Friday, 14 August 2009

Those teachers without 2 A levels

Alan Smithers and his team at the University of Buckingham do a fairly good analysis of our trainee and newly trained teachers each year. Their league tables are a must for potential students. This year, they note, for example that 80 per cent of teachers trained in schools are teaching a year later, but the figure is rather lower among those trained at universities, though a snapshot six months after graduation may not tell the whole story. This is another argument for extending employment-based training, which has already grown substantially under Labour to a fifth of all training.

But they are being a bit disingenuous in the claim that has hit the headlines: two thirds of science teachers don't have 2 A levels. Of course, this refers only to those on four year undergraduate courses, a route mainly chosen by primary teachers. Buckingham's own data shows that only 6 per cent of secondary teachers are now trained on such courses. In fact, there were only 953 people accepted onto all four year secondary teaching courses in 2008, of which only a fraction will have been to science, compared with 5147 onto postgraduate PGCE science courses alone. And as the Buckingham team acknowledge, 78% of them had good degrees.

There is a good case for scrapping undergraduate secondary specialist teaching, and shifting more places to school-based training. But it isn't helped by playing to the August 'everything in education stinks' gallery.

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