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Teacher training revamp needed to avert looming supply crisis, say leading academics

Press release issued: 1 February 2016

Leading education academics have called for urgent action to safeguard the future of initial teacher training in England. Dr Janet Orchard, from the University of Bristol, and Professor Christopher Winch from King’s College London, argue in a briefing from PolicyBristol that the value of education theory and the intrinsic role of universities in initial teacher training need to be recognised, and the training system overhauled.

Dr Orchard said: ‘The recruitment and retention of high quality teachers are serious issues. We are seeing many new entrants to teaching leaving the profession in their first few years, at a time when the state of teacher training in England is in a state of flux.’

The researchers argue that, as well as the practical aspects of teaching, new teachers need to be well-versed in educational theory if they are to do their jobs well, and that universities, working in partnership with schools, are best placed to acquaint beginning teachers with this theory.

‘Teachers’ practical judgement depends on successful integration of all elements of teacher knowledge and ability, said Dr Orchard. ‘This combines theoretical understanding as well as practical expertise, developed through initial teacher education that offers new entrants the long-term foundations for a successful career.’

Dr Orchard said: ‘There is a prevailing anti-intellectualism behind ministers’ recent moves to try to move the management of many teacher education courses away from universities. The view of teaching as a craft, used by commentators to challenge the value of universities’ contributions, reveals a serious misunderstanding of the relationship between the theoretical, research-based and craft elements of teaching.’

The researchers propose a new system whereby new teachers must complete a two year ‘apprenticeship’ following university before becoming fully qualified, allowing them to develop their theoretical and practical understanding of teaching.

Dr Orchard said: ‘Teaching in England should move to a profession where most entrants would gain a provisional teaching qualification through an undergraduate degree or a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, followed by two years’ apprenticeship leading to full licensure.

‘During this “higher level apprenticeship”, new teachers should devote a day a week to academic study at university, with the rest of the time spent in classrooms being mentored by senior colleagues, and sheltered from the most severe operational pressures in schools. They should also have opportunities to observe colleagues in other schools, to help broaden their experience.’

While this solution would not be cheap, the researchers argue the current system does not provide best value for money. ‘The failure to retain teachers, once trained, suggests a false economy embedded in current arrangements, as well as a considerable waste of precious public resources,’ said Dr Orchard.

‘Introducing a longer training period would raise the quality of the teaching profession and help solve the looming teacher supply “crisis”.’

Further information


Orchard, J & Winch, C 2015, ‘What training do teachers need? Why Theory is necessary to good teaching’. IMPACT 22, PESGB, Wiley Blackwell, Oxford 

Winch, C, Oancea, A & Orchard, JL 2015, ‘The Contribution of Educational Research to Teachers’ Professional Learning – Philosophical Understandings’. Oxford Review of Education, vol 41

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