Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by NASUWT

The NASUWT’s submission sets out the Union’s views on the key issues identified by the Committee in the terms of reference for the Inquiry. It is based upon the work of its representative committees and other structures made up of practicing teachers and lecturers, including teachers in training, recently qualified teachers and staff in schools responsible for supporting their professional development and their career and pay progression.

The NASUWT is the largest union representing teachers and headteachers in the UK, with over 280,000 serving teacher and school leader members.

Executive Summary

The broad policy agenda of the Coalition Government as will undermine work to ensure that a high quality teaching workforce can continue to be recruited and retained.

The undermining of the professionalism of teachers, their terms, conditions and security of employment and rising levels of occupational workload, risk making teaching an increasingly unattractive graduate career option.

These dangers are highlighted by evidence confirming that approximately half of teachers are now seriously considering leaving the professionand that 84% of teachers feel professionally disempowered and unable to make effective use of their skills, knowledge and expertise to meet the learning needs of the children and young people they teach.

It is appropriate that possession of a degree should remain a mandatory Initial Teacher Training (ITT) entry requirement.

There is no objective justification for denying financial support to teachers in training who do no possess at least a lower second class honours degree.

The literacy and numeracy skills tests for prospective teachers are unnecessary and should be discarded, as should plans to develop an interpersonal skills test for those seeking entry to a course of ITT.

Given the status of teaching as a graduate profession, the negative impact of increased tuition fees on recruitment and the diversity of the workforce is likely to be significant.

Proposals that levels of funding for teachers in training should be differentiated according to degree classification are inequitable and should be reconsidered.

While it is critical that all teachers in training are given access to high-quality experiences of practice within schools, it is a matter of significant concern that the DfE continues to base its policy proposals in this area on the misconception that a significant proportion of higher education institution (HEI)-centred programmes of ITT do not allow for substantial periods of school-based training.

There are legitimate grounds for concern that schools participating in Teaching School networks will experience pressures to divert resources away from other core areas of activity and will promote an approach to ITT that will marginalise HEI involvement.

Reforms to performance management arrangements and systems of professional standards are likely to impact negatively on the legitimate professional pay and career progression expectations of teachers, rendering teaching a less attractive career option than other graduate level occupations.

Background and Context

1. The NASUWT welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee Inquiry into attracting, training and retaining the best teachers. The scope of issues highlighted in the terms of reference of the Inquiry is particularly wide ranging and merits extended further discussion and consideration. However, within the confines of the 3,000 word limit for submissions, the Union can only provide a brief overview of its views on the key areas of concern highlighted by the Committee.

The impact of broader Coalition Government policy on the recruitment and retention of teachers

2. The NASUWT notes the concern of the Committee to examine the most effective ways in which teachers can be retained in schools, particularly in schools facing challenging circumstances.

3. The Union is extremely concerned that the policies in respect of teacher and headteacher terms and conditions of employment being persued by the Coalition Government will undermine work to ensure that a high quality teaching workforce can continue to be recruited and retained.

4. In particular, the undermining of the professionalism of teachers through, for example, the permission granted to free schools and academies to employ teachers without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is likely to act as a powerful disincentive to graduates to consider teaching as a career, given that many would have access to alternative occupational options with more secure prospects of working in a genuinely professional context is likely to be more assured.

5. The Union is also concerned by the impact that the denigration of national frameworks of terms and conditions of employment will have on recruitment and retention in the teaching profession. This framework of statutory and contractual rights and entitlements was developed to not only tackle excessive teacher and headteacher workload but also to remodel their work to ensure that they are better placed to concentrate on their core responsibilities for teaching and leading teaching and learning, thereby raising standards of educational achievement.

6. These positive provisions were rightly regarded as essential to addressing the causes of the recruitment and retention crisis that the teaching profession experienced during the 1990s and the beginning of the last decade. The actions of the Coalition Government in removing an increasing proportion of schools from the reach of these national frameworks, evident through expansion in the number of academies and free schools to which these frameworks do not apply, its determination to remove key statutory and contractual entitlements and the encouragement it has given to schools to disregard existing provisions, risks a return of the barriers to effective recruitment and retention that these provisions sought to remove.

7. These concerns are compounded by the significant real terms reductions to school and local authority budgets being implemented by the Coalition Government alongside profound changes to the curriculum and qualifications frameworks, notably the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), all of which have generated significant job insecurity and redundancies among specialist teachers and members of support staff critical to sustaining effective educational provision in schools.

8. There is credible and significant evidence of the negative impact that reductions in education-related expenditure and broader reforms are having on teacher and headteacher workload and thereby on the ability of the education system to recruit and retain qualified teachers. A survey of over 8,000 teachers and school leaders conducted by the NASUWT in March and April 2011 found that over three quarters of teachers cited excessive workload as a serious area of concern, with corresponding impacts on their morale and overall levels of job satisfaction.1 Additional survey evidence makes clear that the intensification of bureaucracy associated with the school accountability regime, assessment and planning burdens and the administration of ineffective behaviour management systems in schools are key contributory factors to increases in workload burdens as is an escalation in the range and number of tasks teachers are required to undertake that do not make effective use of their skills, talents and expertise.2

9. As a result of this deteriorating environment within schools, evidence confirms that approximately half of teachers are now seriously considering leaving the profession and that 84% of teachers feel professionally disempowered and unable to make effective use of their skills, knowledge and expertise to meet the learning needs of the children and young people they teach.3

10. It is therefore clear that the impact of broader Coalition Government policy is placing the ability of the education system to recruit, retain and motivate its graduate workforce in serious jeopardy. Given the central focus of the Inquiry on these issues, the NASUWT would welcome the opportunity to share its survey evidence with the Committee in more detail and to explore further through oral evidence the policy implications of its findings.

Processes for the identification and selection of trainee teachers

11. The NASUWT is clear that in light of the demands that effective processes of teacher formation make on teachers in training, it is appropriate that possession of a degree should remain a mandatory Initial Teacher Training (ITT) entry requirement.

12. However, the proposal described in the Department for Education (DfE) consultation document, Training Our Next Generation of Teachers: An improvement strategy for discussion, published in June 2011, that public funding for ITT should only be available for entrants awarded at least a lower second class honours (2.2) first degree, on grounds that entrants with this level of qualification are likely to be more effective practitioners, does not withstand serious scrutiny.

13. Specifically, the assertion by the DfE that the performance of other education systems regarded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as particularly effective is related directly to the proportion of “highest-achieving” graduates entering the teaching profession is based on a partial and inaccurate interpretation of the available evidence. There is no valid and reliable evidence that graduate entrants into teaching in England are any less likely than those in other countries to develop the skills, knowledge and experience required to become effective practitioners.

14. As the OECD acknowledges, the apparent progress and achievement of any particular education system is the result of wide range of different factors and the inter-relationship between these factors in the specific context of that system. As a result, correlations drawn between a single aspect of an education system, such as the position of entrants into teaching on internal rankings of graduate performance, and the apparent success of that system cannot be regarded as credible.

15. It should also be noted that the system of degree classification in the UK is not subject to any national-level framework of moderation with common assessment standards. With reference to the proposals set out by the DfE, the implication of this system is that it is not possible to differentiate with a satisfactory degree of certainty the extent to which any prospective entrant into a programme of ITT with a 2.2 degree from a particular university or better is more or less capable of embarking successfully on such a programme than a graduate with a lower degree classification awarded by a different institution.

16. The NASUWT is further disappointed to note the proposals set out by the DfE to make successful completion of the literacy and numeracy skills tests currently administered by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) an additional requirement for entry onto a postgraduate programme of ITT. The NASUWT maintains that the requirement for entrants to ITT programmes to possess qualifications equivalent to GCSE in English and mathematics at grades C or above ensures that prospective teachers possess literacy and numeracy skills sufficient to enable them to discharge the full range of responsibilities required of qualified teachers. The Committee should therefore make clear that the skills tests continue to serve no useful purpose and should be discontinued.

17. The Union is profoundly disappointed by the DfE’s intention to continue to take forward work to develop and implement a test of interpersonal skills for teaching. The NASUWT notes that the DfE is unable to identify any concerns articulated on the part of ITT providers, employers of teachers or Ofsted in respect of the recruitment arrangements for programmes of ITT that the introduction of an interpersonal skills test would address.

Financial support for teachers in training

18. It is clear that the continued recruitment of high quality trainee teachers depends critically on the establishment and maintenance of effective arrangements for the financial support of trainees and of the programmes on which they are enrolled.

19. For this reason, the Union restates in the strongest possible terms its opposition to plans to increase annual undergraduate tuition fees to up to £9,000. Independent research confirms that these proposals are likely to have a powerful disincentive effect on those considering entry into higher education, particularly in relation to individuals from socioeconomically deprived backgrounds.4 Given the status of teaching as a graduate profession, the negative impact of increased tuition fees on recruitment and the diversity of the workforce is likely to be significant.

20. The NASUWT is concerned by the DfE’s proposal that levels of funding for teachers in training should be differentiated according to degree classification and, as referenced elsewhere in this evidence, withdrawn entirely for trainees without at least a lower second class honours degree. It is illogical to assert that there is a cut off point based on aptitude for teaching and then to allow others below this benchmark to teach. This illustrates that the DfE is insecure in its setting of such criteria. Further, the NASUWT continues to oppose proposals to differentiate levels of financial support to students according to their subject or phase specialism, given that all teachers make an equally important contribution to the educational development of pupils.

Diversity of routes into teaching and a greater emphasis on school-centred Initial Teacher Training

21. The NASUWT notes the interest of the Committee in the increased emphasis in Coalition Government policy on school-centred ITT. The NASUWT is clear that it is critical that all teachers in training are given access to high-quality experiences of practice within schools.

22. However, the Union is concerned that the DfE continues to base its policy proposals in this area on the misconception that a significant proportion of higher education institution (HEI)-centred programmes of ITT do not involve substantial periods of school-based training. It is essential that in developing its policy in this area, the DfE recognises that this is emphatically not the case. The TDA’s requirements for ITT and the Ofsted inspection framework for providers both require that programmes of ITT, whether school-centred or HEI-centred, include extended periods of practical experience in schools.

23. There are in place currently a range of routes to ITT in which schools play a relatively more extensive role in the provision of ITT than is the case in traditional HEI-based programmes. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the additional financial support that has been available to date to support the operation of school centred programmes, it remains the case that workload and bureaucratic pressures on teaching staff with ITT-related responsibilities are often excessive.5

24. These concerns are likely to become more pronounced as school-centred models of ITT become increasingly prevalent across the system. These considerations are highlighted by proposals to establish approximately 500 Teaching School networks by 2014 with increasing responsibilities for the provision of school-centred ITT across the education system.

25. It is not apparent that DfE has taken any meaningful steps to establish whether the levels of support available to Teaching Schools will be sufficient to support the full range of activities intended for Teaching School networks. This gives rise to legitimate concerns that schools participating in such networks will experience pressures to divert resources away from other core areas of activity.

26. Other concerns in relation to the development of the Teaching Schools networks relate to the degree of involvement of HEIs in their activities envisaged by the DfE. While the Union notes the aspiration set out by the DfE that HEIs should continue to be involved actively in the provision of ITT, it has failed to set out any formal requirements in this respect.

27. This raises the prospect of HEIs becoming increasingly marginalised from the provision of school-centred ITT and, in some circumstances, excluded entirely from the process, with school consortia given the power to award QTS completely independently of HEIs. The NASUWT is concerned that the critical theoretical elements of ITT that HEI involvement secures would be diminished in programmes of ITT established on the basis proposed by the Coalition Government, undermining further the professional status of teaching.

The role of professional standards and performance management in the recruitment and retention of teachers

28. The NASUWT notes the specific concern of the Committee on the role of arrangements for managing the performance of teachers, professional development and standards for teachers in creating the conditions within which teachers can be attracted to and retained within the profession.

29. The Committee will be aware that professional standards, performance management arrangements and teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD) were central to the New Professionalism agenda taken forward by the previous administration in partnership with the employers of teachers and headteachers, the NASUWT and other unions representing the majority of teachers and headteachers.

30. New Professionalism represented a clear, consistent and strategic approach to the development of a framework of pay and conditions to address longstanding concerns that teachers seeking to advance their pay and career prospects had little alternative option but to attempt to progress into management positions, impeding the ability of the education system to continue to benefit from their skills and expertise as practitioners.

31. These opportunities for career and pay progression, secured through the establishment of the Post Threshold Teacher, Excellent Teacher and Advanced Skills Teacher career stages, were supported by the development of accompanying professional standards, setting out the attributes, skills, knowledge and understanding associated with each career stage. Taken together, the standards have served to provide an effective framework that clarifies and supports the career and pay progression of teachers and therefore plays a powerful role in securing the highest possible rates of retention across the profession.

32. The NASUWT is concerned that the work currently being undertaken by the DfE-commissioned Teacher Standards Review Group points to the genuine possibility that this progressive framework of professional standards will be abolished. This would have profoundly negative consequences for the career and pay progression of teachers and consequently for the continued recruitment and retention of a high quality teaching force with serious impacts on the quality of the education system.

33. Alongside recognition of the need for effective arrangements for the career and pay progression of teachers, the New Professionalism agenda was underpinned by an understanding of the role that a progressive suite of professional standards plays in supporting their professional development and the nature of the relationship between these two critical objectives of teacher workforce policy.

34. The development of the framework of standards sought to address entrenched issues relating to the widespread inability of teachers to benefit from arrangements that ensure that their professional development needs are identified and addressed coherently and consistently. By setting out the attributes, knowledge, understanding and skills associated with each career stage, the professional standards introduced by the New Professionalism agenda have served to support the ability of teachers and their managers to undertake an informed consideration of their professional development needs.

35. Abolition of the higher-level professional standards would jeopardise significantly the ability of teachers and managers to identify and meet development needs in ways that support career and pay progression and the enhancement of professional expertise, thereby making teaching a significantly less attractive graduate-level occupational option.6

36. The ability of the higher-level standards to support career and pay progression and the establishment of effective approaches to professional development relates directly to statutory arrangements for the performance management of teachers. These arrangements have provided an open, fair and consistent context within which teachers could enter into informed discussions about their career and pay aspirations, professional development needs and the ways in which these might most effectively be addressed.

37. In this context, the professional standards provide a backdrop to this process, informing discussions about how a teachers’ performance should be viewed in relation to their current career stage and the one they are approaching. Teachers aspiring to move to a higher career stage are able currently to use the relevant set of standards in this way through the performance management process to reflect upon and discuss the skills, knowledge and expertise they have developed to date and how these might best be built upon to secure their career and pay aspirations.

38. The Committee will be aware that between June and August 2011, the Department for Education (DfE) undertook a consultation on proposed changes to performance management and capability arrangements. In its response to the consultation, the NASUWT made clear its concern that the effect of the DfE’s proposals would be to weaken the performance management regulations, reduce the extent and clarity of the performance management guidance and erode the important policy foundations of performance management in schools. In particular, rather than providing a supportive and development-focused context for performance management, the effect of the proposed changes, if implemented, would be to institute a more punitive system of scrutiny and monitoring of teachers, underpinned by a debilitating assumption that it is incumbent in the first instance on teachers and headteachers to prove that they are not incompetent. This would compound the impact of the revised QTS standards due to be introduced in September 2012 which not only fail to encompass references to critical aspects of professional practice and pedagogy but have also undermined the developmental nature of the previous standards through their incorporation with standards developed to replace those set out in the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) Code of Conduct for Teachers.

39. It is therefore essential that in developing its recommendations to the DfE on the future role and purpose of professional standards, the Committee must emphasise their important contribution to the maintenance of equitable, supportive and development-focused arrangements for the performance management of teachers, securing the recruitment and retention of teachers with legitimate professional expectations about the way in which their performance and development is supported in practice.

November 2011

1 NASUWT (2011a) The Big Question: An opinion survey of teachers and school leaders in the UK.
(http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/TrainingEventsandPublications/NASUWTPublications/Publications/order/summary/index.htm?ContentID=NASUWT_008226), retrieved on 21/9/11

2 NASUWT (2011b) The Importance of Teaching? The impact of cuts and reform on teachers’ work.

3 NASUWT (2011a). op. cit.

4 High Flyers Research (2011) University Tuition Fees and the Graduates of 2011: Researching the views of final year students at England’s leading universities on increase tuition fees. High Flyers Research; London

5 Evans, A, Hawksley, F, Holland, M, Wolstenholme, C and Willis, B (2007). “The role of the initial teacher training co-ordinator: secondary headteachers’ and ITT co-ordinators’ perspectives.” Annual Meeting of the Association of Teacher Education in Europe, University of Wolverhampton, 25–29 August 2007.

6 Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) (2006). The Logical Chain: Continuing Professional Development in Effective Schools.
(http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/logical-chain-continuing-professional-development-effective-schools-0)

Prepared 30th April 2012