Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET)


1. The Select Committee inquiry into attracting, training and retraining the best teachers is welcome and timely. As well as leading mainstream HEI-school partnerships, universities are closely involved with most school-based (SCITT) consortia, and with employment-based routes into teaching such as the Graduate Training Programme and Teach First.

2. Key facts include:

OFSTED evidence and NQT survey results demonstrate the high quality of existing ITT provision.

The distinction between university-based “theoretical” and school-based “practical” training is false. Trainees on HEI-led PGCE and undergraduate programmes receive up to two thirds of their training in the context of their school placement. Trainees on school-led programmes are entitled to centre-based training in addition to school-based experience. HEI tutors and teacher mentors collaborate and contribute to high quality provision across all routes.

New teachers should have an entitlement to structured early professional development that builds on and complements their initial training. Progress should, over time, be made towards teaching becoming a master’s qualified profession.

Government should retain responsibility for ensuring a continued supply of qualified teachers and for regulating teacher education.

The teaching standards should take account of the interpersonal skills that teachers need and be flexible enough to allow teachers to exercise professional autonomy.

Teaching schools could prove extremely helpful in involving schools more closely in teacher education and CPD.

New entry requirements for teacher training should be flexible enough to ensure that those with alternative evidence of high achievement and potential are not excluded from the profession.

Processes for assessing the interpersonal skills of prospective teachers should be tailored to meet the needs of the profession.

Employability data used to inform teacher training allocations should take account of: the number of NQTs entering the profession some time after training; the trade-off between entry qualifications, course quality and employability across different routes; and the likelihood that current employability rates for employment-based routes might not be sustained under any significant level of expansion.


3. Some 230 ITT providers currently provide initial teacher education for about 38,0001 new student teachers each year. Four-fifths2 of new teachers are trained in mainstream university-school partnerships, while the remainder are trained through either school-based (SCITT) consortia or employment-based routes (GTP, Teach First, the Overseas Teacher Training Programme and the Registered Training Programme). The PGCE route3 supplies the vast majority of teachers for secondary schools and about 60% of those for primary schools. The remaining primary school teachers are trained through 3- or 4-year undergraduate programmes. Undergraduate programmes recruit well, achieve the same quality ratings as PGCEs, are cost effective,4 popular with schools5 and allow more time to be spent in school and on key areas such as SEN, behaviour and early reading.

4. The distinction between university, school-led and employment-based routes is misleading. Schools are closely involved in traditional university-led programmes, while universities are involved (often as managing bodies) in SCITTs and GTP and are partners in Teach First programmes. There is one teacher training sector encompassing a number of overlapping forms that meet the needs of particular localities, schools and prospective teachers. All routes are subject to robust quality assurance processes and to OFSTED inspection.

5. All objective quality indicators suggest that the quality of ITT is good. The November 2010 report from HMCI6 found that:

94% of HEI led ITE programmes are good or better;

47% are outstanding, compared to just 26% of school-based routes;

that partnerships that exist between universities and schools are strong; and

employment-based routes that have links with universities provide better training than those which do not.

6. Newly qualified teachers themselves also express positive views. Each year, the TDA conducts a survey of NQTs. This is undertaken after they have been in a teaching post for six months. It attracts 14,000 responses. The 2011 survey7 found that 87% reported their training as being either “good” or “very good”, a 3% increase over the previous year.

7. Some issues do however need to be addressed. PGCE programmes only last for nine-months and, however good they are, only so much can be achieved in the time available. The early professional development that new teachers receive varies and depends on the policies and practices of the schools and local authorities they work in. There is no entitlement to structured early professional development that builds on and complements a teacher’s initial training. This should be addressed. Such training could be provided through master’s level programmes designed and delivered in partnership between schools and universities, and built around the needs of the schools and teachers concerned. Evidence demonstrates that such programmes have a demonstrable impact on teachers’ classroom performance and aid retention.8 The programmes can also build on the 60 master’s-level credits that most teachers qualifying through the postgraduate route receive as part of their qualification. The achievement of a relevant master’s degree might lead to the award of “Chartered Teacher” status. To maintain that status teachers might be expected to demonstrate a commitment to their own professional development and to that of their colleagues.

8. There is, secondly, more work to be done on engaging schools in ITT and CPD. ITT providers can sometimes find it difficult to find suitable placements for their students. Some schools are unable, for good reason, to participate in teacher education. The government’s teaching school initiative,9 which we support, should help schools engage more. Teaching schools will work in partnership with universities and other accredited providers. They will have an active role in the management, design and delivery of teacher education and in the recruitment and assessment of trainees. They will have to demonstrate a commitment to giving serving teachers the opportunity to undertake robust and relevant continuing professional development. This is what often happens in the best partnerships already, and using teaching school clusters to extend that practice is a welcome development.

Recruitment to Teacher Training (Select Committee Questions 1 and 2)

9. Schools rely overwhelmingly on HEI-school partnerships for the supply of NQTs. When recruiting students, ITT providers take account of a range of factors including: academic qualifications; interpersonal and communication skills; relevant prior experience; commitment; and character. All applicants are subject to interviews which involve schools. All entrants have to meet the Secretary of State’s minimum entry requirements.

10. The Government has proposed a number of changes to selection procedures. No public funding will be available to PGCE students with lower than a 2:2 degree. At present, 62% have degrees at 2:1 and above10 and some 90% at 2:2 or higher.11 Those entering through HEI routes tend to be better qualified than those on employment-based programmes.12 We agree that, on average, the better qualified the teaching profession is the more effective it will be. The increase in status resulting from a highly qualified teaching force should also help with future recruitment. But some flexibility should be allowed. There will be some candidates without a 2:2 (eg more mature candidates, those with overseas degrees, those completing subject knowledge enhancement courses and those with higher degrees) who should not be barred entry into the profession. The importance of attracting teachers from a diverse range of backgrounds, and of widening participation, should also not be overlooked.

11. The Government has rightly acknowledged the importance of interpersonal skills as well as academic qualifications, and we are pleased that it recognises that a one-size-fits-all approach to assessing such skills would not be appropriate. Pilots of interpersonal skills tests have been conducted and we suggest that the Committee investigate the findings of these pilots. The Teach First model has also been extremely effective in recruiting highly qualified and talented people who also have strong interpersonal skills.13 UCET will support its members, and the broader ITE sector, in developing assessment methods. Although off-the shelf commercial models for assessing interpersonal skills are available, these tend to be designed to fit individuals to particular posts rather than to indentify suitability for pre-service training. They might not always take account of the fact that pre-service training is in part designed to bring out and develop the personal qualities required by a particular profession, qualities that might not be apparent prior to training. Any models developed for the teaching profession will therefore have to be tailored and fit for purpose.

12. The proposed pre-entry tests in respect of literacy and numeracy are welcome in principle. It makes sense for these to be taken before training so that resources are not wasted on people who then go on to fail tests. The logistical and cost implications will however have to be carefully considered. Whether the tests are to be taken before or after ITT places are offered is a particularly important issue.

13. The proposed bursaries for PGCE students are welcome. If bursaries were not available, many prospective teachers would be either unwilling or unable to pay the higher fees that will now apply. The indicative range of bursaries suggested by the Government14 range from £4,000 for a primary PGCE student with a 2:2 degree to £20,000 for a priority subject trainee with a first. We agree that the level of bursaries should reflect relative levels of demand for teachers in particular subjects, and differentiating rates by degree class could help attract high calibre candidates. But care should be taken to make sure that bursaries below fee levels do not inadvertently lead to supply difficulties in subjects and phases that have not so far experienced them. Careful modelling will be required. Consideration should also be given to holding some of the higher bursaries back until the students concerned have either entered the teaching profession or completed one year’s service. This would reduce wastage and aid retention.

Content & Organisation of Training (Select Committee Question 3)

14. The Government has said that it expects schools to take responsibility for managing the ITT system away from government over the next five to 10 years.15 We take this to mean that, instead of government identifying national teacher supply needs and allocating training places and regulating the system, responsibility for these functions might instead be passed to schools.16 We do not think that government should abrogate its responsibility for ensuring that national teacher supply needs are met and that the quality of provision is maintained. Devolving full responsibility, funding and accountability to schools could: destabilise existing provision; undermine quality; result in duplication and the loss of economies of scale; create local supply problems; threaten the supply of teachers to schools in more challenging circumstances; and place a burden on those schools that are involved. There is no evidence that schools have the appetite to assume responsibility for recruiting and training some 38,000 new teachers each year. Indeed, the rapid turnover in the number of SCITT providers suggests that they do not.17 And HEIs would often be reluctant to accept trainees they have had no role in recruiting. Improvements in teacher education have been achieved through the development of a rigorous system of accountability over the last 20 years. The sector has demonstrated the capacity to adapt, and significant progress has been made in areas such as subject teaching, SEN, behaviour and systematic synthetic phonics. HEI-led provision will not be sustainable if it is expected to rely on a fluctuating pattern of demand from local schools for fragmented packages of support. There is a significant risk attached to destabilising the system.

15. Universities are well placed to recruit to PGCE programmes from a large and talented pool of undergraduates. Any marginalisation of the university role will make it more difficult to reach and nurture these potential teachers, and the loss of status resulting from any marginalisation of the university role could dissuade others from applying at all.

16. OFSTED evidence suggests that, on average, the training provided by mainstream HEI-school partnerships is better than that provided through other routes, and that those employment-based routes that have links with HEIs provide better training than those which do not. But many EBITT and SCITT routes are of good quality. As we suggest above, the distinctions between the different routes are becoming increasingly blurred. We have, in effect, one teacher education sector with a number of variants that meet the needs of particular localities, schools and trainees. Each route (or sub-sector) has its own strengths.

Standards for teachers (Select Committee Question 4)

17. The Government’s new draft teaching standards will be used to inform the content of ITT programmes and as a performance management tool by schools. ITT providers are confident that their programmes are designed so that trainees can not only meet the new standards but demonstrate strengths that go beyond them. The standards should be structured to help teachers to develop and grow as professionals and be flexible enough to allow them to exercise professional autonomy.

Rewards and Retention (Select Committee Questions 5 & 6)

18. Data on progression into teaching and retention is notoriously difficult to capture. We welcome the work carried out by the TDA in matching entrants with GTCE data on progression to assist with the understanding of the outcomes of different training routes. Reliance on outcomes after one term can skew perceptions as many NQTs find work after a period of searching or taking time-out before seeking a permanent position. Although some data show that employment-based routes into teaching are 16 points ahead of HEI providers in terms of employment one year after training, this narrows to 2.418 after four years because of the number of (on average younger) HEI qualified NQTs that take “time-out”. The significant difference in the number of teachers qualifying through HEI and other routes (79% versus 21%) also mean that direct comparisons in terms of employability are potentially misleading. Any large scale expansion of employment-based routes would inevitably mean recruiting trainees who would otherwise have gone to a university and would share characteristics (in terms of age, outlook, medium and long term aspirations etc) of those currently training through university-led routes. Employability rates might therefore fall back to average levels as the employment-based sector’s share of the total market increased. All those providers securing 95% employment rates represent small-scale and, to some extent, niche provision. Many qualified teachers also go into other parts of the education profession, while some 4.9% (quite appropriately) choose to work in the independent sector.

19. The retention of good teachers is going to be increasingly important as the country moves out of recession. Enhancing the status and kudos of teaching will help. Providing teachers with support and professional development, particularly in the early stages of their career (as in Finland), will also prevent wastage. To this end, we have been calling for teachers to have an entitlement to structured early professional development that is tailored to their needs and those of their employers and which builds on and complements their initial training. Such training might be provided at master’s level and represent progress towards teaching becoming a master’s qualified profession.

20. The postgraduate professional development programme supported master’s programmes for some 25,000 serving teachers at a cost of some £25 million a year.19 PPD programmes are designed and delivered in partnership between universities, schools, subject associations and others and, as a condition of funding, had impact on pupil progress at their core. The PPD programme has been subject to regular evaluations during its 10 year history.20 It has repeatedly been found to have a positive impact in respect of classroom skills, confidence, subject & pedagogic knowledge and on retention. For example:

“... there were many good examples of the impact of PPD on NQTs in helping them prepare for a career in teaching and particularly in helping them to reach the NQT standards and encourage continued reflective practice. Increasingly, schools have recognised the value of early postgraduate study in developing NQTs’ confidence, knowledge and insights in carrying out their professional duties”.

“There was also some evidence to indicate that the availability of M-Level study in schools has aided both recruitment and retention, with examples of better fields of applicants for vacancies and teachers remaining in a school because of vibrant professional learning communities”.

21. Giving more teachers the opportunity to study on school-focussed master’s programmes would, we think, be a good way to reward and retain highly performing staff. It would help to raise the status of teaching and so help with recruitment. On achieving relevant master’s qualification, teachers might be awarded Chartered Teacher Status, the maintenance of which would depend on their continuing to demonstrate a commitment to their own professional development and that of their colleagues. Although public funding is, other than for the small scale National Scholarship Scheme, coming to an end we do think that it should be possible to stimulate demand for master’s level training through the new teaching school clusters and by demonstrating to schools the impact that it can have on classroom performance and retention.

22. Other, non-financial ways of rewarding good teachers that have been effective include: helping teachers keep up with developments in their subject areas by facilitating links with HEIs, subject associations etc; and allowing flexible employment patterns (eg combining teaching with research, shared appointments between universities and schools and joint professorships).

23. The recruitment and retention of teachers for schools facing challenging circumstances can be difficult. These difficulties can be addressed through HEIs working in partnership with such schools on ITT and CPD, and by HEIs placing student teachers in challenging schools (some student teachers value this experience so much that they choose to remain in such schools after qualifying). Teach First has also been effective in placing talented teachers in challenging schools, and data from the Teach First 20011 OFSTED report suggests that the retention of these teachers is improving. These, and other, examples of existing best practice should be investigated and the lessons learnt promoted across the school sector.

November 2011

1 Intakes to ITE programmes (38,429 according to the Good Teacher Training Guide). The actual number of student teachers will be higher because of those on three and four year undergraduate programmes.

2 Good Teacher Training Guide, 2011

3 Offered through all university led programmes, most SCITTs, all Teach First and many GTP routes.

4 Undergraduate trainees will not, unlike those of PGCEs, attract bursaries

5 A 2009 TDA publication—“Research Bite-size”—reported that 70% of primary school leadership teams preferred teachers trained through the undergraduate route.

6 OFSTED 2010

7 TDA, 2011

8 TDA PPD longitudinal study. Peter Seaborne, 2009

9 Training our next generation of outstanding teachers: DFE 2011

10 TDA data, quoted in TES 2 September 2011

11 “Entrants to university courses, on average, are better qualified than those training in SCITTs and EBITTs”: Good Teacher Training Guide 2011

12 Good Teacher Training Guide 2011

13 Teach First OFSTED report, 2011

14 “Training our next generation of outstanding teachers

15 We do not have any objection to the government’s proposed 500 place “schools-direct” policy, under which a small number of places will be available for schools to recruit trainee teachers and then commission accredited ITT providers to train them, provided that: accredited providers are involved in the selection of the trainees; that the places involved do not represent more than a small proportion of the total available; and that places are in addition to mainstream allocations.

16 The high turnover of SCITTS “suggests that many schools are not willing to take on the training responsibilities”: Good Teacher Training Guide 2011

17 Good Teacher Training Guide 2011

18 Good Teacher training Guide 2011

19 Until money for new entrants ended earlier this year.

20 Summarised in a 2008 report for TDA from Peter Seaborne.

Prepared 30th April 2012