Out-of-date tables on teaching attacked

September 25, 1998

Wide variations in the quality of teacher training are revealed today in the first national performance profiles of training providers - but university education departments have condemned the tables as "out of date" and "misleading".

Anthea Millett, Teacher Training Agency chief executive, studiously avoiding reference to "league tables", hailed the profiles of all 101 training providers as a "new accountability mechanism".

As part of the government's drive to raise school standards, the tables will not only help providers to assess and improve their performance, she said, but will help potential trainees decide where to apply for their training.

But teething problems have surfaced. Universities have only cautiously endorsed the tables. After difficult negotiations with the TTA, universities have welcomed attempts to increase accountability and to widen access to information. But they have warned against the potential for abuse and misrepresentation of the complicated data by the government and the media.

Kate Pretty, principal of Homerton College, Cambridge - one of the top performers - led the attack. She said that the information was out of date.

"Some data is based on inspections carried out in 1994/95, even though we, like all other institutions, have been subjected to an intense programme of inspections throughout 1997/98. My comment to the TTA is 'could try harder' on performance profiles."

The profiles include data on the prior qualifications of trainees, the percentages on each course achieving qualified teacher status (QTS), and the percentage gaining employment, as well as the results of Ofsted inspections.

Because of the cyclical nature of the inspections, the only complete institution-by-institution aggregate data is for primary courses, inspected in 1995/96.

Ms Millett said: "There are encouraging signs that the quality in the initial teacher training sector is improving although there is room for further improvement."

Inspection evidence revealed wide variations in performance. Secondary English provision was generally "good", it found, while design and technology courses were just "adequate".

At least 80 per cent of primary trainees gaining QTS in 1997 went straight into a job. Among secondary postgraduate trainees, only 63 per cent of qualified history teachers went to a post, while 85 per cent of design teachers did.

The data reveal some very low entry qualifications. An average of 15 per cent of all students on undergraduate primary courses had an A-level point score of 20 or more (equivalent to grades BCC). But at South Bank University and Chichester Institute, no students had 20 points, while at the University of North London, only 1 per cent had. Homerton College, on the other hand, had 67 per cent of entrants with these scores.

An average of 91 per cent of all primary trainees achieved qualified teacher status, with 100 per cent at Keele University, compared with 37 per cent at South Bank University.

The worst performers may face withdrawal of funding, while the best will be rewarded with cash for expansion. Education minister Charles Clarke, in a foreword to the profiles, said: "Providers will want to use this information to help them improve the training they offer. And members of the public need to know that new entrants to the teaching profession are of the highest quality."

For the full profiles, go to: www.teach-tta.gov.uk

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