This week's publication of performance tables for teacher education is a Good News Story whatever the actual figures may reveal.
So, at least, the Teacher Training Agency - which compiled the tables- would have us believe.
Some data, such as the dearth of men in primary training or the relatively poor A-levels of entrants, may cause concern. But this is the first time such detailed information has been published in England and that, says TTA chief executive Anthea Millett, is in itself cause for celebration.
Across 102 pages covering 101 providers for the 1996-7 academic year, the Initial Teacher Training Performance Profiles detail everything from the gender and ethnic mix of trainees to their entry qualifications, pass rates and how many of them actually find jobs. It also lists all published results from inspections by the Office for Standards in Education.
Ms Millett called the profiles an "invaluable aid" for anyone considering teaching - although only part of the story; people should always seek more information before choosing a course.
The tables also offer institutions - and the 20 new school-centred initial teacher-training providers - a chance to compare themselves and, Ms Millett hopes, raise their game. While the data largely confirm what the agency has already highlighted as problems - the gender and ethnic imbalance, the poor entry qualifications - Ms Millett said that the tables reveal that "there are a lot of things we don't know".
She will want to make them even more detailed in future, bringing in numbers of students arriving via access courses, or with GNVQs. The absence of both this year will have skewed the data on average A-level point scores for some institutions. They could also detail how individual students match up to the new QTS standards which came into force this year.
The Government, which asked the TTA to compile the tables, hailed their publication as another important move in the drive to raise standards in teacher training after years of neglect.
Schools minister Charles Clarke said: "It is essential we have a clear picture of how well providers are doing their job."
The OFSTED data this year are incomplete which is why The TES is not including it. Although every course has now been inspected, the only reports published to date are the initial 199496 primary survey, the first 20 from the primary follow-up survey in 199698 and about half of the secondary courses. They are available on the TTA's website.
* Initial Teacher Training Performance Profiles available on website www.teach-tta.gov.uk or in print from Teacher Training Agency Publications, Freepost ANG 2037, Chelmsford CM1 1ZY, tel: 0845 606 0323 or e-mail: email@example.com
KEY PERFORMANCE FINDINGS
* Only 14 per cent of primary trainees in 1996-7 were men - compared to 43 per cent in secondary; * Just 5 per cent of primary and 7 per cent of secondary trainees came from an ethnic minority; * Only 15 per cent of primary undergraduates and even fewer on secondary courses had 20 A-level points or more - equivalent to one B and two Cs; * PGCE students with a 2:1 or better in their first degree made up 49 per cent of those on primary courses; * Only one-third of maths PGCE students had a 2:1 or first - compared to 59 per cent for English; * In primary, 91 per cent of undergraduate trainees and 86 per cent on PGCE courses gained qualified teacher status (QTS); * QTS pass rates in secondary ranged from 68 per cent (undergraduate music) to 100 per cent (undergraduate IT and history); * Four in five of 1997's newly-qualified primary teachers had a teaching job in England by March this year, but; * Employment rates for new secondary teachers ranged from 63 per cent (history) to 85 per cent (design and technology).