Category Archives: Policy

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.

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.

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

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?

 

Nick Gibb on the [non] impact of the EBacc on the arts in school

Nick Gibb’s speech at the Guildhall this week contained an interesting insight into his thinking about the EBacc and the lack of impact that this has made on the provision of arts education in our schools. Without any personal comment from me, at this point, have a read of the following excerpts:

The concern that the EBacc will drive pupils away from creative subjects at GCSE has been made vocally in the media, but proven to be unfounded. The EBacc covers a core set of 5 subject blocks – English, maths, science, humanities and languages – but this allows most pupils to choose a number of additional GCSE options. …

I do understand why some in the arts communities are concerned about accountability measures, such as the EBacc, but in my view they needn’t be. There is no reason why an academic core curriculum should in any way imperil a cultural education, or vice versa.

In fact, an academic curriculum and a cultural education can only complement each other, whether it is reading a wide range of literature; broadening your understanding of Shakespeare’s plays; giving you the historical knowledge to contextualise Picasso’s paintings; or allowing you to read Racine in the original language.

Both aspects of a child’s education can and should co-exist within every school in England. This point was explicitly made by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education in a speech to the Creative Industries Federation in July. We want to challenge every school to make this their aim.

It is my strong personal and professional contention that the exact opposite is the case. This is why both I, and my company UCan Play, support the ISM’s Protect Music Education campaign. Perhaps more importantly, Gibb should stop and think why these 137 organisations working within the education sector also think that his policies are harming the arts, irrevocably, in our schools.

I am genuinely interested to know what is going on in your school? Are the arts flourishing as Nick Gibb suggests? Has the EBacc impacted on your work in any way at all? Please do add your comments below and let’s hear your stories of arts education under Gibb’s and Morgan’s reign.

 

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.

Ed Miliband delivers speech on NHS reform at MMU

As events go, our retiring VC John Brooks must have been delighted to discover that Ed Miliband  chose to deliver his key note speech on NHS reform in the atrium of the recently renamed, after himself, Brooks Building on the Birley campus. He’d even prepared a short speech, in hand:

brooks

By around 11am, a huge crowd had gathered that spanned the entirety of the ‘Spanish’ steps and spread upwards across all remaining floors of the faculty. Students, staff and the general public alike had come to hear the Labour leader;

crowd

crowd2I’ve not heard Ed Milliband speak live before. I was very impressed. He was entertaining, warm, obviously well prepared and came across as a natural and engaging person. After a 10 minute speech outlining the various NHS reforms his party would implement, he spent well over 40 minutes answering questions from the general public before responding to a few questions from political journalists from the BBC, Sky and ITV.

edThe other good news from John Brooks’ point of view, was that he clearly loved the venue. Here’s a snippet of video from the very beginning of the event when he clearly looked up and was seriously impressed by the wonderful building that is our Faculty of Education.

 

He even promised, in front of hundreds of witnesses, to come back for a consultation meeting with a group of student nurses once he is elected Prime Minister. Fingers crossed for the election result in May.

 

Ten Pieces is not enough! Coming to a primary school near you – 100 pieces!

Coming soon to a primary school near you – a prescribed list of 100 pieces of classical music that every child should be familiar with. No, this isn’t a joke. This is the cornerstone of future Tory music education policy according to the speech given by Nick Gibb at the Music Education Expo this week.

For clarity, here’s is the complete extract from the speech together with the suggestions that the preeminent expert on music education thinks should be included (that’s sarcasm BTW ;) ):

While there is already a great deal of good practice, we also want to make sure there is support available for teachers who may need it – in particular, practical help for non-specialist primary school teachers. I am delighted that Classic FM and the ISM are going to compile, and give schools access to, a new list of 100 pieces of classical music that every child should be familiar with by the time they leave primary school.

Being familiar with the best known classical works is as important as reading the canon. Music has been important to me personally and my suggestions for pieces to include would range from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to Parry’s setting of ‘I was glad’ and Allegri’s ‘Miserere’, which I still remember singing as a choirboy. I very much hope there will be strong engagement from those within music teaching with ISM and Classic FM as they develop the list.

The full speech can be read here. I challenge you to find another single idea about the future of music education within it. Music Education Expo is the premiere music education event in the UK each year. As a platform, Gibb had the chance to set a future vision for music education under a Tory government. This was the best he could come up with. I’ll leave you to make your own judgement.

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