Another $64m question that many are grappling with in this country.
Data was published today about recruitment figures to initial teacher training in England via a new professional, school-based route called School Direct. There are concerns that, because schools are rejecting candidates, we will not have enough trainees in specific subjects to fill new teacher vacancies from September 2014 on.
This all relates to the question of what quality of teacher we wish to have in the English education system.
Firstly, to restate what has now become widely accepted, teachers are of key importance to an education system.
Secondly, the English Education Ministry announced last year that teachers in academies and free schools would not require a national certificate of competence (Qualified Teacher Status) to work in these types of less centralised state-funded schools, as happens for the private sector. The argument was that ‘good’ Heads should be the ultimate judges of ‘good’ teachers. The Labour Opposition has responded recently by saying that if it assumes power in two years time, it will ensure that all teachers in state-funded schools move towards QTS. We are not yet sure of the legalities behind this.
Thirdly, while we do have new teacher professional standards in England, which are supposed to be used to inform performance management within schools, the problem is that many Heads aren’t entirely happy with parallel proposals to link teacher pay to performance management (see this interesting recent post by one of them).
Last but not least, there is an onus in the current system on recruiting teacher training applicants who have firsts or 2.1s from their undergraduate degrees, as the Government’s agency the National College for Teaching and Leadership sees this raising the overall bar for the profession. Questions have been raised about the evidence this shows of good pedagogical qualities.
So where does this leave me on knowing what quality of teacher we want in English education?
The short answer is: “I don’t know” (an acceptable response from the Dalai Lama to questions).
The longer answer is: “We need to make a thorough, evidence-informed decision on what makes a good teacher and then decide what we can do about it”. Whether this can be done for a complete national system is a separate debate.