Superteachers on the way – but will failing schools benefit?

schools, training and skills

Author(s):  Jonathan Clifton
Published date:  27 Jun 2011
Source:  House Magazine

The schools white paper brought a welcome focus on ‘the importance of teaching’. Recognising that the best way to drive improvement in our schools is to improve the quality of teaching, the government has announced a number of changes to the way teachers are recruited and trained.

The reforms have largely focused on the recruitment and selection of teachers – including the expansion of Teach First, requiring a minimum 2:2 degree for entry into the profession and moving teacher training into schools. These changes will help raise the status of the profession, but they won’t produce systematic change. This is because they focus on new recruits and miss the 90 per cent of teachers who are already out in the classroom.

The move to train teachers in schools could pave the way for a better way to share good practice, but only if they are properly funded and have close links to universities. The best teacher training systems combine practical experience with research and theory. The biggest challenge will be to ensure these improvements to teaching are felt where they are needed most – in the underperforming schools and classrooms that struggle to attract top teachers. It is well known that many underperforming schools have staffing problems, either struggling to recruit qualified staff or having to cover for staff absence. The expansion of Teach First goes some way to addressing this, but more change is needed.

In summary, the government has made good progress on reforms to teaching. Sadly changes in other areas of the school system may undo some of this work. The introduction of a league table system focused on more able ‘academic students’, a restrictive curriculum review, and cuts to support for post-16 learning, will all make it harder for improvements in teaching to translate into improvements in the school system as a whole.


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Jonathan Clifton, Senior Research Fellow