Join the campaign to save university-based teacher training now!

Francis Gilbert's picture
This email was sent to Local Schools Network by Durham University. It's well worth reading:

On 19 November 2010, Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove announced a fundamental review of the way teachers are trained, proposing that schools, rather than universities, become the main providers of teacher training. The Secretary of State then laid out his plans for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in the Government’s White Paper “The Importance of Teaching” and the methodology for the abolition of Higher Education Institution (HEI) ITT. We await detailed proposals from the Secretary of State.

A mixed economy already exists in the current pattern of provision of Initial Teacher Training, with some teachers trained in universities and others through employment-based routes. However, HEI-based ITT courses contain a mandatory period of school-based training with PGCEs with upwards of 18 weeks in school. Whilst we applaud much that is in the White Paper, we feel that any wholesale move toward school-based ITT and any transfer of funding and accountability would be a mistake. There is no evidence to support the claim that such a move would improve standards, and large-scale extra resource would be required to try to improve teacher quality through school-based provision. Even then, there is no guarantee such expense would achieve its goals. Teacher education could suffer permanent damage.


The Ofsted report on Initial Teacher Education (2009/10) concluded that:

“There was more outstanding initial teacher education delivered by higher education-led partnerships than by school-centred initial teacher training partnerships and employment-based routes.”

A top US education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond wrote in the journal Educational Researcher (198, 27(1): 5 – 15):

“…teachers who have spent more time studying teaching are more effective overall and strikingly so for developing higher order thinking skills and for meeting the needs of diverse students.”

She notes the most successful teachers have subject matter knowledge; studied the art and science of teaching; been certified in their subject and education; and have undertaken training in teaching methods. An analysis of 900 Texas school districts found that teachers’ expertise (licensing exam, masters degrees, experience) accounted for 40% of the measured variance in students’ maths and reading achievement gains in grades 1 – 11 (p 6 – 7).


She reports on the results of the Carnegie Task Force - that urged graduate level education in a 3+2 bachelor’s + Masters degree model -

“graduates of these programs are rated by principals and teaching colleagues as much better prepared and more effective than graduates of four year programs, … they are often as confident and effective as more senior colleagues” (p 8). Retention and entry rates to these programmes were also much higher than traditional models.

A parallel issue is our concern for the level of funding for ITT and the threat to the efficiency of HEI-based ITT. A false economy could be achieved by a cut in the finance available for HEI-based ITT. Durham University runs high quality, efficient, research-led Initial Teacher Education (ITE). It gives its trainee teachers a broad basis of experience in schools. The proposed move to school-based ITT would decrease the efficiency of the national system as individual and even groups of schools would necessarily deal with far smaller numbers of trainee teachers each year than is currently provided by the HEI sector.

The UK’s educational expertise is highly valued overseas and Durham is justifiably proud of how our 172 years tradition in teacher training has developed and adapted to the needs of schools. At Durham, we are particularly proud of our across-the-board “Outstanding” rating by OFSTED and the fact that a contributing factor in our rating was the strength of our partnerships with many primary and secondary schools in the region. We note also that OFSTED rated HEI-based training as the best (November 2010).

We hope you will support our campaign to retain ITT in Universities. We are pledged to work across party and with numerous organisations including university mission groups, charities, parent groups, think tanks and trade unions. We aim to make policymakers aware of just how detrimental this move is to the quality of the UK education system whilst the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) is continuing its good work in this area.

Further links:

The Ofsted Report on Teacher Training

The Ofsted report on the School of Education at Durham University

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Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 23/05/2011 - 12:30

Mr Gove is in a complete muddle about training teachers. On the one hand he says he wants a highly trained teaching force, then allows free schools to employ unqualified teachers. He says he wants high-quality teacher training, then decides the most appropriate method is "sitting by Nelly". He points to Finland as a place where teachers are high-quality. He wants to emulate Finland, he says. Then why doesn't he really take note of how that country trains its teachers: In Finland, teacher education has four important strands:

1 Research based. Trainee teachers are expected to "become familiar with the knowledge base in education and human development". They are expected to write a "research-based dissertation" for their Master's Degree.

2 Strong focus on developing pedagogical content knowledge.

3 All trainees are trained in "diagnosing students with learning difficulties and in adapting their instruction to the varying learning needs and styles of their students."

4 Strong emphasis on research into "how to teach" based on "state-of-the-art practice". This includes at least one year of clinical experience in a school associated with a university.

Mr Gove please note the last sentence: "At least one year of clinical experience in a school associated with a university". Write it 100 times. Then inwardly digest.

FJ Murphy's picture
Thu, 07/02/2013 - 19:13

Good news to hear that university based teacher training is under threat.

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