What Talis tells us about schools and teachers today

Education systems around the world should trust in and listen to their teachers, says OECD education boss

Helen Ward

What can we learn about England's schools from the latest Talis international survey?

A major international study of teachers published today reveals who is teaching in England’s schools, the pupils they teach and what they think government should prioritise.

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) has asked 250,000 teachers and school leaders at 15,000 schools in 48 countries and economies about their work.

And in his foreword to the report, Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation and Development, which runs the survey, said school systems should take a greater interest in the professional views of teachers “as experts on teaching and learning”.

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“For me, it is a given that the quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers," he said. "So, attracting, developing and retaining the best teachers is the greatest challenge education systems have to face.”

Making teaching 'intellectually attractive'

He said that countries "will need to work harder, not just to make teaching financially more attractive, but – most importantly – intellectually more attractive”.

Trust in teachers will be the key to success, he argued, saying: “Successful education systems in the 21st century will do whatever it takes to develop teachers’ ownership over professional practice.

“Simply perpetuating a prescriptive model of teaching will not produce creative teachers: those trained only to reheat pre-cooked hamburgers are unlikely to become master chefs.”

For teachers in England, recruiting more teachers to reduce class sizes is their number one priority for government spending.

The 2018 Talis report also reveals that, in England:

  • The average age of a teacher was 39 years old – the same as in the 2013 Talis survey;
  • Teaching was the first choice of career for just 52.2 per cent of male teachers, compared with 61.9 per cent of women;
  • Headteachers are, on average, 50 years old – and just 6 per cent are aged 60 or above, far fewer than the OECD average of 20 per cent;
  • 25 per cent of teachers work in schools where at least 10 per cent of pupils have a migrant background;
  • The share of teachers working in schools where at least 10 per cent of pupils have English as an additional language has risen from 28 per cent in 2013 to 41 per cent in 2018 – one of the highest increases across the countries surveyed;
  • 72 per cent of teachers feel they can cope with the challenges of a multicultural classroom;
  • 41 per cent of teachers work in classes with at least 10 per cent of students with SEND;
  • According to headteachers’ reports, the share of schools with more than 10 per cent of students with SEND has dropped from 67 per cent to 54 per cent;
  • Teachers said their highest need for training was in the area of teaching students with special educational needs – but the proportion reporting a high need for this training was low at 6 per cent of teachers, compared with an OECD average of 22 per cent;
  • 63 per cent of teachers report frequently calming students who are disruptive;
  • Headteachers deal with more reports of cyberbullying between pupils than in any other country surveyed, with 13.9 per cent saying this is a weekly occurrence;
  • About 80 per cent of lesson time is spent on actual teaching and learning;
  • Teachers are supportive – with 84 per cent saying they support each other to implement new ideas, compared with an OECD average of 78 per cent.



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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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