Category Archives: ITE

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.

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.

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

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.

Welcome to another super group of MMU students!

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Welcome to all the new MMU students beginning courses with us this year! I hope you have a brilliant time with us and that you find the PGCE course you have chosen a stimulating and rewarding experience.

For those of you beginning the PGCE in Music and PGCE in Music with Specialist Instrumental Teaching courses, an especially warm welcome. Teaching music to young people is one of the most amazing of jobs. There is a huge amount of enjoyment that you will gain from learning how to do this well, and the young people that you teach will benefit hugely too.

In a nutshell, the course will help you to ‘teach music musically‘. This isn’t our phrase, but it does sum up the aspiration of the course as a whole. Will Evans, and I, together with all our other Associate Lecturers and colleagues, will do our upmost to help you through what will be one of the most challenging years of your lives so far!

Welcome again, and have a great year!

This Government is failing in its duty to manage teacher supply

Back in December 2014, I wrote about a looming crisis in teacher recruitment for September 2015. Here we are a couple of days away from September and that crisis has well and truly emerged. Figures published by the Government, quietly and secretively on a busy news day, reveal significant shortages across the board:

teacher_recruitment

Considered in total, there is a 10% shortage in total applicants, and this is the third year in a row  that the Government has failed to secure enough new entrants to the profession.

John Howson, whose blog has chartered these things in detail over the years, has written about the reasons for and consequences of this Government’s failing to look after teacher supply in today’s Observer.

This crisis has come about because of:

  • Depressed wages in the public sector, making teaching look unattractive compared to other career paths;
  • The perception [in 2011] that we had enough teachers due to falling pupil rolls;
  • The imposition of a complex and constantly changing bursary scheme that has muddied the waters around who pays what for a teacher training course, and has resulted in the vast majority of students having to pay £9k for their studies;
  • The introduction of School Direct, a shoddy and ill-conceived attempt to impose a free-market training systems run by schools. This has resulted in the closure of some university teacher education courses .

The immediate results of this are that courses, like those we run at MMU, will open in a week or so with unfilled places. In most subjects, this is unheard of in my experience.

Moving ahead to September 2016, headteachers will find it difficult, or impossible, to recruit enough teachers in  subjects such as physics, design and technology, geography, business studies and even English. Headteachers will be forced to ask existing teachers to teach subjects where they do not have specialist subject knowledge. Or, perhaps more worryingly, they will be forced to remove certain subjects from the curriculum. We have seen this happening in Music in many primary and secondary schools in recent years.

What will parents make of all this? As some readers know, I have five children. Three are currently attending three different schools in our local town – one academy, one free school and one LA -maintained primary school. Sadly, I have to specify which types of schools these are as I can’t rely anymore on them being taught by qualified teachers with appropriate qualifications. As this crisis in teacher recruitment begins to hit the public consciousness, parents should be holding headteachers to account for the decisions they make about who is teaching their children. If answers are not forthcoming, then Freedom of Information requests should follow. Our children deserve to be taught by qualified teachers.

As for the Government, they are in denial. Nick Gibb is quoted in yesterday’s Guardian as saying that:

“These figures show that teacher recruitment is improving, with 3% more people due to start postgraduate teacher training than this time last year. We have already exceeded our target for primary school trainees and are making sustained progress for the secondary sector – including in key subjects like English, maths, physics and chemistry, where we are ahead of last year’s performance”.

None of these things are true. I’m with John Howson on this one, when he writes that ‘unless it [the Government] recognises the scale of the problem and acts soon, it will become the worst teacher-supply situation since the dark days of the early 2000s. That is no way to create a world-class education system’.

Is the crisis in initial teacher education and teacher recruitment beginning to hit the public consciousness?

It’s taken a while, but I was pleased to see at least one MP begin to question some of this Government’s policy in respect of initial teacher education and teacher recruitment this week. Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, has written this article in the Yorkshire Post that explores some of the key issues that I’ve been raising in this blog for a number of years.

Chief amongst these are, of course, the inadequacy of the Schools Direct model in terms of contributing the numbers of teachers that is required for the country as a whole, their geographical spread and subject specialism. She also questions the efficacy of Teach First as a model (and, I would add, the immense cost of sustaining a so-called charity with public funding).  She also mentions the huge costs involved in paying for supply staff to cover the gaps left in schools who are unable to recruit full time members of staff.

It seems to me that as headteachers in many schools face up to this crisis that, eventually, the public consciousness of these matters will begin to hit home. Sadly, by then, it will be too late for many schools and parents, who will find that their children are being taught by non-specialists, supply staff or, even worse, unqualified teachers with minimal, if any, teaching experience and little professional support.

The system of initial teacher education in this country is in a perilous state. The recently announced policy of unrestricting allocations to HEI will not help. It will only fragment further the issues of geographical spread and subject specialism. Year on year, there is a decreasing number of students opting for teacher education courses, with Schools Direct the worst culprit by far in failing to fill allocated placed. These trends have been analysed superbly by Professor John Howson over many years with his most recent observations on the current state of play published last week. Whilst organisations like Teach First play around the edge of the sector, contributing little sustained benefits and with the majority of their student teachers leaving after two years, the organisations that can and should be empowered to drive forwards quality in initial teacher education are being marginalised at every turn.

Almost every headteacher I speak to tells me that universities should be leading initial teacher education across the country. They know, better than anyone probably, that schools (with a few exceptions perhaps) are not wanting or willing to lead programmes of initial teacher education. The system implemented by this Government is falling apart. The NCTL has been shown as incompetent in managing the sector as a whole. Schools Direct is a complete farce. Teach First is propped up by public funding and making minimal impact in a national context. As pressure mounts, one can only hope that headteachers and parents will put pressure on the Government to rethink their approach before permanent damage is done to the infrastructure of the current and future teaching workforce.

More evidence of Teach First’s poor retention rates

As anyone who follows the machinations of policy in relation to initial teacher education knows, the retention rates of Teach First have always been poor. A cynic might say that the clue is in their name. Whilst the Teach First media machine is expert in smoke and mirrors, simple questions deserve a simple answer.

Well, Lousie Haigh (MP for Heeley, Sheffield) took it upon herself to ask Nick Gibb such a question recently. How many Teach First teachers in each (a) subject and (b) parliamentary constituency (i) began teaching and (ii) left the teaching profession in each of the last five years.. The answer was revealing and can been seen in full here.

The following table shows a summary of the figures for the number of teachers beginning to teach with Teach First as compared to the number of teachers leaving teaching having trained with Teach First over the last five years (as a total). I’ve also added a column showing the % loss of teachers for each subject area over the last 5 years.

tf_start_left

 

The figures show clearly that Teach First is failing admirably to train teachers who spend more than a few years working as teachers. Perhaps this doesn’t bother them very much. Maybe their argument is that schools, and the young people they teach, are better off having their ‘ambassadors’ working with them even if it is just for a short period of time rather than not at all.

For me, this represents a complete failure. Both this Conservative Government, and the Labour one that preceded it, have wasted vast sums of public money on a charity who have failed to train teachers to enjoy long and productive teaching careers. The costs of training teachers in each initial teacher training route were examined recently. I’m not sure whether the poor retention rates as illustrated by these figures, and others published by the Select Committee in the last session of parliament, were considered within this work. I will look into that next week. But I do know that our universities train teachers who do enjoy long and sustained careers as teachers and, as such, provide a much better quality of training with a greater degree of cost benefits than Teach First could ever hope to provide.

Unqualified Teachers! This is what happens under a Tory education system

norwich_primary_academyNorwich Primary Academy, part of the inappropriately named Inspiration Trust, is advertising for four unqualified teachers to start this September. The full advertisement text can be downloaded from here (these things have a habit of disappearing).

In his interview today on the World at One, Tristram Hunt attacked the Inspiration Trust for its potential recruitment of unqualified teachers. He cited an example from South Leeds Academy back in 2013 who advertised for two unqualified teachers of mathematics. Their advertisement was quickly withdrawn, along with the application pack, but both are still available on this blog here.

In my view, unqualified teachers have no role to play in state schools in England. Teachers should be appropriately qualified with a degree, a PGCE and QTS. Parents expect this and our children deserve to be taught by qualified professionals. I am 100% behind Labour’s position to put an end to the de-professionalisation of the teaching profession that this Government has initiated. It is yet another reason to vote for a Labour government next week.

 

Labour will abolish School Direct

The main Birley building will be home to 6,500 students and staffIn one of the most welcome announcements in respect of educational policy, I was delighted to hear from Tristam Hunt yesterday that Labour will abolish School Direct, the (in name) school-led system of initial teacher education. The reality is, as anyone who has worked in the initial teacher education sector will know, that university’s have propped up this ideological experiment ensuring that individual students feel a modicum of success by partaking in the programme.

Hunt’s view is that School Direct has been haphazard in its implement, resulted in a crisis of teacher recruitment and a looming national shortage of teachers in key areas (both by subject and geographically). I would agree with all these points. Those who doubt the veracity of these statements should spend a few minutes reading Professor John Howson’s blog. He has, more than anyone else I know, charted the lows of this Government’s policy on teacher recruitment with unfailing energy and a criticality often missing in debates in this area.

At a national level, School Direct has been a complete failure. Last year, it only filled 61% of its total places (down from 68% last year). These statistics may themselves be over-optimistic and inflated. Interested readers should read this recent post by Professor Howson. Figures for this year’s School Direct recruitment look even worse on a month by month analysis.

This failed experiment is in stark contrast to the work done by MMU and other HEI in bolstering their initial teacher education provision, in partnership with schools of course, resulting in an over 90% recruitment success of students to PGCE courses in primary and secondary initial teacher education across the entire UK (the figure at MMU is much higher). Additionally, huge capital investments such as the new Brooks building for the Faculty of Education (at a cost of around £150m; see picture above and below) have ensured the students have access to the very latest and most impressive space and facilities to learn within.

mmu

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of this whole sorry episode is the fallacy that university led ITE provision is done in isolation from schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the 15 years that I have worked for MMU, the partnership of schools across the north west of England has been central to our work, every day. Later today, I’ll be visiting one of these to support a student in Macclesfield who has benefited immensely from his experiences there on a teaching placement. He has benefited immensely from the structured university led programme of education and the support of dedicated colleagues who have helped him navigate the complex process of becoming a teacher.

Incidentally, the school where he is currently working has also benefited immensely in the process too. Despite being at the forefront of the training school programme themselves, they have employed more students from our PGCE in Music course than any other school in the north west of England, with the current Head of Department and two other staff having completed their training with us over the last ten years.

What does the future of ITE look like under a Labour Government? Hunt had this to say:

What we need to do is to take the best of the School Direct system, which is school-based training and practical training, but re-introduce some order into it. [We must] continue a role for higher education providers, which would be obliterated under a future Tory government, and have a regional model, rather like a medical deanery model, [made up] of excellent higher education institutions at the regional core of teacher training programmes.

This seems like a much more sensible route forwards. HEI have the expertise, experience and capacity to manage programmes of ITE. Schools don’t. Generally, they are overwhelmed by the responsibility and student experience suffers. Partnership working has always been, and will remain, the way forward with HEIs leading and schools working alongside as vital partners.

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