Category Archives: Schools Direct

School-led partnerships setting the benchmark for high quality teacher training. Seriously?

Ofsted’s latest press release about initial teacher training is ‘misleading, inaccurate and inappropriately political’. Not my words, but the words of James Noble-Rogers, head of UCET, in a letter yesterday to Sir Michael Wilshaw. Apart from the numerous inaccuracies in the press release, Noble-Roger’s main charge is that:

The OFSTED inspection regime is now open to the charge that, far from reporting candidly and with impunity on the state of provision, it is concerned to seek to justify government policy on ITT. There must now remain a suspicion that OFSTED ratings are a reflection of bias against university involvement in ITT. 

This is a very sorry state of affair which, unfortunately, was entirely predictable. Whilst the HEI sector has worked tirelessly with schools to create partnerships where high quality teacher education can flourish, those very same schools and other organisations such as Teach First have benefited from ideological and political reforms which, in my view, are clearly unsustainable in the longer term.

Whilst anyone with a dose of common sense knows that Wilshaw is just Gove’s puppet, there is a significant risk of irreversible damage being done to the mainstay of our initial teacher education provision in the UK, i.e. our higher education institutions. Whilst I’m well aware that I am open to criticism of individual bias (being employed by one of these institutions), I can honestly say that this is not a concern driven by personal considerations.

Over the last 12 years I have worked with HEI (my own and others as an external examiner), GTP and SCITT groups. I have also had very close friends and colleagues work alongside Teach First (never a pleasant experience apparently and one best avoided, but that’s another story). Clearly, there are dedicated professionals working for the best of their students in every ITT context. However, the political bias in favour of SCITTs and Teach First is beyond a joke. Anyone with a genuine concern for the future of our teacher education programmes in the UK should stand up and speak up against Ofsted and this Government’s misleading and ill-informed propaganda about what works, and doesn’t work, in terms of quality initial teacher education.

The headteachers of schools who pander to Gove and support these politically driven reforms should take a serious look at themselves. Short term political favour and financial advantage will get them so far; but the longer term potential damage to them and their schools as these reforms are seen for what they are (unviable in terms of scale, unsustainable in terms of financial resource, and will result in poorer quality teachers) will come back to haunt them, and their schools, for years to come.

The leaders of our HEI ITT programmes should also get a grip on reality. Dancing to Ofsted’s tune is a dangerous strategy. A more robust response is needed by the sector as a whole. Gove and his SPAD attack buddies, Wilshaw, Wigdortz and others who are seeking to capitalise on the creation of ‘free’ market for ITT (or, in the case of Teach First, a ‘free’ market subsidised by millions of Government development funds), will not go away. By 2015 the damage will have been done and I’m doubtful that any future Government will reverse the damaging policies that are being inflicted on the sector right now.

These are sad times for those working within initial teacher education in the UK. Quality programmes are closing across the country, organisations that have worked in partnership for years are being turned against each other, individual academics are frightened to speak out about the truth because they are worried about their own and their colleagues’ jobs, and what counts as ‘quality’ has been turned on its head. The ‘nasty party’ has returned and is spreading its nastiness across the sector in bucket-loads.

By way of a footnote, a FOI request has been made to Ofsted and the DfE regarding the communications around this press release between these organisations. A copy of UCET’s letter to Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the DfE is available here. I hope a response is forthcoming but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Gove’s DfE doesn’t have a great record in this respect.

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.