THERE is a revolution under
way in the training of teachers. It was not entirely unexpected, as
it was foreshadowed in the Government's 2010 White Paper The
Importance of Teaching. Like other Gove initiatives, however,
it is having unforeseen consequences.
Many schools, including
church secondary schools and a handful of primaries,
enthusiastically embraced the Government's attempt last autumn to
move a significant segment of teacher training into schools and
away from the higher-education sector through the new School Direct
programme. That includes the Cathedrals Group of church
universities - traditionally an important provider of teacher
education for more than a century, since their foundation as
The schools may have either
thought that School Direct was a better way to recruit new
teachers, or believed that government policy was pushing them in
that direction. Some may have been dissatisfied with existing
training arrangements. But many allocated places were still left
unfilled by late August, especially in the vital subjects of
science, technology, and mathematics.
Officials created a
complicated system based on places negotiated by brokers - some of
whom were the universities themselves - and schools. At a guess,
some schools bit off more than they could chew, judging by the fact
that some have returned a portion of the places originally
allocated to them. It also seems likely that the Government
accepted bids without evidence that the schools had the capacity to
cope with the numbers.
The Government has also
moved from the previous model, which was focused on targets, to a
looser one, based on allocations that effectively reduce the close
relationship be- tween training places and potential jobs. The
exception to this is the School Direct salaried route, where
schools are supposed to offer em- ployment at the end of training.
By adding the School Direct route to the mix of training
opportunities, the Government has endangered existing provision in
some subjects in the universities, including the church
While providing most initial
teacher training, the university sector has, traditionally, also
underpinned professional development through taught higher-degree
courses, and the research that is so important for creating
This area of their work has
also been weakened. Already, this summer, the University of Bath
has signalled its intention to end its involvement in teacher
education, and the University of Cumbria has made education staff
Along with their
competitors, the Cathedrals Group will be carefully watching the
new OFSTED framework for the inspection of teacher education that
came into force a year ago.
Although most courses so far
in- spected under the new arrangements have emerged with a "good"
grade, Liverpool Hope's primary course was judged to be in need of
improvement. But those church universities that received the top
grading from OFSTED under the former inspection framework will be
concerned to retain that status when the next inspection takes
This is especially the case
for those - Chester, Cumbria, Chichester, and Canterbury Christ
Church among them - that have shown considerable foresight by
supporting Schools Direct, since any downgrading might pose a
threat to the allocation of future places.
The advent of a new unified
admissions procedure for 2014 entry to postgraduate
teacher-training should make it easier for those responsible for
teacher supply to track the level of interest in teaching among
graduates - and, it is hoped, to take early action on any
shortfalls in recruitment.
This is important because
the sharp rise in the birth-rate during the past decade shows
little sign of slowing down, and is putting pressure on school
places, especially in London, but also in other highly populated
areas of the country.
So, the demand for primary
teachers will increase for much of the next decade. Because so many
primary schools are church schools, there are important
consequences for teacher-training numbers in church
Moreover, beyond 2015 the
bulge will move into secondary schools, with the consequent demand
for more secondary-school teachers. In the short term, the raising
of the leaving age to 17 this September, and to 18 for those
entering the sixth form in 2014 also ups the demand for
As yet there are no signs of
a return to the teacher-supply crisis which faced schools a decade
ago. Current allocations probably exceed the likely demand for
secondary teachers in 2014, but careful monitoring of the situation
is essential if shortages are to be averted, especially in London
and the south east where the range of alternative opportunities for
graduates is at its greatest.
As the undergraduate
teacher-training programmes decline, attracting candidates for
post-graduate courses becomes more important.
There are now virtually no
secondary subjects offered at under- graduate level, and the number
of primary places has dropped to about 6000. Fewer than a third of
primary teachers are now being trained through this route.
Despite this reduction, the
first day of Clearing showed a significant number of
primary-teacher training courses with unfilled places. It will be a
challenge for anyone entering through Clearing to complete the
Skills Test required before they start their course.
The past year has been a
challenging one for those involved in teacher training. They have
had to deal with the consequences of the move to a more
school-directed form of teacher education at the same time as
witnessing the first signs of a slowdown in recruitment in the key
science and technology areas. The next six months will be vital in
establishing whether, after several years of plenty, schools may be
moving towards a period of teacher scarcity.
If shortages do emerge, it
is to be hoped that action is taken faster than the last time a
teacher-supply crisis was allowed to develop, a decade ago.
Professor John Howson is managing director of
DataforEducation.info, and Senior Research Fellow in the Department
for Education at the University of Oxford.