Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Ofsted

Q1: 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?

Between 2008 and 2011, Ofsted undertook 91 inspections of primary initial teacher training (ITT) provision, 100 inspections of secondary ITT provision and 98 inspections of employment-based routes into teaching in the maintained sector (primary and secondary). In addition, there were 48 inspections of higher education (HEI)-led partnerships offering teacher training for the further and lifelong learning sector. This gives a total of 337 sets of inspection grades. All provision was inspected under the same inspection framework.

We have no firm evidence to support the view that those with the highest degree classifications make the best teachers. Ofsted has considerable evidence, however, of the links between good subject knowledge and high quality teaching. When inspecting initial teacher training, inspectors observe trainees teaching, meet trainees, former trainees, employers of former trainees, tutors, mentors, headteachers and examine a wide range of documentary evidence in order to evaluate the impact of training on trainees’ proficiency in the classroom. The most effective trainees are those who, in addition to secure subject knowledge, possess excellent interpersonal skills, highly developed powers of reflection, high levels of motivation, enthusiasm for learning and a clear commitment to improving the quality of education for the pupils/students in their care. Increasingly, providers are marketing their training programmes around these attributes.

Q2: 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

One of the success stories of recent years is the introduction of more routes into teaching including the opportunity for trainees to follow an employment-based route and switch career. Different routes suit different types of applicants. For example, teaching assistants who undertake very valuable work supporting pupils and groups of pupils are given the opportunity to build upon their prior experience and train to be qualified teachers. In general, our evidence points to this working well although it is not always the case that those with prior school experience make the most effective teachers. The crucial factor is assessing potential at the selection stage.

Attracting high performing graduates into the teaching of shortage subjects, such as mathematics, chemistry and physics has presented a challenge for a number of years although financial incentives and the subject knowledge enhancement programmes have been helpful in addressing the shortfall in applications.

The government’s proposals to offer schools the opportunity to select and train the trainees that will go on to work in their schools has obvious benefits for the school but possible drawbacks for the trainee if the trainee does not have a good breadth of experience of teaching in schools in different contexts. One of the frequent recommendations in Ofsted inspection reports relates to the need for trainees to have more experience, during their training, of teaching a diverse range of learners in schools in different contexts. This is particularly the case for trainees on employment-based routes where the second school placement is sometimes not long enough to enable a trainee to gain this experience.

A key consideration is what is meant by “high quality” trainee. If this term relates solely to degree classification, the PGCE route and particularly the Teach First route attract higher quality applicants. Overall, our evidence points to no significant difference between the different training routes in the recruitment of trainees who possess excellent potential to become good teachers, including having appropriate subject knowledge.

Q3: 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?

Between 2008 and 2011, 49% of HEI-led partnerships, 36% of school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) partnerships and 18% of employment-based routes were judged to be outstanding. Proportionately, partnerships led by an HEI provide higher quality training than school-led partnerships and employment-based routes. Of the SCITTs, just over half of primary SCITTs were judged to be outstanding but only a quarter of the secondary SCITTs were judged to be outstanding. Of the employment-based routes, those linked with an HEI did better than the independent employment-based providers. Performance in the further education sector lags behind that in the maintained sector. Only 6% were judged to be outstanding for overall effectiveness.

It is worth noting that secondary graduates studying for a one year PGCE in HEI-led partnerships spend a minimum of 24 weeks in school and primary graduates spend at least 18 weeks. Undergraduates on a four year training programme spend a minimum of 32 weeks in school. The strengthening of partnerships between universities and schools has been a success story in recent years.

The implication of moving towards more school-led training is that more time teaching in schools is the best way to become an effective teacher. Our evidence certainly supports the view that trainees need to have substantial practical experience of teaching. However, well focused targeted support for trainees is the key to providing the best training environment for developing trainees’ practice. The best trainees possess very good subject knowledge and can apply it to their teaching. They are reflective practitioners, who are able to link theory with practice. A recurring weakness of school-led partnerships and employment-based routes is the quality of subject specific feedback offered to trainees by school-based mentors. University tutors and mentors in HEI-led partnerships are better at providing this focused feedback.

Teach First trainees benefit significantly from at least fortnightly visits from external tutors who track their progress, set clear developmental targets and give support to schools, and from the six week summer institute held at universities. This is an expensive model but it works well. Inspectors found that trainees on the Teach First programme make a significant contribution to raising students’ achievement in schools in challenging circumstances.

Ofsted’s evidence would indicate caution in implementing the government’s proposal to relax the requirement for trainees on employment-based routes to be supernumerary. When employment-based routes were first inspected between 2003 and 2005, the weakest providers were those where trainees were not working as supernumeraries. When not working as a supernumerary, schools are reluctant to let trainees undertake their second school experience. Ofsted would strongly recommend that the second school experience remains since it is the opportunity for trainees to experience teaching in schools in different contexts which contributes to their progress towards becoming effective practitioners and increases their employability.

Q4: How best to assess and reward good teachers and whether the government’s draft revised standards for teachers are a helpful tool

How best to assess and reward good teachers is beyond Ofsted’s remit. However, the new professional standards will be a helpful tool in defining the minimum competencies and requirements for all teachers.

Q5: What contribution professional development makes to the retention of good teachers

In January 2003, Ofsted published a report entitled “Teachers’ Early Professional Development” which stated the following: “In around half of the schools, the teachers felt that development activities had directly strengthened their commitment to a career in teaching. The challenge and effectiveness of these activities had led them to see CPD as a lifelong process and encouraged them to set high expectations for their career prospects.” (paragraph 19).

In July 2006, Ofsted published “The logical chain: continuing professional development in effective schools” which stated the following: “well planned professional development had improved teaching, helped to raise standards and contributed to staff retention and promotion.” (paragraph 51).

In our initial teacher training inspections, we often comment on the value of observing excellent practitioners at work in the classroom. The opportunity for highly skilled teachers to become advanced skills teachers and train future teachers has undoubtedly aided their retention. Also, classroom teachers who are trained to act as school-based mentors benefit from the good professional development opportunity that mentoring offers. Teachers who are encouraged to reflect upon their own classroom practice are much better placed to support those in training. A key strength in many ITE reports is the high quality personal support that mentors give to trainees and their commitment to their role in the training and assessment process.

One of the areas for development, however, lies in the school’s self evaluation of the training within their own schools. Even when schools are highly involved in initial teacher training, they do not always evaluate the quality of training within their own establishments or maximise opportunities to link professional development to initial teacher training. There is scope for schools involved in initial teacher training to be more systematic in assessing the benefits and impact on the quality of teaching throughout the school and on pupils’ learning.

Q6: How to ensure that good teachers are retained where they are most needed, particularly in schools in challenging circumstances

The recent Ofsted reports on “Twelve outstanding primary schools: excelling against the odds” and “Twelve outstanding secondary schools: excelling against the odds” highlight a number of strategies for retaining good teachers in challenging schools. These are schools where staff are trusted and are highly motivated. They are schools which have invested in their staff and provide continuous professional development. There is a shared culture in terms of raising pupil achievement and improving and managing behaviour. They challenge the association of disadvantage with low standards. There is a constant focus on teaching and learning. The quality of leadership is paramount to retaining good teachers.

In the current ITE inspection cycle, inspectors found that there was less consistently good practice in behaviour management on secondary courses; support for managing challenging behaviour was variable. How well trainees are prepared to teach a diverse range of learners has been an issue for a number of years. It is highly dependent upon first hand opportunities to put theory into practice. This is why the second school experience is important for enabling trainees to gain confidence in teaching pupils of different abilities and backgrounds.

The inspection of Teach First provides very good evidence of teacher retention in challenging schools. Trainees have access to very good modelling of challenging behaviour and of how to set challenging targets for all pupils regardless of background and ability. They are extremely well supported and receive focused and detailed feedback on their practice so that they rapidly build up their expertise and become skilled practitioners.

To what extent do recruitment/selection arrangements support high quality outcomes?

This is one of the key questions in the ITE inspection framework. Between 2008 and 2011, 51% of primary providers, 50% of secondary providers and 40% of employment-based routes were judged to be outstanding for their recruitment and selection. In contrast, only 6% of HEI-led partnerships offering ITE for the further education sector were judged to be outstanding. This is partly due to the nature of FE training at the present time with training being offered for both in-service and pre-service trainees. Many universities have had no part in selecting in-service trainees.

One of the strengths highlighted in ITE inspection reports is the involvement of schools and current practitioners in interviewing and selecting candidates. Often, candidates are observed interacting with pupils as part of the selection process. Almost all providers require candidates to undertake screening tests in literacy and numeracy. However, the quality of these tests is variable and not always a reliable indicator of individual strengths and weaknesses. In the light of our evidence, the government’s proposal for pre-entry literacy and numeracy tests appears to be a good one.

In recent years, the introduction of a wide range of training routes into teaching has opened doors to trainees who might not otherwise have been able to train for the profession. Our evidence shows that career changers are particularly attracted to the employment-based route, where trainees are remunerated during training, although this route still has some way to go to match the outstanding provision offered by higher-education led partnerships.

In 2011, Ofsted inspected the Teach First programme in the four regions where it operates. Inspectors reported on the excellent and rigorous recruitment and selection process which is undertaken nationally. Teach First recruits a diverse cohort with a high proportion nationally of participants from a wide range of minority ethnic backgrounds. Participants with strong personal characteristics and who display the required Teach First competencies, including the intellectual capacity and resilience to cope well with the high expectations and demands of the Teach First programme, are recruited. The Teach First model of recruitment involves an initial screening, attendance at an assessment centre and a six week summer school. It is highly effective but difficult for many providers to replicate because of the costs involved.

November 2011

Prepared 30th April 2012