An epic failure. A colossal mess.
There isn’t any other way to describe the performance of England’s Department for Education. Consider the findings of the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts on “Training New Teachers”:
- Missed targets to fill teacher training places for four years running.
- No understanding of the reality that schools currently face in recruiting teachers.
- The number and variety of routes into teaching is causing enormous confusion.
- There is a large and growing number of pupils taught by teachers who are not subject specialists (many of whom are not qualified teachers!)
- “Quality” is “frustrated” by inability to attract enough applicants to teaching.
- Bursaries are not providing value for money.
- There is insufficient evaluation of training routes and other government initiatives.
No wonder neither Nicky Morgan nor Nick Gibb have taken to Twitter to comment publicly on these findings. Both, however, managed to find time on the day of the publication of this report to congratulate Amanda Spielman on her appointment as the next Chief Inspector at Ofsted.
Maybe her first job might be to look at the entire workings of the Department for Education. If Ofsted – that is the Office for Standards in Education, which should surely includes the standards of the department – is genuinely independent of the government, then maybe they should be called in to inspect that department. (We jest, of course).
If a school had received such a damning report from Ofsted it would be shut down immediately and the regional bogeyman would be sent in with his pocket full of sponsorships from academy chains. Though we doubt that even the most established MATs would consider taking over such a shambolic mess.
The House of Commons Select Committee for Public Accounts has drawn attention to what the large majority of the teaching profession has known to be true for some time – that the policy of centralisation, disguised as autonomy for school leaders, was bound to result in the very problems described in this document. Together with the loss of middle tier governance of local authorities, then this hopeless situation was unavoidable without a carefully structured and managed programme.
This document doesn’t even address the issue of non-qualified teachers, the impact of managing the academies programme or indeed the quality of learning that takes place in these new fangled so-called “teaching programmes”.
Neither does it properly scrutinise the reasons for the shortage of prospective teachers, which has to have something to do with the excessive burden of work, the prospect of teaching to an imposed and strait-jacketed curriculum, the negative blame-culture that has been prevalent for decades and the lack of consideration for the wellbeing of teachers and their pupils.
In the following slides, we’ve highlighted the conclusions and the recommendations from the report, and added a brief comment of our own.
We’d be interested to hear other people’s comments, especially as this report hasn’t appeared in national news headlines, yet is undoubtedly a national concern of seismic proportions.
Just imagine what would happen to a school if they’d missed their targets for four years running. Of course, this wouldn’t happen because after two years of missed targets, they’d be placed into special measures with no second chances. For the Department to be criticised for lack of data is irony of the highest order. How can the Department plan for teacher supply without fully addressing the reasons why people don’t want to enter the profession? – The reasons that are within the Department’s control.
84% of school leaders said they had “unprecedented challenges” in recruiting teachers.
“Schools in poorer areas, in isolated parts of the country and with low academic performance struggle to recruit good teachers.”
Who’da thunk it? Or rather – who, in their right minds, would want to work in a school that was “under-performing” – where their capabilities are constantly scrutinised and their careers and livelihoods are in jeopardy? As a matter of fact some brave, some idealistic and some determined souls do so – but clearly nowhere near enough. And who can blame the ones who don’t?
The committee said there was poor use of local and regional data. We say, there’s no joined up thinking going on at all. This is a direct outcome of the demise of local authorities and a direct outcome of trying to centralise everything to do with education – a policy that was always deeply flawed.
There are currently eight different routes into teaching – eight! No coordination, no cohesion, no clarity, no clue!
44% of Computer Science is taught by non-specialists. 44% in a world where the importance of computers increases daily. 43% of Spanish lessons are taught by non-specialists. 28% of Physics lessons are taught by people with no A-level qualification in the subject – as a minimum. Yet again, the Department’s policy on the introduction of the Baccalaureate will merely exacerbate this problem – and yet they persist, against the expressed wishes of the profession, let alone the obvious needs of children. This is NOT choice. This is bad management.
Quote from the report – “The proportion of trainees with good degrees has risen but this is a poor guide to overall teacher quality”.
Another quote. “The National College does not assess whether the standard of applicants has fallen.”
So precisely what is the purpose of the College? The over-reliance on School Direct has been emphasised in this report. Our opinion is that a comprehensive investigation into School Direct should be considered at the earliest opportunity.
This is almost unbelievable. There’s no tracking of bursaries – not even to see whether recipients complete their course! That’s £167 million of our money per annum, given to attract people to teaching, with no checking on the all-important “Value for Money” criterion that schools are judged on daily. The double standards scream out loud and offensively.
Imagine introducing a new programme or initiative in school where money has been received but there’s no impact assessment or evaluation. Most initiatives wouldn’t be approved without a clear and often costly (usually about 10% of the grant) evaluation process, and yet the Department can introduce new approaches to training without evaluation. One rule for those in power, one rule for the rest of us.
A £67 million programme to attract science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) teachers doesn’t appear to have any evaluation procedures in place to assess impact.
On the whole, this is a devastating report and we’re shocked there hasn’t been more said about it either in the published media or on social media.
The Department really ought to make a fulsome apology and a clear plan to review their entire system and not just for training new teachers. One dreads to think what a report on retention may look like.
This is beyond a “notice to improve”. Exceptional incompetence requires special measures.