiry into teacher recruitment, training and retention.
Members in attendance: Graham Stuart MP (Chair),
Craig Whittaker MP
The objective of the visit was to gather further
evidence for the inquiry from teachers and pupils at one of England's
highest-performing independent schools, including those who have
joined the school through the auspices of the Arnold Foundation.
The Foundation offers fully-funded places at the school to young
people who might gain from the experience but could not otherwise
afford the fees. Rugby works with charities and maintained schools
to identify students who might benefit, and aims for 10% of students
to receive bursaries within the next ten years.
The visit was hosted by headteacher Patrick Derham
alongside students from different boarding houses, where Members
were entertained to lunch. Mr Derham provided Members with an
overview of the school's history and ethos, including details
of the Arnold Foundation.
DISCUSSION WITH STUDENTS
Mr Stuart and Mr Whittaker met students aged 15 to
18 to discuss key themes relating to the Committee's teacher training
and supply inquiry. Pupils agreed on a number of critical factors
in determining a good teacher, which included:
- an ability to relate to young people;
- an understanding of the systems and environment
in which teaching takes place;
- an ability to 'get the subject across';
- strong subject knowledge; and
- availability to students, particularly in the
context of a boarding school.
Students felt that small-group teaching, where possible,
had an impact on attainment in the subject, and that teachers
could have a tangible impact on subject choices, dependant both
on their teaching style and their subject knowledge.
DISCUSSION WITH TEACHERS
Committee members also met a group of Rugby teachers
who had joined the profession from a variety of routes: three
had studied for PGCEs in a variety of institutions, whilst another
was an NQT from the GTP pathway; two had joined the profession
after significant careers elsewhere. The teachers listed very
similar qualities to their students when asked to define 'outstanding
teaching', including a real rapport with young people, enthusiasm
for and knowledge of one's subject, and a wide set of interpersonal
skills. Teachers added that the best in the profession were determined
to be learners themselves.
Rugby teachers who met the Committee, whilst agreeing
on the importance of subject knowledge, argued that degree class
was a poor predictor of ability in the classroom, and that parents
were generally more concerned about the university a teacher had
attended than the class of degree achieved. Some also felt that
the depth of subject knowledge required depended on the phase
being taught, and the type of school.
Teachers agreed with others met by the Committee
that placements, as part of a teacher training programme, were
not only important but had the ability to 'make or break' the
training experience, and that they were of variable quality. Whilst
practical training was seen as vital, university involvement in
provision was deemed a good thing, with multiple benefits similar
to those raised by other witnesses.