Training league risk to recruitment

21st November 1997 at 00:00
The Government's decision to publish league tables of teacher-training providers could exacerbate the profession's recruitment crisis, universities said this week.

The effect on more mature entrants unable to move because of family commitments could be particularly bad - if they found their local training institution was at the bottom of the league table they might decide to abandon teaching, a Universities Council for the Education of Teachers spokeswoman said.

The Teacher Training Agency is keen to attract more mature entrants and those with experience in other fields.

The decision to start publishing performance tables every year from next July was announced by education minister Estelle Morris at the weekend. She said it was essential that the Government had a "very clear picture of how well (trainers) are doing their job" and emphasised the importance of giving potential trainees the information they need to make "informed comparisons".

The idea for performance tables belongs to former education secretary Gillian Shephard, prompted by concern about the quality of teacher training after a report by the Office for Standards in Education found poor standards of reading in inner-city primary schools. Since the election, there has been some doubt about whether the tables would go ahead.

The performance tables will be based on: * OFSTED reports on training over the past three years; * entry qualifications of students (such as A-level point scores in the case of undergraduates and, for postgraduates, the number with a 2:1 degree or better); * trainees gaining qualified teacher status (both actual numbers and percentage of those on roll at start of course); * newly-qualified teachers getting teaching jobs in the term following completion of their course; * feedback from schools and students on whether quality of training was good, adequate or poor; * standards of lessons taught by newly qualified teachers (based on analysis of grades given during school inspections).

Mary Russell, the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers spokeswoman, said that many of these performance indicators were beyond the control of institutions. Judgments on the quality of NQTs and the NQTs' own evaluation of their training were both highly subjective, she suggested. Also, there might be a host of reasons why an NQT did not get a job straightaway, not necessarily related to the quality of training.

Another worry, highlighted by UCET's chairman Ian Kane is that institutions which take people from unconventional academic backgrounds are those most likely to be penalised by the table and could lose students and, ultimately, be closed down.

The Government also published its official response this week to Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry into teacher training. This was carried out by Sir Stewart Sutherland, who was highly critical of OFSTED's inspection of teacher training. Sir Stewart was OFSTED's first chief inspector, before Chris Woodhead took over.

The Government appears to have accepted Sir Stewart's emphasis on importance of higher education in teacher training, but is silent on his criticism of OFSTED. It has also agreed to publish a paper later this month explaining how it comes up with its recruitment targets for teacher training.

But the main issue worrying teacher trainers at present is still the chief inspector's primary "follow-up survey" and whether its results will be used by the TTA to cut funds to downgraded courses, especially after it emerged that four courses (Durham, Bath HE, Warwick and Derby have been downgraded).

The Secretary of State is still considering whether inspection data from the controversial follow-up survey will be used in next summer's performance table.

"We hope that the existing dysfunctional (inspection) process will be radically improved to eliminate the worst weakness, namely the procedure of generalising from a small error-prone sample," says UCET .

Next month the TTA will be inviting university representatives to serve on a focus group to work out the format of the tables.

Why they opt for teaching, Page 16

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