Once a classroom teacher (QTS) by Rob Knee QTS

As the pressures, negativity, dictats and demoralisation increase so does the turnover of staff in schools. Recruitment becomes a crisis (a crisis which is currently with us although it will not be reported). And so this particular educational cycle wearily follows the well trodden path. What could change? What can be done to redress the resulting damage to the futures of children and young people?

Probably not the government’s appallingly cynical meddling for perceived political gain.
Here’s a an idea/suggestion. We encourage anyone who has taught to make a point of using, whenever they can, their QTS initials and to look for opportunities to continue to fulfil part of the role of a teacher at home, at work or in the community. Teachers are trained to be ambassadors for the safety, wellbeing, encouragement and development of young people. If we produce around 40,000 teachers each year and the number currently employed is around 400,000 then the number qualified and not currently teaching must be in the millions (many in high profile jobs and roles). We should celebrate the time these teachers gave and understand that many move, quite naturally, into and out of the profession. We should also continue to encourage and value the contribution that the ‘have moved on from working in school cohort’ can make. We should raise the profile, and society’s awareness, appreciation and use of, the millions of skilled ambassadors for education in their midst.


Of Pedagogy

Perhaps the failure of teaching  to establish itself as a profession on a par with medicine or the law rests with the absence of a clearly defined realm of expertise.

Teaching involves translating a body of knowledge so that it can be presented in an appropriate and effective manner. The term to describe this process is pedagogy. Pedagogy encompasses a substantial amount of decision making and a demand for expert judgements that is surely the equal of medicine or law.

Pedagogy is little used by the profession at large and when it is, often describes but one element of the process. This ‘selective’ tendency is perhaps one reason why the term has not established itself as the true descriptor and champion of the teaching profession. Other theories suggest that the term has been appropriated by the academic world (and therefore treated with caution by schools), another that government, as paymasters and keepers of the social status quo, are reluctant to encourage a true process of professionalism. If Pedagogy, as an iconic term, was more dominant, it could greatly assist not only the status of teaching, but also of the training and development of teachers.

The meaning and origin of the word pedagogy  is from the Greek for the slave that walks the child to school, i.e. the deliverer of education. So how can we outline the expertise of pedagogy? It is possible to  identify 4 inter connecting spheres of pedagogy involving knowledge of subject (Epistemological), knowledge of how such subject content can be presented for learning (Educational), relating to managing groups of children and young people (Social Pedagogy) and fourthly, the ability to reconcile and balance the competing vested interests at play in the classroom (Critical Pedagogy).

Teaching does not provide the concrete outcomes more easily accessible to medicine and the law. However, the complexity and diffusion of outcomes prevalent in education, should be recognised as contributory elements of a high professional standing, to which the term pedagogy does justice.

The Perfect Storm – running out of teachers

First the supply side. The number of training places is being cut sharply and there is also a simultaneous attempt to transfer capacity to a new school based model. The schools may be keen and able to train teachers but at the current time of shrinking budgets and with major threats to the system headteachers have their minds on other things.

The Teaching School solution seems to be running out of steam with around 120 interested in this round (compared to the 1000 or so from round 1), many of these no doubt unsuccessful from the earlier application round. It is not clear how many of the Teaching Schools have either the capacity, experience or inclination to train teachers for schools other than their own. Wth some University Departments and EBITTs (GTP providers) falling below optimum numbers we could also see a domino effect of closures.

Add to this mix the inevitable regional variations – typically the more challenging parts of the country where it is much harder to attract and to train teachers. These areas will be the hardest hit. It is frustrating that there is no co-ordinated or longer term thinking by either local, regional or national bodies – if schools don’t have a full compliment of staff, standards are bound to fall and with them the economic and social prospects of the whole area.

It looks as if we are going to need a new model for staffing schools.

A new deal for Initial Teacher Training

we need some radical new thinking on the subject……..

The reason for this need is clear. For schools to take a more central role in ITT, more resources will be required. If this doesn’t happen (and the current School Direct proposal to channel all the funds initiially through ITT Providers and the modest funding of Teaching Schools, are not encouraging portents in this respect), we are in danger of seeing the dismantling of the HEI led ITT system without securing a proper replacement.

In addition to addressing the funding/resources issues, we also need to make it easier for departments to support trainees (particularly in Maths and Science). But first a few thoughts about the funding question.

The economics of ITT have always been shrouded in a little mystery. We are not sure of the true cost to schools of training and we are not sure about the real impact and advantage of an activity that most of us regard as of universal benefit. The contribution of ITT to standards, recruitment and retention elude accurate quantification.Without such a clear cost benefit, Head teachers  may continue to steer clear of ITT developments.

Some schools are experimenting with ideas as to how trainees might make a greater contribution. Perhaps the future model needs to run something like this: trainees are appointed in March and during April, May and June they could be expected to spend some time supporting, in school, after school and electronically, groups of pupils in Years 6, 11 or 13. Between March and September completion of on line Subject Knowledge Enhancement would be required. Training then runs from  September until July with a substantial teaching/covering commitment in the Summer Term. High quality trainees can make a substantial contribution to the performance of a school. A group of schools would need to collaborate to achieve economies of scale with placements, mentoring and tutoring. PGCE could be accredited at a reasonable cost and at the choice and expense of the trainee. The bulk of ITT funding has then to follow the trainee into the school. We need to be able to demonstrate that having trainees is a clear advantage to schools.

Any innovations would need to be properly externally evaluated for impact, but this type of arrangement might just attract the attention of Headeatchers.  The current situation provides a unique opportunity for leading ITT schools to shift the paradigm.


2012; Multi Academies, School Direct, ICT,Prejudice

2012 promises much by way of radical change in education, some of the change engineered by government, some as a fall out from government. Multi Academies are a logical response by groups of schools who wish to collaborate in the face of a shrinking Local Authority, the chance to pool scarce reources and the threat of predatory school chains. Multi Academies may be supported centrally because they will provide fewer ‘centres’ for administrative purposes. I have written before about the likelihood that all of this will lead to some kind of eventual reinvention of a Local Authority – still the most efficient model to support schools . Until we reach that point, it will be exciting for schools to work closely and to explore the benefits.

School Direct heralds the new age of Initial Teacher Training whereby schools will become the key players in ITT. Schools have always enjoyed engagement with ITT for a variety of reasons, not least as a very good way to recruit staff. The danger here is that the market will produce dominant school groups (aided by Teaching Schools) and the self interest factor could lead to the exclusion of the majority of schools from ITT.

With both Michael Gove and the Guardian calling for a radical overhaul of ICT something is bound to give,except that nothing can until we find/support several thousand trained teachers to deliver Computer Science. However, ICT clearly to become the curriculum reform candidate of the year.

Prejudice seems to be on the rise if the problems in the football world are anything to go by. We are told that when things get tough, common decencies take a hammering. Apparently we stop caring for each other. Schools have always been key factors in the creation of a tolerant society. It is to be hoped that whatever political alternative develops as the strategy for the next 10 years, it will call for a consensus on education that begins with a true picture and looks at what works well and what is reasonable.

An ITT Quality Mark

This is an interesting time for Initial Teacher Training as we await the response to the Green paper, which proposed a greater,central role for schools. Now is the time to look at how you manage your school’s ITT and check the quality of your work. The likelihood is that ITT will become concentrated in fewer partnerships of schools and providers and that any body wishing to be involved must be able to provide evidence of high quality work and outcomes as trainers.

I have worked with colleagues at ICLICITT to develop a countrywide service to support ITT. A copyright quality mark, based on the standards of practice of over 200 leading ITT schools, together with OFSTED and TDA requirements is now available to provide an important target for schools. Please visit: