Teacher training place allocations metric ‘biased’

The allocation of teacher training places could be subject to new metrics that have been described by an advocate for universities as “undoubtedly biased” in favour of school-based routes.

Only the “best” training providers will be given guaranteed place allocations based on their performance in three metrics, understood to be course completion rates, employability and attainment.

It is also understood the measures could be used for allocating places in 2017-18, which providers will begin recruiting for this September.

“Centres of excellence” were promised by the government in last month’s white paper to give stability to the initial teacher training (ITT) sector.

Since September, training providers have faced national recruitment caps; when a fixed number of trainees are recruited across the country, providers have to stop taking any more, even if their courses are half-full.

This caused multiple problems across the university routes, and was described as “chaotic and shambolic” after its introduction.

In response, the government brought in a new “75 per cent” rule for providers after the University of Cambridge said it would have to close its history course because of the new rules. It allowed providers to keep recruiting in certain subjects until they had offered places to 75 per cent of the numbers they recruited last year.

The Department for Education (DfE) then confirmed multi-year allocations would return for the “best providers”, both school and university-led.

However, the inclusion of course completion rates and employability suggests the government is still favouring in-school training routes.

Pam Tatlow (pictured), chief executive of MillionPlus, an advocate group for universities, said the criteria were “undoubtedly biased” in favour of school-based routes in which trainees work as salaried teachers and “progression into employment is virtually guaranteed”.

Tatlow said the criteria would “further undermine the viability of university-led courses” and would fail to address teacher shortages.

Universities will be less favoured under the new metrics, suggests analysis by Schools Week.

In 2013-14, only 16 (of 255) training providers had all trainees complete their courses and gain employment. All were school-based.

The “best” universities in terms of completion and employment were Leeds Trinity and Buckingham – both with 100 per cent completion and 92 per cent of trainees with jobs.

Russell Group universities, considered to be favoured by ministers, do not rank well on the metrics. Newcastle University is top among the so-called “elite” group, ranking 27th based on completion rates. While its primary and secondary routes had almost universal completion, just 64 per cent of trainees were then employed as a teacher.

At the University of Cambridge, which the government stepped in to save from
the forced recruitment caps earlier this year, 98 per cent of trainees completed secondary school training, with 96 per cent finding employment.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, urged the government to use Ofsted ratings as a measure for selecting “best providers”.

Teacher training providers are subjected to inspections, similar to schools, and are given similar grades. Noble-Rogers suggested anyone with a “good or outstanding” measure should be considered “best”.

He also echoed concerns about using “employability” as a metric. Data previously collected by the General Teaching Council showed that while trainees in school-based routes immediately began work, many from university routes “took time out, or did supply teaching, before taking a permanent job”.

Recent figures show that those in school-based training tend to be over 25, while most on university routes are under 25.

Noble-Rogers suggested criteria including widening participation, the recruitment of teachers from underrepresented groups, and research activity, claiming this would prevent any kind of “gaming” of the system.

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  1. If employability is going to be a key metric where will that leave the Teach first? Data published in the NAO report showed that 50% of trainees do not get a job in schools at the end of the 2 year Teach First programme. This attrition rate is twice as bad as the worst of all other routes into teaching when measured at 2 years post programme start.

  2. Employment is an interesting metric.
    As a university provider we are inundated by agencies wishing to sign up trainees. They offer many incentives, are willing to come and talk to trainees.

    If an agency secures a trainee’s ‘signature’ to work with for them, does this count as being employed? If so, we can increase our employment – game the system – by getting many of our trainees to sign up with agencies. Our partner schools may not be so happy however if they then find that they are paying a premium to employ our trainees – win some lose some?

    If agency work does not count as being ’employed’ universities will stop as much contact between agencies and our trainees as possible as it would harm employment statistics. Are we serving our trainees well in that case?

    At the other end of the process, what if we have someone at interview and we ask about their intentions on finishing – if they say they want to travel and use their new QTS to work in different countries – could universities be less inclined to take that person on, regardless of how good they are?

    Level playing fields are never easy to put in place. But it is outrageous to manufacture a biased system that discriminates against a very successful route into teaching just because you ideologically don’t like it.

    Stop playing games, DfE, with teacher education and work to solve the recruitment crisis and restore faith in a profession you have spent 6 years systematically dismantling for ideological motives.

  3. Rachel Lofthouse

    As Head of Education at Newcastle University I was curious about the statement ‘Newcastle University is top among the so-called “elite” group, ranking 27th based on completion rates. While its primary and secondary routes had almost universal completion, just 64 per cent of trainees were then employed as a teacher’. I have spent some of the day today investigating where these figures come from. We now know (because Schools Week have good journalists and editors who are very open about their sources) and we are on the case. These employment figures actually misrepresent the reality, and I am pleased to be able to state that we have a much better employment rate than this suggests, to match our very strong completion rate. Indeed 99% of our secondary students completing in 2014-15 are in teaching posts (at least that’s what they have told us, and we trust them). Perhaps we are even more ‘elite’ that we thought?

    That idea however leads me to my other curiosity – about the idea of the elite. As an educationalist it is a construct that I am rarely comfortable with. I might work in a Russell Group university but so much quality teacher education goes on outside of that group. The idea that we can generalise about the categories of provider and what that means in terms of teacher education is largely nonsense. That nonsense becomes even more so when the professional learning and development of teachers is reframed as training and seen as a production line involving raw material, processing, quality monitoring and supply. The role of the types of data and metrics that significant policy decisions are based on is only valid if we believe that teacher education is that production line. As James says in his comment above we can play games with this or we can get serious. Our future teachers and the children and young people they will teach deserve us to be serious. Our successful student teachers also deserve to be able to take their qualifications and use them as they wish – after all they paid the fees. I am proud to be able to say that there are many schools worldwide which are graced by our alumni. I am also proud to be able to say that we are in this for the long haul, and will continue to fight the dismantling of the system to suit politicians whims. We should be redesigning initial teacher EDUCATION intelligently, and in that sense both universities and schools can play a productive, creative and essential role.