Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Professor Chris Robertson, Institute for Education, University of Worcester

Question 1

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?

1.1 We identify best applicants through a process of careful scrutiny of applications and a selection process.

1.2 Data collected in recent years provides some evidence for the sorts of applicants who become the most effective teachers:

the most successful applicants have some experience in schools and, therefore, a good understanding and prior knowledge of what it means to be a teacher;

applicants who apply early in the year generally have a stronger commitment and sense of vocation to completing the training year and a higher success rate than those who are late applicants;

degree classification is not necessary linked to success in becoming an effective teacher or to achievement on the course but it may be a criterion for selection where courses are “oversubscribed”. Interpersonal skills and an ability to communicate well with and motivate children is as equally important as having the academic ability, as is a real enthusiasm for the profession and the phase/subject they are training to teach;

female applicants tend to be more successful in completing the training than males in Secondary but not primary; and

Secondary applicants who have previous experience as STEM Ambassadors are also better informed/prepared for successful transition to working within teaching.

1.3 Effective recruitment strategies include:

highlighting the high quality of provision and high levels of employability at UW;

an outstanding reputation for producing excellent teachers in the region is a very powerful recruitment tool—”word of mouth” is a significant element here;

open/taster events where potential applicants can talk to and question trainees or those who are now employed as teachers;

taster courses which include school experience;

well-structured and robust application and interview process;

TDA “Train to Teach” events;

University website;

TDA national advertising in the media which both raises the profile of teaching as a career but also raises the profile of teaching as an important profession thus raising its status in society;

using current students as ambassadors to visit schools, colleges and Universities to talk about the courses;

using staff in local schools who have a high regard for the institution to give advice to prospective applicants. This is based on a reputation for high quality teacher training and education; and

for secondary shortage subjects such as maths and science and MFL, recruitment is dependent in these subjects on increasing the number of students continuing to study them Post-16 and in HE.

Question 2

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

2.1 UW offers primary undergraduate ITT, Primary and Secondary PGCE, the GTP and the new Assessment Only route. The Secondary team also delivered the Teach First programme in its initial years. There is no evidence to indicate that any one of these routes attracts higher quality trainees than another. All routes are classed as “outstanding” by OFSTED and so by definition have some of the very best trainees. It is considered that all routes into teaching are demanding, but to attract the best applicants into teaching there needs to be incentives and trainees need to be supported to undertake ITT.

2.2 It is considered that more high quality trainees select the PGCE, usually because of the advice they have received—often from teachers themselves who value this programme greatly in comparison with other routes—and reinforcing that the PGCE route is highly respected..

2.3 We consider the PGCE to be a good balance between practical and principle-based training and that the opportunity to participate in masters level study, attracts high quality trainees.

2.4 Recruitment is not primarily about the value of the training, but it is rather about the profession itself. High quality trainees will be recruited when teaching is properly valued as a profession, with appropriate status given. Any declaration that teaching is not a “profession” but a “craft”, as well as being simply inaccurate, could do great damage to quality recruitment to any and all training routes.

2.5 Current financing arrangements are manipulative and it is obvious that trainees will be attracted towards school-based models which provide a salary and away from a more balanced training which does not, rather than applicants applying for the model/route most appropriate to their needs and experience to-date.

2.6 We welcome proposals to enhance selection to improve the quality of new teachers. The proposal to raise entry qualifications to a 2.2 degree classification will generally be positively accepted, although it is also important to note that having a first class honours degree does not necessarily equate to being a good teacher.

2.7 There appears little clarity in what is being proposed for undergraduate ITT routes in the paper.

2.8 Enhancing the rigour of the entry testing in the selection process should contribute to improvements in the quality of trainees undertaking training combined with the rigorous selection processes the best institutions already undertake.

2.9 We welcome the acknowledgement that a single gateway for these two routes could provide benefits and a more coherent approach. We would however caution that the two routes do not share the same characteristics by their very nature. The inherent differences will therefore need to be clearly addressed to avoid confusion.

Question 3

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?

3.1 Ofsted clearly shows that University based routes are more effective. The ITT teams at UW have substantial experience to draw from in working with GTP and PGCE trainees and Teach First participants over many years.

3.2 The model of schools leading recruitment is flawed and it is unlikely that it would increase the number of good teachers in our school. It would lead to a narrow and localised view of what range and capacity is required within the teaching profession, basing demand on a local subjective view rather than on a national or even regional objective view. The DfE should either engage in a “free market” approach removing all controls on numbers where everyone can compete on an equal playing field or maintain its control of trainee numbers nationally.

3.3 All research evidence stresses the importance of HEIs and schools working together in a close, equal and active partnership for the very best and outstanding training to occur regardless of training route. Some school –led training has brought about a concept of grow your own teachers and an introspective view of education, “enculturing” their trainees—which is not a positive move forward if education is to be “world-class” and if teachers are to gain the appropriate experience and understanding to move on to become effective leaders. School-based training works for some but for many it provides a narrow, local context in which trainees may or may not prosper but which will not prepare them for further development or work in other schools/future leadership roles.

Question 4

How best to assess and reward good teachers and whether the Government’s draft revised standards for teachers are a helpful tool

4.1 The assessment of good, even outstanding teachers, in our experience is best achieved through a combination of school-based and university-based assessment. This assessment needs to be carried out by the school based mentor and the university tutor working together. This enables a powerful blend of practice and academic excellence to be achieved. In this way good teachers are enabled to demonstrate their abilities in a variety of different ways, thereby ensuring that they possess all the skills, knowledge and qualities required of a good teacher.

4.2 In general and in the short term, we agree that financial support for some routes may support additional recruitment particularly to the secondary shortage subjects which is to be welcomed. However, there may be some inherent issues which need further consideration. For example:

(1)An applicant with a first class honours degree in Chemistry or Maths who wishes to teach in the primary phase would be treated as “other” (p9). However, the impact this person might have on primary children’s understanding of science might be significant and no less than at Secondary level. Does the proposal focus too much on Secondary provision?

(2)International students will not have the anticipated degree classification. Although we understand NARIC is exploring how this might be managed, it will be essential that UK students/applicants do not perceive discrimination against themselves if the adopted system is one of “discretion” by providers, including schools, for international students but one of rigid compliance for home students.

(3)Secondary biologists fall in to band three and should, we believe be located in at least medium priority specialisms. This is based on the fact the many biologists do have to be up-skilled during their training to ensure they can also teach Chemistry or Physics as required of scientists in most schools. We recruit Biologists with this in mind and look for a Secondary science specialism.

4.3 Potentially the Standards will be a helpful tool in the assessment of trainees and teachers. The fact that the standards are now shorter than those used up to 2011 will be welcomed by most members of the teaching profession. However there are some issues with the standards for QTS. For example, the standards would work well as a basis for performance management but are not so user-friendly for assessing trainees for QTS. This is because some of the Standards would be very hard to measure/assess, especially those written as negatives such as “not expressing personal beliefs”. It would also be difficult to assess “foster a love of learning …” Also, there does not seem to be the important progression that we all strive for, given that the same Standards will also be used to assess trainees at the end of the NQT year. Similarly a lot of the ideas do not relate to the beginning teacher—they are about the progress of children not of trainees. Whilst the progress of children is extremely important the Standards make it quite difficult to measure trainee progress.

4.4 Furthermore, teaching is more complex than a competence-based model of Standards can provide and the draft revised Standards overall are no more helpful nor substantially different from the current ones. Performance descriptors more like the Ofsted characteristics for trainee teachers may be a more transparent and less subjective way of assessing teachers, although the gap between “core” and “expert” appears too great. There needs to be more rigorous and coherent support mechanisms for NQTs and early career teachers with assessment of progress and identification of needs. Also, there needs to be a greater choice of and support for different forms of CPD from which teachers can choose, but which should be sustained and in-depth, such as that provided at Masters level. Current assessment through performance management is thorough but not helped by changes in priority.

4.5 The best way of rewarding good teachers is through the respect afforded to the teaching professional by the government, DfE and society. However, practical ways of rewarding good teachers might be through a sabbatical scheme where leave is offered for teachers to undertake further study, an exchange or a period in industry to provide an opportunity to recharge and refresh. Also, enhancing the status, attractiveness and pay for teachers, whilst reducing the high levels of workload, will be helpful, as much evidence shows. Retention is a problem—staged rewards, rather than up-front “golden hellos” might be more effective. Middle Management (eg Head of core subjects in Secondary schools) is a key role, but brings with it a great amount of accountability—this is where funding should go, to give subject teachers who wish to remain teaching a reason for doing so.

Question 5

What contribution professional development makes to the retention of good teachers

5.1 Evidence for the impact of professional development on teacher retention indicates that professional development alone does not ensure good retention, but that good professional development is one of the important factors which can contribute to good retention. There are several key points here:

professional development needs to be high quality and to be perceived by the teachers as such;

professional development also needs to be seen as of value in teachers’ career development and in their work in the classroom;

accredited professional level at postgraduate level has more value than other forms as it is academically challenging and professionally relevant, is transportable and progressive in its intellectual challenge;

the role of the head teacher is crucial in encouraging and developing a culture of professional development in a school and encourages more staff to consider the value of professional development; and

it is important for schools to stress the value that professional development can bring to an individual teacher and to a school.

5.2 At its best professional development can contribute to retention by providing teachers with a wealth of opportunities. For example it provides opportunities for:

updating subject knowledge;

investigating an area of interest in education;

acquiring additional qualifications;

updating of new developments;

researching aspects of current practice;

opportunities to work with colleagues in a different way and with different colleagues; and

gaining a wider perspective than that of a single school or of a single individual.

5.3 Overall, evidence shows that workload issues, morale and job satisfaction are considered to be more significant influences on retention. However, engaging in high quality, sustained CPD is essential to ensure we have teachers who are motivated and lifelong learners themselves, which in turn brings benefits to our pupils. The focus should be centred around how we can make teaching a more attractive profession rather than how we can retain them at the moment in what is currently considered to be a fairly unattractive profession—yet one which is vital to the success of our country, social cohesion, well-being, etc. Feedback from teachers who have engaged in masters level CPD is very positive. Although retention is not mentioned per se, it is clear that all the benefits teachers highlight from masters level professional development should be key to their sense of commitment to the profession and lead to other positive aspects, such as retention and improved standards in schools, for example.

Question 6

How to ensure that good teachers are retained where they are most needed, particularly in schools in challenging circumstances.

6.1 It is extremely important to retain good teachers in the profession, particularly in schools in challenging circumstances. However, mobility should also be encouraged, as it is counter-productive to retain teachers in the same school. Teachers and leaders later in their career become even better by varied experiences, so discouraging internal promotion—especially at senior levels—would be helpful, so that teachers do move on and gain greater experience—rather than becoming “encultured” and potentially “stagnant”. Differential pay arrangements based on school profiles would be advantageous to attract the best school teachers/leaders, especially in inner-city Secondary schools, although good teachers are obviously needed in all schools. Programmes targeted at recruitment and retention of teachers should not focus on particular categories of school/geographical areas, as this becomes “insular” rather than “outward-facing”. Rather, schools in challenging circumstances should receive support for all aspects of their operations to enable them to improve, thus attracting good teachers. Such support should facilitate reduced timetables and an acknowledgement that the job is more difficult in schools in challenging circumstances. All children should also be taught by qualified teachers, rather than associate staff, as is becoming an increasing trend in Secondary schools in challenging circumstances. Allowing more planning time and time for liaison with home and outside agencies could also be built into the work of these schools. Ways to elevate the status of teachers working in these schools also needs to be found. These schools can be some of the most rewarding to work in but the teachers working in these schools can become demoralised due to accountability measures which disadvantage them, such as performance in league tables. Allowing very good teachers from such schools to be the axis for teacher training as well as those from more successful schools is key—current criteria for Teaching Schools do not allow this and the Government is missing out on some excellent training grounds as a result.

6.2 Furthermore it needs to be acknowledged that NQTs and early career teachers will need additional mentoring and support to meet the challenges and develop their practice. Universities could support with this early professional development and support teachers to make a successful transition into the profession. Also, sabbaticals and career breaks may be attractive to some teachers to retain them in the longer-term. Finally, a more collective model of leadership might work—schools are highly dependent on the Head being “good”. As indicated above retention is a complex issue and one which merits additional research. Currently research has focussed on the relationship between retention and pre-service motivation and the importance of positive pre-service experiences in leading to better retention. Similarly there are important differences between men and women, working in the early stages of their teaching career, in terms of the ways in which they respond to challenges and adversity in the classroom, such as disruptive and disengaged students. This research indicates that women and men employ different strategies when faced with these challenges. For example, women often go to greater lengths and employ emotion tactics to re-engage students. This research highlights the importance of greater emphasis on preparing trainees for an understanding of the role of emotion in teaching.

Other key aspects of retention, particularly in challenging schools are:

opportunities for staff development;

opportunities for promotion;

opportunities for additional responsibilities;

strong support mechanisms for new teachers from more experienced colleagues;

strong mentor support for new teachers;

strong whole school leadership;

balanced workload—Kyriacou and Kunc (2007) pointed out the most common negative factor cited in a sample of 28 students was workload and the most positive factor was pleasure of student success; and

the need to retain the importance of theory in the early years as a new teacher.

November 2011

Prepared 30th April 2012