Category Archives: PGCE

The Art of Case Study


Over the years I have enjoyed conducting a range of research projects into various aspects of education. Some of these have been funded through the EU or various research councils, but I think the most enjoyable have been those where I have just followed a particular interest that has emerged from my work as a musician and teacher. Many of these small-scale pieces of research have used the  methodology of case study. My interest in case study began during my PhD, when I conducted case studies within my teaching (see Dunwich Revisited and Reflecting Others for examples).

On our PGCE course, our students have to undertake a range of assignments. One of these (we call it the Curriculum Development Assignment) is just about to be started. In the assignment, as the name suggests, students have to research a particular area of their subject’s curriculum, devise a unit of work, teach it and analyse the consequences for their teaching and their students’ learning during their second, substantive, teaching placement.

Do to this effectively, we encourage students to utilise a simple research methodology like case study to structure their work. I say simple, but I’ve found case study to be a very engaging and at times complex research methodology. But at its simplest, it is easy to explain and to begin using. Tomorrow, I get to work with our fantastic group of PGCE students on our two music PGCE courses, and the Schools Direct course too, and help them prepare for this assignment.

Using two metaphors drawn from Magritte’s work (including The Field Glass shown at the beginning of this post) and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, we will explore how case study can be used within a simple case study project like those that I did for my PhD and for those like the students will be conducting over the next few months. If you want to find out more about what we are going to consider, you can download my notes for this session here

Qualified or Unqualified? What’s the basic qualification every teacher should have?

Over the weekend a massive political argument has developed over the Government’s Free Schools programme. Long term readers of this blog will know that I’ve always been opposed to this initiative, particularly because it means that anyone, regardless of qualification, can teach at one of these schools. This is also the case for any state academy; and of course, for any independent schools (the difference here being, of course, that they are funded primarily through fees).

Every political party should be ashamed, in varying degrees, for the current situation. The Conservatives should carry the most blame for imagining and setting up a ridiculous ‘free’ school programme that has been pretty much universally criticised by everyone in the educational establishment. Toby Young seems to be the only defender of the programme that the BBC could find to interview on today’s Today programme.

Labour have been next to useless in their opposition to this programme. The previous Shadow Minister for Education stated a few months ago that Labour, if they came to power, would insist that every teacher in a Free School would have to be appropriately qualified. This is a full three years after the policy was announced and implementation began!

And the Liberal Democrats. What a shambles. Having supported the implementation of the Free School programme at the outset we now have a Lib Dem Schools Minister who is defending it (David Laws) whilst Nick Clegg is attacking it (on this very point about teacher qualification, as well as a requirement to impose the National Curriculum on Free Schools as well as ensure they feed their pupils healthy food).

So, what is all the fuss about? For me, every teacher should be qualified. What does that mean? Traditionally, this has meant that all teachers should have a minimum level of qualification of an undergraduate degree and qualified teacher status (QTS). Both these elements been removed in many schools by this government’s recent educational policies.

Qualified Teacher Status can be obtained in various ways. The majority of would-be teachers obtain it through studying for a PGCE (a postgraduate level qualification that is not the same as QTS but an academic award in its own right and offered to the student by the university and not the Government). Of course, most PGCE courses facilitate the work needed to be assessed against the requirements for QTS as laid out in the Government’s Teacher Standards (which have also been significantly weakened in recent years).

The award of a PGCE, and as part of this QTS, offers would-be teachers many essential skills. Off the top of my head, here is a list of things that I think it teaches students:

  1. The ability to plan an individual lesson and a sequence of lessons in such a way that learning is initiated, sustained and developed;
  2. The knowledge to choose and use a range of different teaching resources effectively;
  3. The techniques of differentiation and personalisation, where learning is tailored to the individual needs of students;
  4. The ability to assess students’ work, formatively and summatively, so that key learning can be identified and evaluated, so that students can maximise their progress;
  5. The constructive use of accountability and reporting mechanisms so that the school, parents and others can be assured that teaching is of a high quality and learning is progressing well in the classroom;
  6. Skilful approaches to communication with students, including the ability to explain things clearly, to model key processes and to question students about their work and promote their thinking;
  7. The management of student behaviour through positive reinforcement techniques rather than negative approaches;
  8. An introduction to the wider theories of educational and developmental psychology that underpin all teaching and learning;
  9. The notion of teacher identity, how it is developed and formed over time, and how it relates to important precursors (i.e. your own identity pre-teaching) and broader discourses (e.g. the subject area that you might be teaching within);
  10. An important challenge to the powerful but potentially fatal influence of teaching in the way that you might have been taught. QTS develops the central notion of the reflective teacher/practitioner which is an essential attribute if you are to learn to teach well in the classroom;
  11. Linked to this, the ability to evaluate teaching and learning using specific tools and make changes to your curriculum at key points;
  12. Detailed knowledge of National Curriculum, exam specifications and the like that frame the work of teachers.

And, to be honest, I could go on for quite a while (but I won’t).

For all these reasons, my belief is that every teacher should have an undergraduate degree, a PGCE and QTS. Anything less than that is selling our children short.

As parents, we have a right to expect that every teacher working within a state school has this basic set of qualifications. If you are unsure, you should ask the head teacher of your free school or academy to account for each teacher’s level of qualifications. Personally, I do not want unqualified teachers teaching my children.

This Government have a different view. They feel that teaching is not something that needs this level of qualification. They are set about systematically to destroy the basis of teacher qualification and give academies and free schools the same ‘freedoms’ that the independent sector have ‘enjoyed’ for many years. But I don’t want my children educated in an independent school or even in an system that adopts the practices of that sector either. Even if I had the money (which I don’t), I wouldn’t let my children spend more than a day being educated under such a system.

As we have seen recently, allowing schools to employ unqualified teachers is a recipe for disaster. I would urge you to promote the view that every state school should be staffed by qualified teachers. Do not settle for anything less.

Finally, I’m sure that many stories about the success of otherwise of individual teachers will be cited in the coming weeks. My brother is a lawyer and has an expression something along the lines of ‘extreme cases make bad laws’. Clearly, there will be good and bad qualified teachers just as there are good and bad unqualified teachers. But building an educational system across England that removes the need for vast swathes of schools not to employ qualified teachers is a stupid policy that will seriously undermine the educational oppportunities of the children at those schools. Thankfully, two of the three political parties seem to have come to the view, eventually, that this is a bad thing. If Toby Young wants to run a school where he can employ anyone as a teacher, he should do that by dipping into his own pocket rather than relying on huge sums of public money.


Attachment Disorder and the Power of Music

Congratulations to Rachel Wyllie (a PGCE student on our course this year) and Gareth Morewood, (Director of Curriculum Support at Priestnall School and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester) for their excellent piece on attachment disorder in Teaching Times. You can download it here.

This research came out of Rachel’s work towards one of her assignments on the PGCE course whist she was undertaking a teaching placement at Priestnall School in Stockport.  I believe that she has continued to work in this area and has produced some excellent video training materials. I’ll update you when I know more.

Every year I am impressed by the quality of the work that our PGCE students produce in collaboration with the Royal Northern College of Music and our partnership schools. I fail to understand why our courses have been drastically cut from over 60 to under 30 in three years. This country still needs highly quality, appropriately trained music teachers and PGCE courses like these are the best way to produce professional music teachers who are engaged in their pedagogical development and switched onto the latest thinking about how to provide quality learning opportunities for their students.

Professor Sir Tim Brighouse speaks out the ‘Government’-induced crisis’ in Initial Teacher Education

Professor Sir Tim Brighouse is a teacher, professor and educator to whom everyone should listen. His experience of education across the UK is second to none, and he has done a range of jobs that most of us could only dream about. He is also prepared to call a spade a spade, which is a refreshing change for an academic in my experience. On the view occasions that I have heard him speak live, I have been impressed by his vast knowledge and wisdom, his ability to bring humour into different discussions and also his compassionate humanity.

For all these reasons, the publication of this statement by Sir Tim is an important marker in the current political debate surrounding initial teacher education. I would urge you all to read it carefully. For those of you that feel that I’m sometimes provocative, intemperate (just too grumpy) and perhaps prone to exaggeration, I’d encourage you to listen to this highly informed and well respected voice. These are some of the key points that Sir Tim makes:

  1. There is a Government-induced crisis in Initial Teacher Education. It is not the fault of the sector itself. It has been caused directly by ill-informed and careless handling of educational policy by Gove and his new puppet Charlie Taylor;
  2. There is no one person or central agency that can ensure a sufficient supply of of trained teachers nationally, or an efficient local distribution of training places covering all subject areas. The distribution of places is now ‘startlingly haphazard’;
  3. QTS is no longer seen as a necessary requirement for becoming a teacher in the English state education system (unless you work for a LA-maintained school);
  4. Charlie Taylor, the new Chief Executive of the Teaching Agency, is overseeing a new system (Schools Direct) that Ofsted believes produces significantly fewer outstanding courses in teacher education;
  5. Many universities have now lost all their PGCE provision and are wholly reliant on schools choosing them to partner with for School Direct places (and what happens when they don’t);
  6. Many universities have, or will, withdraw from the provision of ITE and PGCE type provision because it is both financially and politically too unstable and too risky to carry on their involvement;
  7. Partnership approaches between universities and schools have been the bedrock of the UK’s provision in this area for years, but this is no under threat. HEIs bring much of value to this partnership that, once undone, will not be easily replaced.

I expect that Gove will dismiss Sir Tim’s paper as more ‘yada yada’ from a leftist academic. However, I would encourage you to read Sir Tim’s paper carefully. It comes from a responsible and respected pillar of the UK education system whose opinion we should take very seriously.


Happy new year to all!

Happy new year to all readers of my blog! I hope you have had a good Christmas break and a restful New Year?

It would be nice to start this year on a positive note. Yesterday, I enjoyed interviewing some of the first applicants for our PGCE in Music  and PGCE in Music with Specialist Instrumental Teaching courses. The day before I enjoyed working with our current cohort in a couple of sessions. Meeting new potential students, and working with current ones, reminds me what a privileged position I’m in to help shape the music education workforce of the future. The long-standing links between my university, MMU, the the RNCM have stood a barrage of political changes in recent years but are still strong. Our course, with around 30 students every year (down from 64 a few years ago), is still the largest in the country and I’m privileged to play a role in contributing to its continuation.

In the other part of my job, I’m very fortunate to be able to work with talented researchers and writers on a regular basis. This year, I’m planning to write three books (all for Routledge). Will Evans and I are writing a book on using your local area as a source for curriculum development; Clive McGoun and I are writing a second book on the themes of collaborative creativity with new media; and I’m also writing a book on lesson planning. So, lots to do and think about in my new shed made out of recycled pallets! (If you are interested, click here to see the work in progress and here to see something approaching the finished shed).

On a more negative note, the current trend to favour Teach First in our media continues. Today sees the publication of an article that really only subscribes to the prevailing narrative of Teach First as an overwhelming success for initial teacher education. I’ve made a few remarks about this in a comment but I’m continually frustrated by the lack of criticality in the debate. I know that it isn’t just me that has these concerns or criticisms. But so many other people I talk to are just frightened to speak out (and with good reason given the new contractual situtation that they will find themselves in post September 2013 if Teach First win the tender to manage their own courses).  Journalists, who ought to know better, fail to read and understand the wealth of public information out there that shows how expensive Teach First is in comparison to other routes and constantly cite Teach First’s own figures for this, and retention, without questioning them rigorously.

This, combined with the continued lunacy of Gove’s educational policies, make me feel that we are in for another tough year in education. I will try and keep positive and apologise in advance for the odd rant. But, these aside, I wish you all a very prosperous and happy New Year.

How much does it cost to train one teacher?

Do you know the exact answer to the above question? If not, you are not alone. It seems that even the Government and its various agencies can’t agree on precisely how much it costs to train one teacher either. During this morning I listened to the Education Committee’s gentle interrogation of TDA senior managers and representatives from Teach First, Cambridge University and others. You can view the session here. It was hardly overwhelming.

The Committee asked some straightforward questions about the cost of training one student on the various routes (Teach First, PGCE, SCITT and EBITT) yet failed to get a straight answer from anyone. However, from the answers given and a bit of my own investigation, I can reveal the following:

  • PGCE/SCITT routes cost just under £9k per student (this comprises of a TDA payment of just over £5k along with the £3.3k fees that students pay);
  • EBITT (employment based ITT) costs around £24k per student;
  • Teach First costs around £38k per student.

Even with the increasing tuition costs associated with HEI routes (which would push the cost up to around £14k per student – of which taxpayer’s contribution would certainly be no more that it is presently, i.e. just over £5k and possibly less) there is a massive disparity within these routes. When questioned, the Teach First witness to the Committee tried to argue the added value and benefits of their training, along with supposed benefit of a school obtaining an additional teacher (er, no – they are a student learning to be a teacher), and suggested that the cost of an average teacher’s salary ought to be subtracted from their £38k figure in order to make a fair comparison. This is clearly ludicrous. Teach First trainees are in no way intrinsically better than students on other routes, nor are they equivalent to an experienced teacher and shouldn’t be seen as such. They need mentoring, support and training just like any graduate on any ITT pathway.

The only question that ought to be answered is this. In times of austerity, why is the DfE favouring a route to teaching that costs four times that of the high quality, well- established and well-trodden HEI-based PGCE route?


A consideration of the ‘financial incentives’ of the new ITT framework for 2012/13

Michael Gove has, today, announced the new framework for initial teacher training (note, not initial teacher education) that will kick in from September 2012. All the details can be found here. In the publicity surrounding the framework, much will be made of the £20k incentive to attract physics’ graduates into the profession. But, it is worth remember that this £20k incentive does not take into account the new fees that postgraduate students will have to pay for PGCE courses. My sources tell me that most universities will be charging £9k for a PGCE starting in Septmeber 2012.

For other subjects, including Music, the apparent ‘financial incentives’ for becoming a teacher are a mere illusion compared to the current system. This is how it works out.

At the moment, studying for a PGCE in Music will will cost you around £3k in fees. Therre is no bursary payment this year. Last year, music students received a £6k bursary; the year before that Music was a shortage subject and they received a £9k bursary.

So, how does the new system compare to the current system?


c.£3k fees will rise to c.£9k from September 2012


Currently £0 will rise to £9k if you have a 1st class honours degree, £5k if you have a 2:1 and stay the same (i.e. £0) if you have a 2:2 or below.


If you have a 1st class honours degree, your financial incentive to train to be a music teacher are slightly improved (at the moment you may pay the £3k fee but from next year your fees will be cancelled out by the £9k bursary payment).

If you have 2:1, from next year you will be £4k worse off training to be a music teacher. Your bursary will not cover the fees that universities will charge for your course.

If you have a 2:2 or below, from next year you will be £9k worse off training to be a music teacher.

All these figures, of course, don’t include the cost of living whilst training. So, even with a 1st class honours degree and a £9k bursary, you will have to take out loans or rely on the bank of Mum/Dad for your living expenses.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect this has on recruitment to ITT courses. Gove’s timeline contained within the ITT framework indicate that we will receive details of numbers for ITT courses from the TDA this month. Obviously, we are hoping for no further cuts to our MMU courses following the 40% cut last year.

Please note that all these figures are based on the premise that universities will be charing £9k fees for postgraduate courses such as the PGCE. My sources tell me that this is highly likely to be the case.


Welcome to a new PGCE cohort!

I’d like to welcome our new cohort of students to the PGCE courses that we run at MMU in collaboration with the RNCM! This year we have 31 postgraduate students on two courses including a number of students from leading conservatoires (Michael Gove – please take note of this).

Last year, we welcomed 58 students. You might ask why this year’s cohort is so much smaller. I’m still wondering why that is the case too! I like to think that MMU runs the best music PGCE courses in England (not that we’re competitive or anything like that!), but our courses have been cut by 40% like every other provider of secondary music initial teacher training apart from one organisation – Teach First. I am led to believe that their provision will expand by around 250% over the next few years (from around 8 or so to c.50). Unfortunately, they can only dream of aspiring to the provision that quality courses like MMU and other leading HEI providers have provided consistently for many years. But this won’t stop this Coalition Government prioritising one private company’s work above all others.

Anyway, enough moaning, and welcome to what I’m sure will be another fantastic group of students. Have a fantastic year!

Correction: Four universities to axe their PGCE in Music courses

As suspected, the full impact of this Government’s policy on initial teacher education is beginning to be felt by the music education community.

My understanding is that PGCE courses for Music are closing at the following universities at the end of this academic year: Goldsmiths, Roehampton, Southampton and Bishop Grossteste.

UPDATE: My previous comment about the closure of the course at the University of Cambridge was inaccurate. Apologies for any alarm. A source at the university said this: “While we are very unhappy about the reduction in numbers for music, there are no plans to close music”.  Let’s hope that remains the position.

With the exception of Cambridge, all these courses had less than 8 places for the 2011/12 entry. In addition to these, there are 11 other universities running courses with less than 10 places for the next academic year and one wonders how viable these are.

The closure of these courses represents more than a tragedy for individual HEI staff. Each course is built on a partnership of schools and colleges that will have benefited from the professional development opportunities of working with a local university. The musical communities that surround these courses will also be decimated. Once lost, these partnerships, communities and sources of professional knowledge and development are lost (and will not be replaced).

Please correct me if I’m wrong about any of these closures and let me know about any further closures as they are announced.