Another independent report showing Teach First as vastly expensive and ineffective

The IFS have published their report into the costs and benefits of different initial teacher training routes. If you are unfamiliar with this sector, you might have wondered how hard it could be to prepare someone for teaching (the answer is that it is harder than many imagine) and that universities might have a key role still in providing this training (the answer is that they do but it is not nearly as large as used to be the case).

Successive Tory governments have favoured alternative approaches and have continued to spend multiple tens of millions of pounds on the ‘charity’ Teach First which trains, on balance, a very small number of teachers in comparison to other routes.

Following on from the DfE’s own research in 2010, research done by the University of Buckingham in 2012, the Education Select Committee findings in 2014, and the report from the National Audit Office in 2016, the IFS report is the fifth report that I can recall that makes two things completely clear:

  • Teach First is vastly more expensive than all other initial teacher education pathways;
  • Teachers trained via Teach First have significantly shorter careers than teachers educated by other initial teacher education pathways.

Here are some of the key graphs from the IFS report. Firstly, this graph shows the average and total costs of training one secondary school teacher across the various pathways:

initial_costs

Alongside this, it is also worth considering the the variation in the amount of funding ITT providers receive for trainees on the different training routes. The report states, clearly, that ‘Teach First receives net funding of £28,700 per trainee (this includes direct grants from the NCTL, fees paid by schools and voluntary contributions, and this is net of the payment to schools to cover mentoring). This compares with the £9,000 HEI providers receive in tuition fees for HEI-led PG courses’ (p.15). In other words. HEIs can educate three teachers for the price of one via Teach First.

However, it is not just the initial costs that one should consider. The IFS have also done an analysis of the costs over the first 5 years of a teacher’s career. Here, the vastly inflated costs of Teach First are reinforced again:

average_costs

As the report explains:

Figure 8.1 combines the five-year retention rate estimates with the central costs associated with ITT to show an average central cost per teacher ‘in service’ after five years for each of the routes for which we have data available.41 Teach First has both the lowest five-year retention rate (37–44%) and the highest average central cost. This means that the average central cost per Teach First trainee who remains in service five years after QTS is therefore between £59,000 and £70,000. For other secondary school routes, the five-year retention rates are higher and the central costs lower, resulting in a lower implied average central cost per trainee ‘in service’ after five years of between £35,000 and £44,000 (p.62). [my emphasis]

If you have got this far, you might be wondering whether the hugely inflated costs associated with Teach First are a wise use of public money at a time of austerity? I am. Perhaps, you might think, teachers trained by Teach First enjoy a long and productive career which returns on the investment that we, as taxpayers, have made in them. You’d be wrong. Teachers trained via Teach First enjoy significantly shorter careers in teaching than their colleagues educated via other routes. Here’s another graph from the IFS showing retention rates after five years:

five_year_retentionSee that line at the bottom? Yes, that’s Teach First’s retention rate. Over 60% of people trained by Teach First leave teaching after 5 years. This is significantly higher than any other route. Additionally, their retention rate is getting worse. This graph shows how it has deteriorated over the last five years (look how the grey and black lines for recent years fall below the green):

retention_cohort

In presenting the facts about Teach First in this way, I receive a lot of criticism from those either involved in Teach First as participants or those seeking to defend it as some kind of engine for social justice in education. To the former group, I have always defended the rights of individuals to choose whatever route into teaching you feel is best for you. I would strongly argue that Teach First does not offer the best training experience and nor does it prepare you to enjoy a long and productive teaching career (that much is obvious from the above). I would encourage you to look elsewhere.

To the later group, I think there are only marginal if any gains from the state sponsoring Teach First to the tune of over a hundred million pounds in recent years (including £76m in 2013). The Teach First marketing machine is infamous for promoting the perceived benefits for their programmes, including much play being given to increases in GCSE grades and, yesterday, to the claim that it’s participants are 7 times more likely to end up as school leaders. Dig a little deeper, and the marginal gains quickly fade away.

So, there is no doubt in my mind that this money could be spent more wisely. As soon as this ‘charity’ has its public funding removed the better in my opinion. Teach First is too expensive and based on a flawed model: you teach ‘first’ and then move on something else with a better salary. This is something else that the IFS report makes clear is a more likely outcome for folk trained via this route. As this table shows, put simply, as local wages rise Teach First trained teachers are up to five times more likely to leave teaching that those educated via other routes:

wages

There is a huge amount of other interesting information in the IFS report and, as time allows, I’ll be returning to it to consider its implications more widely. I would also highly recommend John Howson’s blog for those with interests in this area.

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In Praise of Music Teachers: Chatting with the good folk from the GMMH

It was lovely to be asked to give a short presentation at the Greater Manchester Music Hub annual get together at our Faculty of Education campus today. I was asked to give a talk on assessment, which I duly did, albeit following in the shadow of my good friend and colleague Martin Fautley who did the same last year!

The text of my presentation can be downloaded here for those of you that are interested. In it, I speak about one of the formative influences in my musical life (one of my music teachers – Miss Parry), the attributes of assessing music musically, and introduce a couple of metaphors to help us think about the whole process of teaching music from the inside out.

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Music teachers – please respond to this request for information about music in your school

I’ve received this request from my friend Ally Daubney at the University of Sussex to help gather responses on music education from a wide range of secondary school music teachers.

Working with her colleague Duncan Mackill, Ally has recently launched an online survey to gather a longitudinal view of secondary school music provision in order to investigate and document any changes within the curriculum across Key Stages 3 and 4 (time, accessibility and models of delivery), staffing levels and uptake of music within and beyond the curriculum.

Anecdotally, numerous factors appear to impact upon music education across secondary schools; the survey aims to document changes and provide more substantive evidence and reasons for them. Ally and Duncan know from a pilot study that they carried out last year that there are a range of changes – positive, neutral and negative, so they are trying to map these and also consider reasons for possible changes.

Please could you respond to this questionnaire so that they can present a more complete picture of music education over the past five years and projecting into the 2016-17 academic year.

The link can be found at: https://sussex.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/music2012-2016

The research is led by Dr Ally Daubney and Duncan Mackrill from the Department of Education at the University of Sussex. In line with the strict ethical procedures by which this work is bound, only Ally and Duncan will have access to the data provided and you have their absolute assurance that no individuals or schools will be identifiable in any reporting.

Given the potential significance of this work and the interest which it has already generated, both Music Education Subject Associations (The Incorporated Society of Musicians and Music Mark) have taken a keen interest in the work and will be involved in reporting, publishing and sharing the findings. We are delighted that they have pulled together on this, an indication of their understanding that music in the curriculum is vitally important.

The survey is open for two months and I really hope that you have the time to get involved and help Ally and Duncan collecting this data to help inform a more constructive approach to music education in the future.

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The beginnings of school-led teacher training: New challenges for university teacher education

The School Direct Research Project undertaken by a team of academics from Manchester Metropolitan University concludes five years of research into the effects of school-led training on the rationale and composition of university teacher education in England and considers the impacts of recent changes on the teaching profession.

Teacher education in England now comprises a vocational employment-based model of training located primarily in schools. This approach is in sharp contrast to models followed in the European Teacher Education Area where student teachers typically spend five years in university, followed by up to two years on school placement. Almost all countries introduced reforms in initial primary teacher education after the initiation of the Bologna Process (1999), similarly for secondary subject teachers, and half of pre-primary sectors of education. These two approaches reveal radically different conceptions of how teacher quality might be improved in the name of international competitiveness.

In the English model, teacher education has been wrested from its traditional home within the academy where universities play a support role to what has become school-led training where government funds for teacher education have been diverted to schools. Student teachers often spend as little as thirty days in university during a one-year postgraduate training course. Teacher professional identity has been referenced to skill development within this frame and the wider assessment culture. The wider European model, meanwhile, similarly claims to be concerned with raising teacher quality in a way which responds to the challenges of lifelong learning in a knowledge based society. The model is characterised by reinvigorated faith in academic study and promotion of individual teachers, where a pedagogical dimension in included from the outset of undergraduate studies, but with relatively brief periods spent in school.

The report, written by Tony Brown, Harriet Rowley and Kim Smith, shows how the reconfiguration of how training in the English model is distributed between university and school sites consequential to School Direct altering how the content and composition of that training is decided. Most notably, local market conditions rather than educational principles can determine the design of training models and how the composition of teacher preparation is shared across sites. This contingency means that the content and structure of School Direct courses varies greatly between different partnership arrangements across the country, leading to greater fragmentation within the system as a whole. Thus, there is not only increased diversification in terms of type of training route but also diversification of experience within each route.

School Direct has also altered the balance of power between universities and schools, and in turn, their relationship with one another. The ascendance of school-led training has changed how the responsibilities of each party are decided and impacted on how the categories teacher educator, teacher and trainee are defined. In particular, the function of teacher educator has been split across the university and school sites, displacing traditional notions of what it means to be a ‘teacher’ and ‘teacher educator’. The flux is leading to uncertainty across role boundaries and, in turn, changes in practice. Furthermore, as those in different locations negotiate territorial boundaries, this can activate anxiety and tension within the workforce. The particular impact on different school subjects as a result of these contrasting approaches relates to the way in which conceptions of the subjects derive from where understandings of them are developed, whether in schools or in universities.

For those training in schools little more may be done than enable teachers to work through commercial schemes as implementers of curriculum, as opposed our European neighbours following university intensive courses where relatively low attention is given to the practical school aspects during the university element. Lower cost school-based teacher education may yet appeal to other countries in building and influencing the practice of their teaching forces. But four questions immediately present themselves:

  • Does School Direct provide a viable alternative to university based teacher education?
  • Does it alter the composition of the pedagogical subject knowledge it seeks to support?
  • Is it low cost, or at least good value for money (National Audit Office, 2016)?
  • How will it eventually impact on England’s reputation in international comparative testing?

The full research report can be downloaded here.

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Some further thoughts on the National Audit Office report into the training of teachers

It was nice to be asked to record an interview for BBC Radio Manchester with Sam Walker this afternoon. She asked questions about the NAO report, part of which I wrote about in respect of Teach First earlier today.

The broader messages of the report are that the DfE has missed its recruitment targets for the last 4 years and that there are signs that teacher shortages are growing. Specifically, the DfE missed its overall targets by an increasing margin between 2012/13 (1%) and 2014/15 (9%). Continue reading

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The NAO reveals the truth about the vast costs and minimal gains associated with Teach First

Thank goodness for the National Audit Office! Perhaps this is not something that you would normally expect to say, but the public body, whose vision is to help the nation spend wisely and help Parliament hold government to account through improving public services, has done sterling work today in publishing its report – Training New Teachers.

Apart from the top line messages (which are far from encouraging, e.g. it is 4 years since the Department for Education has met its target in training the right number of new teachers, and there are significant signs that the crisis is worsening (p.13)), the report provides clarity and a line in the sand in relation to the key problems associated with Teach First; namely, its cost and ineffectiveness in educating teachers who go onto enjoy a long teaching career. Regular readers of this blog will know that these are things I have pointed out on numerous occasions over the past few years.

Let’s start by looking a total costs (Fig. 17, p.38):

tf_total_costs

Teach First trained 1200 teachers at a total cost of £43 million (yes, million!) pounds during 2013/14. That’s £35,833 for each one! This compares to £18,991 for each student trained within an university-led programme. Incidentally, on these figures university-led programmes are easily the most cost effective. University-led provision also filled the highest proportion of their allocations (85%) – see p.39.

The NAO helpfully provide another figure that shows the true costs associated with Teach First (fig.19 on p.43). Here it is:

tf_costs_route

There are two additional points here. Firstly, although the subject of student loans is a contentious one, once loans have been repaid the bottom three routes into teaching become even cheaper (for the state at least, if not the individual concerned).

Secondly, the cost to schools of having a Teach First student within their institution is almost four times that of a traditional university PGCE student.

Advocates of Teach First argue that the benefits associated with the programme are worth the extra cost. They also try to reassure us that Teach First ‘ambassadors’ enjoy long careers, at least of similar length to those educated in other routes. However, this is also false. The NAO expose this myth in their retention chart which so, graphically and beyond any doubt, the huge exodus of teachers trained by Teach First after two years of teaching (fig.20, p.44):

tr_retention

To give you a sense of comparison, the NAO report that through other pathways around 28% of teachers leave the profession after five year (p.8). With Teach First it is around 40% after two years (and that’s a charitable reading of the above table)!

These figures and the detailed analysis done by the NAO show that Teach First has been a huge waste of money (at a time of austerity when we are meant to be watching every £) and is operating a completely ineffective system which trains teachers who only make a minimal contribution to schools and pupils’ lives before leaving the profession to enjoy other careers. As I have said repeatedly, the clue is in the name. Teach ‘first’, and then move on.

We have a brilliant mechanism for training teachers within universities across the UK. The overall quality is excellent and it is cost effective. The taxpayer’s money spent on this charade by this Government and the previous Labour one is disgraceful in my opinion. The sooner it is closed down or public money is withdrawn from this ‘charity’ the better.

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Filming for the One Show!

It was fun to be asked to do some filming for the One Show today. This request came via my press officer at MMU (thanks Chris!) and the result should be broadcast this Thursday (subject to change).

The topic of the interview was free schools. The feature is about a group of parents in an area of Leeds who are setting up a free school as, apparently, there were no places in any local schools for their children. I’m not sure about the detail of all this as this was not shared with me.

As is the nature of media engagements, the BBC crew were after someone with an opinion on free schools and a willingness to share this to provide a contrary voice to what could be an overly positive piece. So, the challenge for me was to try and get some key pieces of information about free schools across in a few seconds with a positive attitude (not grumpy!).

For those of you who are interested, and read this far, these were the key points I had in my plan for the interview:

1. Free schools are not free. It costs around £3k more per pupil per year to educate them in a free school (£7,761 compared with £4767, DfE figures).

2. Free schools do enjoy some freedoms. They can employ who they want to teach in their schools, and they can ignore the National Curriculum. These are not good things in my opinion. Parents expect teachers to have a degree and a professional teaching qualification at least. This can’t be taken for granted. In fact, 15% of teachers in free schools do not have these qualifications (compared to 4.5% in other types of schools, including academies). Again, DfE figures as submitted to the Education Select Committee. Parents can also rightly expect schools to teach the legally constituted set of subjects, knowledge and skills as outlined in the National Curriculum as a minimum.

3. Free schools are free from Local Authority control. Again, I don’t think this is a good thing. Local Authorities can provide helpful structure, support and advice for schools. But, perhaps more importantly, free schools need to be locally accountable. The Local Authority provides that democratic framework for schools. Outside of this, free schools are not accountable to their communities in any meaningful way. In fact, huge amounts of publicly owned land, buildings and other resources are transferred on 125 year leases to the private companies without a second thought. I’m with Jeremy Corbyn on this one: “Why was it believed that the ability to run a business, to sell carpets or cars, might make you best placed to run a school?”

4. Free schools are not being builtin the right areas. 52% are built in areas where there is no shortage of pupil places, or not foreseeable or forecasted need for pupil places either. Surely a better way forward is to build capacity in existing schools rather than waste billions of taxpayer’s funds on new, experimental schools like this.

5. Free schools to not improve educational standards. Ofsted have reported this recently, saying that, in general, free schools succeed or fail for broadly the same reasons as any other type of school. Time will tell if free schools do perform better; I strongly suggest that they won’t.

However, free schools are a massive drain on the public purse. They take much needed funding (probably around £2billion in total so far) away from the broader educational provision at a time of apparent austerity. They should not be a priority and are, for the reasons outlined above, a risky experiment and, in my opinion, a waste of money.

Do watch the broadcast on Monday 14th December and see what you think?

 

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