Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE)

1. The General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) started work in 2000 as the independent professional regulatory body for teaching. Since its inauguration, the GTCE has had a strong stake in entry to teaching, teacher training and education and the quality of teachers and teaching, not least because of its responsibility for those entering the profession. In particular this involves the GTCE:

regulating the standards of teaching;

confirming and recording the successful completion of induction;

awarding qualified teacher status (QTS); and

Registering those who are qualified to teach in England.

2. Additionally, since 2008 the Council has provisionally registered students as they begin their initial teacher training and education. This ensures that all those entering training and education are deemed “suitable to teach”, having been assessed against and met the initial teacher training course requirements, and completed a suitability assessment.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?

Selection criteria

3. Refined criteria are needed for the recruitment of trainee teachers to ensure that those likely to become good teachers are selected at entry. This requires careful consideration of the characteristics including skills, knowledge, aptitudes and qualifications likely to indicate someone with the potential to become a good teacher.

4. Good subject knowledge is important but the evidence linking success in teaching to a good first degree is inconclusive. That said, it is wise to benchmark recruitment and retention performance against other countries which are more successful in promoting teaching careers to good graduates. All possible relevant factors, professional support and development, career structure, work life balance and rewards and the accountability framework in which teachers work, should also be benchmarked.

5. There are lessons to be learnt from the expanded model of entry requirements and selection process which Teach First operates. However, at present the programme represents only 1% of provisional registrants,2 eventually only rising to 2% (as indicated in the White Paper). Finding a viable means of replicating this on a much greater scale would be challenging.

Needs Analysis

6. In considering selection and entry, better needs analysis is required at the start of ITT so that provision effectively builds on the trainee teachers’ previous experiences, skills and knowledge, and helps to develop these into a coherent set of professional practices. The existing standards for ITT providers go some way towards this3 but it is likely that a more structured form of needs analysis, at the start of and during ITE, could develop entrants’ strengths and target areas of weakness more effectively. This is particularly relevant given that 29% of new entrants are over 304 and bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise, often left unharnessed.

Effective selection and fair access

7. Productive and cost effective selection procedures are most likely to recruit effective teachers, and to deselect those without the necessary skills and attributes.

8. However, it is important not to deter those who could become good teachers. The GTCE has repeatedly voiced strong concerns that the health standards regulations (commonly know as Fitness to Teach (FtT)), and how they are applied, may deter disabled applicants. We support the Disability Rights Commission’s 2007 report5 which found that fitness standards “lead to discrimination; and they deter and exclude disabled people from entry and being retained. We therefore recommend that they are revoked…

9. An individual’s suitability to teach (assuming appropriate background checks have also been made) should be determined by their ability to meet the conduct and competence standards, and to support children and young people’s learning and achievement, rather than by physical criteria.6

Taking account of motivation

10. There is evidence that altruistic or intrinsic motives for entering teaching may be important factors in ensuring long-term retention, according to some research,7 including the 2005 GTC Annual Teacher Survey in which 80% of teacher respondents said helping pupils achieve was what motivated and rewarded them. In order to attract and retain good teachers there does need to be some focus on the kind of people required for teaching, their likely motivations and the opportunities that the job of teaching brings them.

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?

Diversity of routes

11. Overall the current diversity of routes to QTS suits the needs of different groups of trainee teachers, which, given the number of teachers required and the demographic diversity of entrants, continues to be an important consideration. Importantly, it helps ensure that training is appropriate to and can respond to the needs of an individual trainee.

Financial Incentives

12. The introduction of financial incentives to teacher training has served to widen access to some highly motivated applicants.8 However, financial incentives such as bursaries must be fair and equitable and designed in order to attract and reward those that evidence suggests have the characteristics, skills, expertise and aptitudes needed for teaching. While qualifications are important, any bursaries should crucially be based on more than just degree class.

13. The move to a minimum of a 2.2 degree class for a funded place risks a negative impact on good candidates with degrees from overseas including UK citizens. UK NARIC, the national agency providing information and advice about qualifications from outside the UK, can only state that a degree earned overseas is equivalent to a BA, rather than the class of the degree, regardless of the university attended or supporting evidence At present, providers can exercise discretion in assessing an individual’s qualifications and allocating their funded places. The Refugee Council has also raised concerns that this change will impact unfairly on refugee applicants who gained their degree abroad.

Responsibility for selection

14. Strong partnerships between HEIs and schools are critical to effective training, and school involvement should not be undervalued. However, if as suggested by the Government,9 individual schools are to be responsible for selecting, training and then employing a trainee, it could overly narrow selection and training and be focused on the needs of one particular school. Selection and training need to respond to wider contextual needs and select and prepare teachers to work in a variety of school as this is central to the profile and efficacy of the profession in the future.

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?

15. Efforts to improve initial teacher training should resist over-determining the different training routes and over-prescribing teaching methods. Instead a far greater impact could be made on teaching quality by:

introducing coherence and continuity into the core elements of tutored provision, study, supervised school-based practice, induction and the early years of employment; and

strengthening the foundations of the professional practice of teaching.

16. A strong relationship between universities and schools is crucial to ensure that ITT provides in-depth practical experience of teaching alongside and underpinned by relevant theoretical knowledge, empirical research evidence and ethical values.

Evidence about types of training

17. It is difficult to find evidence that points to a direct relationship between initial teacher training and the quality of a teacher’s teaching later in their career, as there are many other intervening variables. Even summarising the evidence on the effectiveness of ITT in preparing teachers for teaching is challenging, not least because the system has changed several times over the past couple of decades and now comprises a number of different routes to QTS.

18. Ofsted has said that “today’s teachers are the best trained ever” and a study by McNamara10 found that the current model has improved standards in ITE and the quality of NQTs.11 However, as Alexander notes12 a rigorous comparison can only be made between the successive cohorts trained since 1998, when Ofsted began inspection of ITT. Moreover, the claim is founded on the assumption that compliance with the TDA’s requirements for ITT is the most valid and reliable indicator of effectiveness and potential impact on teaching.

19. The Becoming a Teacher study13 is one of the most comprehensive studies on this topic in England. The study followed several waves of trainee teachers through different ITT routes, induction and their subsequent three years of teaching. Becoming a Teacher concluded that “While there were a large number of statistically significant variations in beginner teachers’ experiences of ITT … relating to the ITT route they had followed … such variation was largely ‘washed out’ over time by teachers’ subsequent experiences of teaching.” 14 What does seem to be clear is that different routes suit the needs of different groups of teachers.

Evidence about effective training

20. One of the issues that continues to dominate is the appropriate balance between “theory” and “practice” in teacher training provision. Teaching is not so much the application of techniques as the ability to make informed pedagogical choices between competing claims and possibilities. Given that teaching comprises this kind of specialised expertise, then clearly teachers must start to engage with theoretical knowledge about teaching and learning at the very beginning of their careers, so as to underpin—not supplant—practical experience. Those who construe teaching as a mainly technical activity will tend to judge preparation for teaching in terms of its capacity directly to support practical classroom-based activities.

21. On the whole, however, educationists agree that distinguishing theory from practice is unhelpful—most commentators and providers want to see a judicious combination of both. For example, when the Children Schools and Families Select Committee recommended an increase in school-based training places (in its report on the training of teachers), it also found a need to improve employment-based trainees’ understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of teaching practice.15 Similarly, the Becoming a Teacher report16 found that teacher trainers on the employment-based routes voiced concerns about the ability to gain theoretical knowledge about teaching and learning; whilst Donaldson’s recent review17 of teacher education for the Scottish Government concluded that “a more integrated relationship [is required] between theory and practice, between the academic and the practitioner, between the provider of teacher education and the school.”

22. One way of making the relationship more integrated has already been suggested by McIntyre in his 1995 paper18 , in which he argues that the “widely experienced problem of the ‘theory-practice gap’” can be circumvented by a “practical theorising approach” to ITE. Not only would this approach help student teachers ask, and answer, questions about the “why” as well as the “how” of good teaching, it would also lead them to “think critically and productively about how to teach and, more generally, about how to engage in the practice of schooling”. Furthermore, others have argued19 that, if teachers are to continue to develop their teaching and respond to change once the supporting framework of their initial preparation is removed, they must be in a position to understand and appraise the ideas, values and evidence that underpin the various conceptualisations of “effective” teaching and learning.

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

23. Mechanisms and procedures to assess and reward teachers should have at their heart a focus on supporting the quality of teaching. Central to this is appropriate teacher accountability—an opportunity to both give account and be held to account. Teachers report that they have positive feelings toward appraisal and feedback, and many (80 percent) report that the process was positive in the development of their work.20

24. Strong performance management including needs analysis—embedded in a culture of continuous development—is an effective way of developing self-efficacy and motivation in teachers. However, evidence suggests that performance management is not consistently embedded across all schools. Teachers in England have mixed views about the effectiveness of performance management in identifying development needs and improving practice. 64% of teachers in the survey, said, however, that working towards identified objectives is useful.21

25. There is also limited systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of performance management. Research that does exist commissioned by the TDA finds that: “Schools vary in their practice in terms of linking performance management processes, the professional standards and CPD opportunities. In some cases these links appear symbiotic, in other cases, dislocated”.22 The Government’s stated intention to strengthen the role of professional standards in performance management is welcome.

26. However, there is no real acknowledgment in the overall purposes of the Government’s proposed new arrangements for performance management, that they are concerned with anything apart from mitigating underperformance. When effective, performance management is a key part of any system designed to maintain, improve and assure the quality of practice and outcomes it does this formatively by identifying through professional dialogue, data analysis and observation, performance development need and improvement targets and enabling access to learning and development. Through its summative function, it provides an account and assurance of the standard of practice of the individual.

27. In order for there to be better system learning concerning performance management, its implementation and the teaching practice it is supporting, quality assurance is needed to enable the collection and analysis of evaluative data at a national level.

Professional Standards

28. Professional standards must form a minimum benchmark of practice for all, and be fully integrated into the performance management process, in order to achieve and maintain a common minimum standard across different settings. Accordingly, the Government’s acceptance of the review group’s recommendations regarding a baseline of practice and strengthening the link with performance management is welcome.

29. However, if standards are to have a positive impact on teaching quality and learning outcomes for pupils, then they need to be grounded in effective pedagogy and provide an agreed statement of what constitutes effective practice. Professional standards should provide a framework for improvement for all teachers. The lack of reference to levels of accomplishment in the revised standards is a weakness as the majority whose teaching is effective but who still want and need to enhance their practice in certain areas will struggle to do so against the revised standards.

30. The review group’s decision to simplify and reduce the volume of standards in order to focus on the most important dimensions of teaching professionalism is welcome. However, in an attempt to reduce the number of standards, there are several instances where a number of separate requirements are conflated and a judgement against the whole statement unachievable.

31. The revised standards imply engagement with research and professional development but this could be stronger. However, the public interest is in development as a means to an end and not an end in itself. It is important that the standards reflect the need for teachers to assess with others, their own continuing professional development (CPD) needs, to identify how they might be supported to develop, and to evaluate their own learning.

What contribution does professional development make to the retention of good teachers?

32. Over time, the GTCE has played a significant role in distilling and promoting what is known about effective CPD. In general, the evidence shows that collaborative CPD which is personalised, relevant, sustained and supported is most likely to be effective. The GTCE has consistently made the case for teachers’ universal access to effective professional development based on a belief that sustained, relevant and effective CPD can be the engine of change in schools. By helping teachers to reinvigorate their practice, boosting their creativity in the classroom, it can lead to the kind of improvements in learning that we know are at the heart of pupils’ achievement.

33. However, this knowledge is sometimes lacking at both the strategic and school level. Critically for CPD to support and help retain teachers, it needs to extend beyond meeting the immediate needs of the school, and address the ongoing individual teacher’s learning and development needs.

34. Within the Education Bill, there is a welcome emphasis on the quality of teaching, with clear Government recognition that this is the most significant variable in the achievements of pupils and the effectiveness of the education system as a whole. Yet despite apparent acceptance of the evidence—and the Government’s stated intention that it wants to see renewed vigour, creativity and rigour within the education system—many factors that might properly support teachers’ professional development are notable by their absence from these proposals. In particular, these include a lack of coherent structure, including local and national support for teachers’ longer term professional development.

35. Currently employed teachers are entitled to five in-service education and training days (INSET). Yet many CPD leaders report that these are often dominated by disseminating national priorities, to the exclusion of individual or school needs. It seems unlikely that these days can realistically deliver the kind and scale of professional development that is needed to enhance teaching in the future.

36. The new Teacher Learning Academy—launched in 2004 by the GTCE and soon to be re-launched by a consortium of members of the Cathedrals Group of Universities and University Colleges—provides one reliable option for school-based CPD. Meanwhile the national network of teaching schools, which will give outstanding schools a leading role in the training and professional development of teachers, has the potential to spearhead new possibilities.

37. However, drawing upon all the evidence to hand, the GTCE believes that, if greater benefits for teachers’ practice and pupils’ learning are to be secured, more fundamental change is needed. A cornerstone of GTCE’s proposals is access to effective professional development for every teacher—including supply and part-time—coupled with professional responsibility to develop and deepen practice. The strength of these proposals lies within this combination of entitlement and responsibility.

38. Details are contained in Professional learning and development, one of 11 papers published in July this year as part of the GTCE’s Teaching quality: policy papers. This suite of papers combines evidence and knowledge gathered throughout the GTCE’s lifespan. Among the GTCE’s specific proposals is the creation of a “CPD compact”, which would frame the responsibilities and requirements for both teachers and employers.

39. Over a one-year period, the GTCE believes that each teacher should have, as part of their performance management, a dialogue about their practice and what their next steps should be. In addition, teachers need access to structured coaching or mentoring; observation and feedback; and the opportunity to take part in an individual or collaborative project, focused on improving a specific aspect of practice.

40. These concrete terms would give teachers secure access to development and would ensure that impacts can be measured, particularly on schools and for children and young people’s learning. They could also be important for long-term retention of teachers both by schools and within the profession.

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

41. Central to teacher retention is appropriate support, and this is particularly critical in challenging schools where teachers face a range of issues. As discussed above, appropriate accountability including effective performance management and access to targeted development opportunities are highly important. The GTC’s proposals for a CPD compact would continue to be relevant.

42. In all schools, including those in challenging circumstances, this requires a focus on individual learning needs; one which is wider than school context specific development. Over their careers, teachers are likely to encounter a range of children with different needs and circumstances; they need timely training and development to handle new contexts and circumstances.

43. In general, greater consideration should be given to teacher retention. Since the introduction of provisional registration, it has been possible through the GTCE database to track teachers post-qualification and determine which ITT routes correlate most strongly with retention in teaching throughout the first few years of employment. This will continue to need attention post GTCE and should be complemented by qualitative exploration of the reasons for non-completion of ITT or subsequently leaving teaching.

November 2011

1 The suitability assessment covers conduct which could impact on an individual’s suitability to register and includes:
any action by the Secretary of State in relation to working with children or —  other misconduct;
criminal offending, including cases pending, and including cautions, reprimands —  and other disposals;
disciplinary action by any professional or regulatory body, taken or pending; — 
employer disciplinary action, taken or pending; and — 
any other information which might bear upon suitability to register. — 

2 GTCE (2010), Annual digest of statistics 2009–10, GTCE, London

3 The ITT standards state “taking account of any prior achievement that might justify exemption from some programme requirements, and of any specific training needs identified during selection or afterwards”.

4 GTCE (2011) Digest of Statistics

5 Disability Rights Commission (2007), Maintaining standards, promoting equality: Professional regulation within nursing, teaching and social work and disabled people’s access to these professions: DRC, Manchester.

6 GTCE (2007). Fitness to teach guidance for employers and initial teacher training providers: consultation response, GTCE, London.

7 Nieto, S (2003). What keeps teachers going? Teachers College Press, New York, cited in the literature review of Hobson, A et al (2009), op.cit. Add rest of reference

8 MENTER, I, HUTCHINGS, M and ROSS, A (Ed.) (2002). The Crisis in Teacher Supply. Research and strategies for retention. Stoke on Trent: Trentham

9 Training our next generation of outstanding teachers. An improvement strategy for discussion. June 2011

10 McNamara, O (2009) in: Alexander, R, et al (2009). Children, their world, their education: Final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, University of Cambridge, Cambridge and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, London.

11 As assessed by the Ofsted inspection framework.

12 Alexander, R et al (2009), op.cit.

13 Hobson, A, et al (2009), Becoming a teacher: teachers’ experiences of initial teacher training, induction and early professional development, DCSF Research Report DCSF-RR115, University of Nottingham, Nottingham. See Appendix 1 to this paper for a note on the study.

14 ibid.

15 Children, Schools and Families Committee (2010), op cit.

16 Hobson, A et al (2009), op.cit.

17 Donaldson, G (2011). Teaching Scotland’s Future, The Scottish Government, Edinburgh.

18 McIntyre, D, (1995). “Initial teacher education as practical theorising: A response to Paul Hirst”, British Journal of Educational Studies Volume 43, Issue 4, 1995, pp. 365–83.

19 Hagger, H, et al (2008). ‘Practice makes perfect? Learning to learn as a teacher’, Oxford Review of Education. Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 159–78.

20 OECD (2009). Creating effective teaching and learning environments: First results from Talis, OECD, Paris

21 GTCE Survey of Teachers 2010

22 Pedder, D, et al (2008). Synthesis report: schools and continuing professional development (CPD) in England—State of the Nation research project, TDA, London, p. 9

Prepared 30th April 2012