Tuesday, 22 January 2013

What does Mr Gove know about teacher training?

I watch BBC Parliament and subscribe to http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ email updates for the 3 Stoke-on-Trent MPs.

Whilst I'm not a Labour party member and I'm no particular fan of Dr Tristram Hunt MP, he did ask a particularly interesting question of Mr Gove;

"what recent assessment he has made of his Department's measures to improve teacher training"?  

The reply was wholly inadequate, particularly considering this was a written reply, giving Mr Gove a bit of scope to provide some detail.  But his reply was merely;

"A high quality teacher in every classroom is essential for raising standards in schools. Our strategy to recruit the best graduates to train as teachers and move to a school-led system of training, has led to 71% of teacher trainees with a 1(st) class or a 2:1 degree starting teacher training this year. This is the highest proportion recorded."

I've written an annotation on the web site, which I had to curtail because of the 'house rules' which disallow opinion, rants, or messages to a politician, all of which I feel inclined towards!  So I decided to expand a little in this blog.  (I have also written a previous blog relating to Mr Gove.)

Now looking at Dr Hunt's question and Mr Gove's answer, I really have to say this is an inadequate answer to the question! The question asks about assessing any improvements to teacher training. The answer only addresses recruitment to teacher training, not what happens during or after that training.

Even the datum given is not provided in sufficient context. 71% is "the highest" proportion recorded. But compared with what? Compared with 70% would be saying very little but compared with 50% would show a significant change. But we are given no additional data with which to compare the 71%.

Having more recruits to teacher training with 1st or 2i degrees is likely indicative of a greater knowledge and understanding of their subject in the recruits, which is reassuring. We want teachers to know what they are talking about. However, academic attainment in their degree subjects is only one aspect, one of very many qualities, which can potentially contribute to good teaching. None of the other qualities of the recruits are mentioned.

Importantly, recruiting the student teachers is only the start of the process. They then need to acquire and develop a whole range of skills and knowledge through their training in order to become the high quality teachers that Mr Gove and all the rest of us of course would wish to see in all classrooms.

So the question, still unanswered, is how effective is that training and in particular the measures Mr Gove has taken to change this, in facilitating the desired outcome?  In particular, Dr Hunt is asking how Mr Gove and his department are assessing the effectiveness of the 'improvements' they have made in the training. Indeed, until there is such an assessment, how do they know there are in fact improvements? Mr Gove cannot assume that just because he has a somewhat greater proportion of recruits fulfilling only one of many criteria, before any specific teacher training has taken place, then that is job done!

I would really like to see Mr Gove provide a much more substantial answer to Dr Hunt's question.  I have noticed Dr Hunt popping up in parliament quite a lot lately and putting questions to Mr Gove, to which he generally receives very poor responses.  Nevertheless I hope he will continue the questioning on education matters and not let Mr Gove off the hook on this issue of teacher training, which is so important to the nation's young people and indeed to teachers.

See also twitter: @Nicky_Davis_ @TristramHuntMP @educationgovuk @govewatch #govemustgo #gove #education

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