Does the quality of teachers entering the profession even matter? – The Good Teacher Training Guide 2011

23rd August 2011

“It is no good having excellent entrants and outstanding inspection grades if the trainees do not go into teaching.” Argues Professor Smithers, one of the authors of of this year’s Good Teacher Training Guide

So perhaps it’s a good idea to have lots of entrants to the profession even if they’re not very good?… or could the two perhaps be combined?

This year’s Good Teacher Training Guide makes for rather odd reading on both policy and methodological reasons.


The “policy” argument which this guide seems to be making is far too simplistic. It argues that even if the best quality trainees come out of universities, (as Ofsted has shown and the report seems to accept) given that more school based trainees stay in teaching, we need to increase their numbers to “re-balance” the system.

As a sort of “one step” policy this promises us one consequence – more low quality teachers.

Last year’s Ofsted annual report showed the judgments made about different types of providers. Interestingly, although Ofsted’s judgments of ITT providers take into account the percentage of trainees achieving “Outstanding”, “Good”, “Satisfactory” and “Inadequate”judgements at assessment, the “Good Teacher Training Guide” does not make reference to the grades achieved by trainees.

Type Outstanding outcomes Satisfactory/un-satisfactory outcomes Outstanding Capacity
Higher Education 47% 6% 50%
Education Based Initial Teacher Training 26%

(cf. 10% 2008-9)

5% <25%
School Centred Initial Teacher Training 23% 9% 38%

Ofsted 2010

Looking at this, it seems fairly clear to me that simply boosting the number of teachers trained through the least satisfactory route seems a rather ill-conceived idea.

This is not to say that School Based approaches to training cannot be outstanding and produce some of the best teachers out there. In fact, in the school based/university based debate I tend to come down on the school based side (providing effective partnerships with HEIs are in place). I just think that the way the argument is made here is very poor. What I’m interested in is what is happening where training providers – whatever the route, score highly on progression to employment AND Ofsted/Teacher quality. There are plenty of these. In the report, the top providers amongst each of the three route score well on teacher quality/Ofsted as well as quality of recruits and progression to employment. This is the case whether one looks at Billericay Educational Consortium – a SCITT, Cambridge University or Canterbury Christ Church EBITT program (note my vested interest- I am a tutor on their GTP program.) The important question is therefore what these providers do to achieve this and I continuously argue that what matters is high quality University-School partnership and effective mentoring.

Aside from increasing the number of low quality teachers, the policies recommended by the report might not even yield cost savings. Although more school based training (might) lead to a more efficient system (indeed this is the financial assumption behind “Training Our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers” ), part of the increase in school based training that the report proposes would come from an increase in the GTP scheme. It claims that this “would be a good investment since schools recruit to meet their needs and the trainees enter and continue in teaching”. Given that it costs £23,000 to train a GTP – significantly more than on any other route, the investment may not be particularly financially attractive to a government seeking to save money. There are definitely ways of reforming the GTP which I’ve discussed at length with the DfE and I’m convinced that some sort ofGTP program, appropriately reformed, is an excellent way forward. It’s just a shame that this report doesn’t engage with this discussion beyond quoting the ITT strategy.


I’m no methodologist so I’m prepared to be corrected on what follows but there also seem to be some issues with the rationale behind the report.

The assumption behind it is that we need to re-balance the emphasis on teacher quality versus progression rates when looking at training providers. However, the gradings in the table above from the latest Ofsted report are based on a framework which quite clearly evaluates outcomes including:

“the extent to which trainees complete the course successfully and progress to employment and/or gain licensed practitioner status”

That’s why if you look at ‘Outstanding’ providers’ inspection reports they say things like:

“The majority of trainees secure employment following the end of their courses, significantly higher than the sector average”.

“The diverse range of secondary training routes is particularly effective in attracting a wide range of people into teaching and in meeting clearly identified needs in schools across the region. This is evident in employment rates that are well above the national average”.

Given that progression rates are already included in the Ofsted grade, picking them out again separately and re-calculating provider ratings using these results in double counting which disproportionately emphasises progression at the expense of teacher quality. Given that the report does not make a single mention of numbers of trainees achieving different standards the trend towards recognising “The Importance of Teaching” seems to get a kick in the teeth from this report.

The statistics used by the report are also rather odd too. They jump from year to year to the extent that one graph in the report actually shows that SCITT trained teachers are significantly less likely to be employed in the first, second, third and fourth year after qualifying – running counter to the report’s overall argument. This is quickly dismissed on the grounds that:

“SCITT entry into teaching has improved since 2005/06 and in the latest figures – for 2008/09 – employment during the first year after completion was recorded as 88.2 per cent against the 72.3 per cent in 2005/06”.

No similar paragraph follows to describe any changes in employment on the other routes.

Overall the guide might be useful for trainees wanting to know how to maximise their chances of getting a job when they complete their course but as guidance on which provider will turn them into the best teacher or as a source of “Policy Pointers” it should be treated with great caution.

The Good Teacher Training Guide by A. Smithers and P. Robinson is published today (11/8/11) by the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham