Teachers need support not the sack

23rd September 2011 at 01:00

Your article failed to raise key questions about the Sutton Trust report on which it is based. Its use of data from the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) reports by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a one-dimensional way of identifying teacher quality.

Pisa data has strictly limited applicability when it comes to identifying the quality of teaching, which is why the OECD focuses its research on teacher quality through its Teacher and Learning International Study (Talis), in which England participates. Yet the report fails to mention Talis and its findings that teacher self-confidence ("self-efficacy") and knowledge are vital to quality, as is professional development valued by teachers.

Although the report raises serious questions about how to improve teacher quality, its recommendations fail to answer them. It is not good enough for the report to blow a dog whistle in favour of Government reforms. Teaching schools, limited as they are by funding and Ofsted criteria, are an inadequate response to enhancing teachers' self-confidence, knowledge and learning, as are new, arcane approaches to evaluating teacher performance. The fact is that the Government has no comprehensive strategy for all teachers on the lines set out by the OECD. Rectifying that would have a better chance of boosting teachers' self-confidence and confidence. The Sutton Trust report should have recommended just such a strategy.

John Bangs, Senior research associate, faculty of education, Cambridge University.

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