Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Universities UK-GuildHE


1. The United Kingdom faces unprecedented economic and social challenges and the contribution that teachers make to basic education, skills development and life chances is among the key contributing factors to successfully overcoming these challenges. The Government, politicians, experts, business leaders, taxpayers and parents all have a right to be concerned about the quality of teachers and the quality of teaching. Higher education institutions are passionately committed to playing their role in continuing to train and develop high quality teachers.

2. Higher education institutions have an essential role to play in the development of excellent teachers. They:

have demonstrated a strong track record of delivering initial teacher training (ITT) to a high standard;

have long standing, strong and supportive partnerships with schools, where all trainee teachers spend the majority of their time;

provide a wide range of services and resources to support the development of teachers and schools, helping to drive forward school improvement;

effectively and efficiently deliver the majority of teacher education provision and have been very flexible and responsive to developments in ITT provision;

provide the in-depth knowledge and understanding of subjects that are vital to effective teaching;

engage in practice-based research which drives the improvement of skills and practice;

play a major role in developing teaching as a key profession and enhancing the standing of teachers;

provide ongoing development that draws upon the high quality provision of ITT courses, the practice-focused research and the ongoing development of the subject to enable teachers to continually improve; and

manage and provide an efficient and effective recruitment process.

3. Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE are delighted to contribute to the Select Committee inquiry into teacher training. UUK and GuildHE collaborate extensively in the area of teacher training through the Teacher Education Advisory Group (TEAG) which is chaired by Professor Sir Robert Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, and brings together vice-chancellors and principals to lead on issues of teacher education on behalf of the higher education sector. This response has been prepared by the Group.

The Contribution of Higher Education


4. The higher education sector is firmly committed to the delivery of high quality teacher training, as evidenced in the 2009–10 annual Ofsted report which indicated, that “there was more outstanding initial teacher training (ITT) delivered by higher education-led partnerships than by any other route”. Forty-seven% of total higher education-led provision was rated as “outstanding” in comparison to 26% rated “outstanding” in employment-based routes and 23% school-centred initial teacher training.1 The report also noted that, “there are many strong partnerships between universities, schools and colleges which are characterised by higher expectations of trainees” achievement and good communication”. 2

5. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) themselves also express positive views. Each year, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) conducts a survey of NQTs. This is undertaken after NQTs have been in a teaching post for six months. In 2011 the survey attracted around 13,000 responses. The 2011 survey found that 88% reported their training on higher education institution routes as being either “good” or “very good”, a 3% increase from the previous year.3

School partnerships

6. The current categorisation of teacher training routes into higher education institution, school or employment-based routes is an increasingly redundant one. For example, in line with the secretary of state’s requirements, two-thirds of a trainee’s time on a PGCE course is spent in a school.4 In our view effective ITT comes from the partnership of the academic excellence, subject knowledge and development of professional competence that institutions provide, combined with the invaluable practical experience and engagement schools can provide. Partnership is about shared leadership of teacher training programmes where, for example, trainees are recruited and trained jointly by the institution and the school and there are jointly appointed staff as well as secondments between the partners.

Services and resources

7. Institutions provide a valuable resource centre for the training and development of teachers. The resources and expertise of institutions help develop flexible trainees who are able to apply different skills to different school needs; they encourage the development of an interest in and commitment to the profession of teaching and a keenness to continually learn and develop throughout their careers.

8. Institutions also work with schools to help them prepare for Ofsted visits and provide support for enhancement activities afterwards.

Delivery and flexibility

9. Four-fifths of new teachers are trained in mainstream university-school partnerships.5 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) and all of these routes feature the active involvement of the higher education sector.

Subject knowledge

10. Institutions provide both in-depth knowledge and long-standing experience of teaching effectiveness, and access to comprehensive and up-to-date subject knowledge.

11. They also provide subject enhancement courses in priority subjects.

Practice-based research

12. As well as contributing to formal ITT programmes, institutions also conduct considerable practice-based research which enhances the development of pedagogical skills and promotes a deeper understanding of how to be an effective teacher.

Developing the profession

13. As with other professions the crucial link with higher education supports both the status and the ongoing development of teaching as a key profession.

14. The dedication and professionalism of higher education tutors plays a key role in developing the profession and enhancing teacher training. The research-informed, evidenced-based practice of higher education tutors enriches the learning of trainees, and begins to establish in them habits of thinking about the development and review of practice which provide a foundation for improving and sustaining high quality teaching throughout a career.

Ongoing development

15. Reports to the TDA reveal growing confidence among providers in testifying to the multitude of ways in which children and young people benefit directly and indirectly form their teachers’ involvement in Masters-level study.6 Giving teachers the opportunity to study on a school-focused Masters programme would be a very good way to reward and retain highly performing staff and would lead to school improvement.


16. Institutions carefully and effectively manage over half a million applications for all of the subjects that they teach. It is a very effective use of public funds use the experience and infrastructure that institutions have to manage the recruitment process for teacher training, in close partnership with schools.


Where should the focus lie when recruiting?

17. An effective recruitment process combines diversity and flexibility with the maintenance of high standards. It must be rigorous, and be based on a partnership between higher education and schools that takes into account qualifications, skills, attitude and potential. Higher education institutions already work closely with schools to identify candidates who are most likely to succeed as teachers. There are many joint appointments between higher education institutions and schools and this should become standard practice (similar to clinical teaching). The care and effectiveness demonstrated in the recruitment process helps to provide a foundation for the future retention of trained teachers.

18. The recruitment process needs to recognise the need for high quality candidates (using a variety of measures), ensure certain skill levels are met and identify individual characteristics that are likely to lead to the development of a successful teacher. Given the wide diversity of schools and the challenges that they face the recruitment process needs to ensure that there are a wide range of flexible, committed and professional teachers being trained.

19. Higher education institutions are committed to maintaining and increasing the standards of teacher training, including entry requirements. For example, the proportion of those with at least a 2:2 degree is already very high:

91% (15,077) of secondary school trainee teachers with a UK degree have 2:2 or better degree—up five percentage points since 1998–99.

95% (9,441) of primary school trainee teachers with a UK degree have a 2:2 or better degree—a three percentage point rise since 1998–99.7

20. Academic qualifications, including the degree result, are an important factor in wider recruitment policies that seek to draw in as many high quality candidates as possible. However, some degree of flexibility will need to be retained so that higher education institutions and schools can consider exceptional candidates with potential to be excellent teachers—for example mature entrants and career changers, including those from the armed forces, with valuable life and work experiences or professional qualifications.

21. Many other countries classify their degrees in different ways to the UK. Government proposals need to take careful account of this in order to avoid a negative impact on the recruitment of teachers, particularly, for example, in areas such as modern foreign languages.

22. In principle, TEAG welcomes the Government’s proposed pre-entry tests for literacy and numeracy. It is logical for candidates to sit the tests prior to training so that resources are not wasted on unsuccessful candidates. The logistical and cost implications will have to be carefully considered. This includes, for example, consideration of whether tests are to be taken before or after ITT places are offered.


Are particular routes more likely to attract high quality trainees?

23. In order to secure the greatest possible range of high quality candidates with a wide range of experiences and talents we need to draw from as many different recruitment sources as possible. This also ensures the maximum possible benefit to the profession and schools, with their diverse circumstances and needs. It allows high quality candidates to choose the route which best suits their professional development needs, circumstances and ambitions. The most important factor, for delivering high quality teacher training through any route and ensuring standards of entry are maintained, is the effective partnership between institutions and schools.

24. Effective recruitment practices also require the provision of clear and comprehensive information to trainees and some degree of stability and certainty in terms of the availability of places and funding. All candidates are likely to be dissuaded from applying to the profession and taking up their training places if there is uncertainty about who the higher education provider will be and what school or schools they will be placed in, as well as delays or uncertainty about what bursaries they might receive and whether there is funding for the places they are applying for.

The Government’s Proposals

25. TEAG firmly supports the Government’s commitment to high quality provision outlined in the ITT strategy. However, as stated above, institutions are keen to ensure that some flexibility remains concerning entry into undergraduate programmes. It is therefore vitally important, in order to ensure that the best potential teachers enter the profession, that both A-level scores and their equivalents are used, making full use of the UCAS tariff. We reiterate that the recruitment process must consider a wide range of holistic skills, in partnership with schools.

26. We support any measures to boost recruitment of good candidates to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, and believe that the Government should consider extending these measures to cover other subjects and regions where there might be shortages.

27. We are concerned about the risk of financial support not reaching students with the greatest need, and the disincentive this would have in terms of widening participation.

28. TEAG believes that the distribution of bursaries needs careful consideration. The proposal for distributing large amounts, in some cases £20,000 for a priority subject to a candidate with a first-class degree, could be a blunt policy instrument. Care must be taken to ensure that it is clear what such bursaries are rewarding, what behaviour they might encourage and what future benefits and commitments are secured. The proposed approach to bursaries could lead to unfortunate impacts such as a psychology student with a first getting a higher bursary on a maths PGCE course than a mathematics student with an upper second. The differences in bursary levels could lead to significantly reduced applications to the lower bursary routes, such as the primary PGCE in the current model.

29. There is also an absence of emphasis on or reward for either successfully completing training or entering and remaining in the teaching profession—these aspects should be included in a successful incentives model. Consideration should be given to bursaries being distributed in a phased approach in consultation with schools. This could reduce wastage, aid retention and act as an incentive to trainee teachers.

Type of Training Producing the most Effective Teachers

30. There are strong partnerships between higher education and schools in the delivery of all ITT and the amount of time spent by trainees in schools means that, in effect, all routes are employment-based routes.

31. The effectiveness of teachers is not solely determined by the type of training that they go through. Attention should be paid to the effectiveness of teachers throughout their career. It would be short-sighted and detrimental to the quality of teaching if the view was taken that the training and development of teachers ended with the qualifications they receive. Continuing professional development (CPD) is essential to the development of the most effective teachers. Newly qualified teachers need ongoing access to opportunities and support and need to be encouraged to see their own development as a natural part of being an effective teacher.

32. TEAG calls for newly qualified teachers to have structured early professional development that is tailored to their needs and the needs of schools, and which builds on and complements their ITT. Newly qualified teachers should aspire to continue to develop their skills, increase the quality of their teaching and their contribution to school effectiveness, and consider taking on leadership roles. Flexible Masters qualifications (and courses and modules which contribute to a Masters qualification), combining academic rigour with a focus on effective practice, provide the ideal vehicle to enable newly qualified teachers to develop their skills and knowledge. They would also provide an ongoing level of aspiration and challenge, contributing to increased professional recognition for teachers and raising the status of the profession overall. Higher education institutions work closely with schools to ensure that ongoing development is a priority and that Masters qualifications meet the needs of schools and newly qualified teachers.

School-led Training

33. Effective partnerships involve both partners playing to their strengths, so there will be aspects of ITT programmes that both partners have particular responsibility for leading.

34. We have already stated that joint appointment of trainees by higher education institutions and schools should be standard practice. Higher education institutions bring many benefits to their involvement in recruitment:

They have long-standing experience of effectively operating large-scale and complicated admissions processes.

They have a breadth of experience in recruiting trainees to professions that seek to combine academic and professional or practical requirements (such as health and engineering).

It is a very efficient use of resources to have higher education institutions managing recruitment given their experience, expertise and understanding.

Making higher education institutions the focus of the recruitment effort enables them to be a clear point of information to students, to coordinate the recruitment process across a range of schools, and to minimise the burdens of the process on school time and budgets.

36. However, the Government’s proposal that it expects to pass on responsibility for managing the ITT system to schools over the next five to 10 years needs to be clarified and met with caution. If the responsibility for handling over 67,000 graduate applications and recruiting over 26,0008 new teachers was spread across 23,000 schools rather than circa 75 higher education institutions we see potential for increased confusion for applicants, significantly increased costs to schools and duplication of effort across schools. And all this at a time when school budgets need more than ever to be focused on delivery rather than administration.

Professional Development

36. TEAG believes that effective CPD is essential to the retention of effective teachers, encouraging them to develop their skills and to aspire to leadership roles in schools.9 We therefore argue that giving teachers the opportunity to study on a school-focused Masters programme would be a good way to reward and retain highly performing staff. Finland is a clear example of where a commitment to developing a Masters-based teaching workforce to higher education has led to a system that is seen as a world leader.10

37. We believe that teachers should be entitled to structured early professional development tailored both to their needs and to those of their employers. Consequently, this should be developed in partnership between higher education institutions and schools. However, identifying personal needs, setting and reviewing objectives, and matching study and learning experiences to evolving circumstances calls for institutions to provide a well trained coach and mentor.11 This person could provide a bridge between the academic tutor from the higher education institution and the practicalities of conducting fieldwork in the participant’s classroom and school.

38. Institutions utilise their extensive links with schools in order to tackle problems associated with schools in challenging circumstances. This includes ensuring that the provision of CPD further supports teachers in raising attainment and providing information, advice and guidance about the higher education sector.

39. The recruitment and retention of effective teachers can be a difficult task. These difficulties can be addressed by higher education institutions working in partnership with schools on ITT and CPD. It is our view that ITT is more effective, better delivered and more beneficial for the trainee—and more sustainable—when both partners are fully involved and reach a mutual agreement on a trainee’s potential to become an outstanding teacher. This partnership should extend from recruitment through to qualifying and beyond.

November 2011

1 OFSTED (2009-10) The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills p 59.

2 OFSTED (2009-10) The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills p 60.

3 TDA (2011) Results of the Newly Qualified Teacher Training Survey p 17.

4 ITT Standards guidance R2. 8, available at

5 TDA allocations version 3.

6 TDA (2010) A longitudinal review of the postgraduate professional development of teachers p 12.

7 “Teaching makes the grade for top graduates” 23 July 2010, available at

8 GTTR (2010) Annual Statistical Report p 5.

9 TDA (2010) A longitudinal review of the postgraduate professional development of teachers p 12.

10 OECD (2010) Finland: slow and steady reform for consistently high results p 125.

11 Seaborne PL (2010) A longitudinal review of the postgraduate professional development of teachers p 22.

Prepared 30th April 2012