Social and economic future rests on getting teacher quality right

01 May 2012

There is an enormous difference in how much children learn depending on who teaches them, says the House of Commons Education Committee.

Great teaching accelerates learning, improves grades and makes a significant difference to lifetime earnings of individuals and thus the wealth of the nation.

The Government should make the recruitment and development of the best teachers a top priority not just for the Education Department but for the Government overall.

In a report published today, the Committee highlights research showing that even a year's exposure to a high-performing teacher has a lasting impact on pupils, building confidence, earnings and well-being later in life.

"There's a huge difference in how much children learn depending on who is taking their class. This differential effectiveness between teachers is profound and there is an overwhelming need to increase the number of more effective teachers and, likewise, to reduce  the number with whom children learn at a slow rate,"

according to Graham Stuart, the Chairman of the committee. 

"Clearly, the recruitment of teachers with the capacity to accelerate learning is even more important than previously understood. Raising teacher quality isn’t just a technical challenge in education, it’s critical to our future competitiveness and our ability to prepare young people for progression in education and employment."

The Committee's report concludes a long inquiry looking at recruitment, training and retention of the best teachers. This set out to understand better the qualities found in great teachers, and to examine how such people might be attracted more readily to the profession, trained as well as possible, and motivated to remain within the profession.

"The current generation of teachers is the best ever,"

adds Graham Stuart.

"but we need to speed up our improvements in teaching quality and the systems which support it if we aren’t to be left behind by other nations who are driving up their standards at an even faster rate.

It's crucial that we have an educational system which celebrates great teachers, keeps more of them in the classroom, supports their development and gives them greater status and reward."

Highlighting how the ongoing professional development for teachers has been neglected for far too long, the Committee recommends a new College of Teaching and an entitlement to professional development for all teaching staff.

MPs also propose radical reforms to the existing career structures for teachers and a new National Teacher Sabbatical Scholarship programme, where outstanding teachers can undertake a period of further research or employment in a related field to improve their practice.

"We want to attract more people to examine teaching as an option so we recommend a new system of ‘taster sessions’, where people can experience teaching before deciding whether or not to commit to training. The Government needs to market teaching more effectively and consistently so that, like the most successful countries in education, there is more competition to enter the profession and a greater likelihood of selecting the best. Teaching has many rewards and we hope they can be enhanced further when the Government acts upon our recommendations."

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