Elite schools rival sector in teacher training

September 1, 2000

Universities face stiff competition from an elite band of schools as the best places to train Britain's teachers, according to an analysis of the Teacher Training Agency's annual performance profiles.

Three school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) schemes are among the top ten teacher training providers, according to tables compiled by researchers at Liverpool University from the TTA performance profiles published this week. SCITT schemes are in third and fourth places.

The league tables are a blow to the higher education sector, which has accused ministers and the TTA of trying to undermine the role of universities in teacher training by promoting school and work-based schemes. Universities had previously taken comfort from the relative failure of SCITTs.

The profiles, by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of Liverpool's centre for education and employment research, are based on students' entry qualifications, Ofsted inspections and graduates' employability. A table combining 99 universities and the 22 eligible SCITT providers puts Oxford University at the top, followed by Homerton College, Cambridge. Third is the Wandsworth Schools' Consortium, fourth is the North Bedfordshire Consortium, fifth the University of East Anglia and sixth Cambridge University.

The third SCITT in the top 10, the Oxfordshire Consortium, was eighth, behind the University of Sheffield, but above the universities of Sussex and Leicester.

The top SCITTs benefited from high entry requirements and good employment records, but had slightly lower inspection grades than the universities.

TTA chief executive Ralph Taberrer said he was delighted that some SCITTs were doing well. "But you get very good, mediocre and poor in all types of provision. We are not concerned with the ideology behind provision, but with what makes good quality."

The tables, based on 1998-99 data, show big gaps between best and worst providers. Some had problems attracting high-calibre students. At Oxford University, 70 per cent of postgraduate trainees' degrees were 2:1 or above, while no one at the University of East London had a degree that high. On average, about half of students had 2:1 or better degrees.

The universities of Huddersfield, North London, East London and The Open University were bottom of the table. East London dropped into the bottom ten largely because of poor student entry qualifications. The Open University's poor performance was due to a high dropout rate.

The TTA was concerned that there were still too few ethnic minority recruits, just 6 per cent, and that too few men were taking up primary teaching. The TTA's profiles are available online at www.teach-tta.gov.uk.

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