PAC demands urgent review of teacher training

10 Jun 16

The government does not understand the difficulties faced by many schools in recruiting teachers and should undertake an urgent review of teacher training to boost numbers, the Public Accounts Committee has concluded.

A scathing report from the committee found that the Department for Education had missed its targets to fill teacher-training places for four years running and has no plan for how to achieve them in future.

MPs recommended that a review consider the wide variations in the availability of training places across England.
The effectiveness of the Department for Education’s bursary scheme for training should also be considered, after the PAC said it was “not convinced” it represents value for money. There is no tracking of whether the recipients of bursaries go on to complete their training, qualify as teachers and enter the school workforce.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said the government had taken too little responsibility for getting teacher education right.

“The Department for Education has repeatedly missed its target to fill training places. At the same time, it has remained woefully aloof from concerns raised by frontline staff and freely available evidence,” she stated.

“The department takes comfort from national statistics but pays insufficient heed to the fact that teaching happens locally, in individual schools.”

There is a disconnect between real-world problems and the DfE’s “haphazard approach” to teacher training, which Hillier said risks putting pupils’ futures in jeopardy.

“It is a basic point but one worth spelling out for the government’s benefit: variations in the supply and quality of teachers at local level can significantly affect pupils’ educational attainment and life prospects,” Hillier said.

“The department must develop sustainable policies that fully consider the recruitment difficulties facing schools, the shortage of applicants for training places and the educational needs of pupils.”

The committee also called on the department to report back by the end of August on the extent and impact of teachers taking lessons they are not qualified in.

Hillier said MPs had been alarmed to learn that 18% of pupils in English Baccalaureate subjects, which include mathematics, physics and languages, were not being taught by teachers with higher level qualifications in the subject.

However, schools minister Nick Gibb said he simply did not recognise this picture of teacher training, and was disappointed that the report fails to recognise the significant work already done, including in its education white paper, to increase numbers.

“More people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it, there are 13,100 more teachers today than when we came to office and the ratio of teachers to pupils is stable with more teachers also choosing to come back to the classroom,” he stated.

Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the DfE had undermined the established system of teacher training without having a coherent alternative to put in its place.

“Nicky Morgan’s white paper proposals for the removal of the qualified teacher status and the transfer of accrediting powers to schools will worsen issues of quality, without increasing teacher numbers,” he said.

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