Call for new advanced teacher training institute to support staff in disadvantaged areas

Annual £1bn training spend failing to overcome plateau in teachers’ skills that risks costing pupils an extra year’s education, new report says

A US-style graduate school in education is needed to provide advanced training to help teachers working in the most challenging schools close the gap between disadvantaged children and their classmates, a new report says.

Beyond the Plateau, from thinktank IPPR, argues for the establishment of a new Institute for Advanced Teaching to offer a two-year part-time master’s qualification, aimed at teachers who work in challenging schools.

The report’s author, Matthew Hood – assistant headteacher at Heysham High School, near Morecombe, Lancashire – estimates that £1bn is spent on teacher development each year. But he argues that the performance of the average teacher with five years’ experience is virtually identical to the performance of the average teacher with 15 years’ experience.

He identifies three challenges for teacher training: poorly designed courses can have little impact on what happens in the classroom; incentives to participate are poor; and an individual’s ability to improve depends on the culture in their school, the report says.

“While teaching’s attractiveness as a career choice for graduates has increased over the last 20 years, due in part to the work of organisations like Teach First, there are few incentives to continue as a classroom teacher,” Mr Hood writes. “Compared to middle leadership, classroom teaching lacks a clear progression route to mastery; it is lower status and pay progression is poorer. Teachers also leave the classroom for better incentivised careers in other sectors.”

And the report adds that expert teachers are particularly important for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher can represent a whole year’s worth of extra learning in any given academic year.

Figures from the Department for Education show that more than one in 10 teachers left the profession last year.

Improving outcomes

The proposed Institute for Advanced Teaching would train and develop existing classroom teachers working in disadvantaged areas to become leading experts in their profession. It would be created and run by some of England’s leading schools in disadvantaged areas and modeled on the successful Relay Graduate School for Education in New York.

The report comes after the DfE’s expert group on teachers’ professional development, led by David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, issued its report last week. The report recommended that professional development should be sustained over time, should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise, and be focused on improved pupil outcomes.

“It’s great to have further innovation in the sector and more people thinking carefully about how to develop great professional development,” Mr Weston said.

“Most teachers do get better with experience but obviously we’d like teachers to get better faster and have more impact on their students. Many teachers we’ve spoken to at the Teacher Development Trust are frustrated that once you get beyond your NQT year or your recently qualified year, it is not clear where to go next unless you move into leadership.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “High-quality teaching is vital to ensuring all pupils, irrespective of birth and background, receive a world-class education. We want high-quality professional development to be the norm in all schools and we trust schools to make decisions about training that are right for their teachers, pupils and the school community.”

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