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House of Commons symposium on teacher education policy

Moira Hulme

On 28 February 2018, a special education symposium was hosted by Mike Kane MP, shadow minister for schools, for Manchester Metropolitan University at the House of Commons. The symposium aimed to stimulate debate on teacher education policy with academics, legislators and stakeholders in the education sector. The event attracted over 70 delegates from across the UK and Ireland, and was attended by parliamentarians from the Education Select Committee.

The themes of the symposium were evidence, equity and innovation. The opening presentation, by Moira Hulme, Emilee Rauschenberger and Karen Meanwell (Manchester Metropolitan University), addressed teacher education policy and research: What do we know about high quality teacher preparation? How do we know? What might we learn? This was followed by a presentation from Katharine Burn, Jenni Ingram, Trevor Mutton and Ian Thompson (University of Oxford) on poverty and teacher education, drawing on the recent BERA research commission (Ivinson et al, 2017). The final two presentations shared the development of the distinctive ‘university schools’ model advanced by the School of Teacher Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, led by Amanda Smith, Fiona Haniak-Cockerham and Richard Dunk (STEM Education Manchester). The materials from the symposium are available here.

The panel discussion – with Nansi Ellis (ATL), James Noble-Rogers (UCET) and Rebecca Smith (principal of Manchester Creative and Media Academy) – focussed on the development of teachers’ research literacy, workload issues, and the challenges of recruiting and retaining quality teachers.

‘Presenters and participants discussed the assessment of quality in teacher preparation, policy alternatives for developing and retaining teachers, and the promotion of educational equity.’

Presenters and participants discussed the assessment of quality in teacher preparation, policy alternatives for developing and retaining teachers, and the promotion of educational equity. It was noted that the ‘churn’ in initial teacher education (ITE) in England in recent years has not provided a stable context for evaluation. The ITE sector responds to differing demands from different official bodies, providing limited periods of stability. The promotion of an increasingly diverse market, particularly in times of challenging recruitment, leaves providers vulnerable to financial non-viability. The current allocation methodology of unlimited recruitment in all but one secondary subject area, alongside a 30-per-cent fall in applications (see Bloom, 2018), has led to a return to rapid recruitment as providers recognise the need to fill allocations and maintain financial viability despite a shrinking pool of applicants.

Teacher supply should not be reduced to getting teachers (recruitment); rather, the focus should be on developing teachers of quality, including providing opportunities for lead practitioners to become mentors, curriculum specialists or school leaders. Countries and regions with effective systems for teacher development view teaching as ‘a long-term profession where people can grow into leadership positions and develop expertise over time’ (Darling-Hammond 2017: 292). Providers in England have often been judged on the basis of filling training places – the most recent example being a letter from the schools minister guiding providers toward a revision of recruitment in order to reject less often (Gibb, 2018).

There is little point in reviewing entry requirements for teacher education courses without ensuring that teachers’ salaries, working conditions and prospects for career development are commensurate to those of other professions competing for similar graduates. It is unsurprising that the lack of a positive working environment is related to attrition (House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, 2018), especially in disadvantaged schools with a higher proportion of less experienced teachers. A recent study by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that ‘[t]eachers are not leaving [the profession] for higher-paid jobs, at least not in the short term. On average they experience a ten per cent fall in wages compared to similar teachers who remain in teaching’ (Lynch et al, 2016: 4).

While welcoming proposals to strengthen early professional learning, participants agreed that induction should involve mentor support from trained mentors who are not involved in formal assessment to promote developmental rather than ‘judgementoring’ (Hobson, 2016). As James Noble-Rogers noted, prospective entrants are likely to regard extended support during induction positively, whereas simply extending the period taken to ‘gain qualified teacher status’ (QTS) may serve as a further obstacle to recruitment.

Finally, the symposium recognised the need to look beyond new teachers for improvement. The university schools model (USM) is premised on collective improvement. Using a multiple placements model, with resident tutor support and co-teaching, the USM supports longer-term collaborative working between school and university mentors, beginning teachers, senior staff and the wider school community. In addition to ITE and early-career support, the USM offers collaboratively designed professional learning and development for more experienced teachers and teams, helping to address locally identified needs. Strong school-university partnerships are an increasingly important resource in tackling the challenges of teacher preparation, development and retention.

Attendees were reminded that the Department for Education consultation on strengthening QTS would close on 9 March 2018.


Bloom A (2018) ‘New teacher applications down by 29% since last year’, Times Educational Supplement, 25 January 2018.

Darling-Hammond L (2017) ‘Teacher education around the world: What can we learn from international practice?’, European Journal of Teacher Education 40(3): 291–309

Gibb N (2018) Letter to providers of ITT about maximising recruitment to Initial Teacher Training, 29 January 2018.

Hobson A J (2016) ‘Judgementoring and how to avert it: Introducing ONSIDE Mentoring for beginning teachers’, International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education 5(2): 87-110

House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (2018) Retaining and Developing the Teaching workforce: Seventeenth Report of Session 2017–19.

Ivinson G, Beckett L, Thompson I, Wrigley T, Egan D, Leitch R and McKinney S (2017) The Research Commission on Poverty and Policy Advocacy, London: British Educational Research Association.

Lynch S, Worth J, Bamford S and Wespieser K (2016) Engaging Teachers: NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention, Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.