Allocations for 2017-18 teacher training places will be sent to providers (Teaching School Alliances, University Schools of Education, Teach First etc) this week. After a series of changes to recruitment systems that left schools short of staff, and with a reluctance from governing bodies and MAT boards to fill the gaps with unqualified staff, it is hoped that the new Conservative Party regime may bring some common sense to the allocations so that sufficient teachers can be trained to meet needs. It is therefore an opportune moment to reflect on what universities offer society in terms of teacher training.
1) High quality – the narrative that poor teaching is a result of teacher training flies in the face of evidence from every round of OfSTED inspections that teacher training was of almost uniformly high quality. Observations of university trainers found expert up-to-date tuition. The claim that universities promote poor pedagogy also ignores the evidence that ideas such as brain gym came into schools through consultants not academics.
2) Value- universities have the capacity to train large numbers of teachers (35000 in some years in the past) at, thanks to economies of scale, relatively low cost.
3) Partnership – universities have a commitment to working with others, for example with Teaching School Alliances, to improve provision. This has happened even where, as with School Direct courses, it is not in the universities’ financial interests. The best Teaching School Alliances see universities as key partners in an endeavour to build, through genuine collaboration, on the success of that which came before.
4) Admissions expertise – universities have years of experience in processing applications and interviewing. A School of Education will often interview 80 applicants a day with rigour and sophistication.
5) Promotion of equal opportunity at admission – universities are relatively neutral. No preference is given to relatives, known TAs etc. As a result until School Direct was introduced, diversity in the teaching profession was improving. Now we have schools “growing their own” and the introduction of business practices, diversity is declining in primary schools.
6) Promotion of a research culture through which staff and students are encouraged to reflect at critical depth. This formation in thinking through practice once defined the profession and the remaining vestiges should be abandoned by policy makers at society’s peril.