Teacher training routes lead to different outcomes

A new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies examines the different costs, and likely outcomes, of various routes into teaching.

In England there is a policy of increased school-led initial teacher training, moving away from traditional training in higher education (HE). Although the postgraduate HE route is still the most popular (approximately 40% of trainees each year), school-led approaches such as School Direct (more than 30%) and Teach First (5%) are growing.

The study uses data from the School Workforce Census, an annual record of the school workforce in state-funded schools in England, between 2010 and 2014. This allowed the researchers to track the progress of early career trainees. The key findings from the report included:

  • Five-year retention rates for primary school trainees in state-funded education vary from 58% to 68%, with School Direct (or its predecessor, GTP) trainees being most likely to stay in the sector.
  • Five-year retention rates for secondary school trainees vary more, from 37-44% for Teach First to 59-62% for School Direct.
  • This variation in retention rates means a variation in the cost of having a trainee “in service” five years on, from £59,000 to £72,000 for Teach First to £25,000-£44,000 for all other routes. However, Teach First trainees are disproportionately likely to teach in schools with the most disadvantaged population of pupils.
  • Retention may be affected by the relative pay of teachers and other local workers – higher local wages were associated with lower retention rates of teachers.

Source: The Longer-Term Costs and Benefits of Different Initial Teacher Training Routes (2016), Institute for Fiscal Studies

The impact of alternative teacher training programmes on pupil achievement

New research by Mathematica Policy Research has assessed the mathematics achievement of pupils taught by teachers from two highly selective recruitment and training schemes that run in the US – Teach for America (TFA) and Teaching Fellows. TFA works with graduates from some of the best universities and places them for two years. Teaching Fellows recruits both graduates and professionals looking to change careers, and expects participants to make a long-term commitment to teaching. Both schemes place their teachers in hard-to-staff schools in deprived areas.

The study took place in 2009/10 and 2010/11 in schools identified as having two or more classes that would be teaching the same maths course. At the beginning of the year, pupils in each school (n=8,689) were randomly allocated either to a class taught by a TFA or Teaching Fellow teacher, or to a class taught by a comparison teacher (who entered teaching through traditional or other, less selective programmes). Exams taken at the end of the year showed that TFA teachers produced gains significantly greater than teachers who came through traditional teaching programmes or other alternative but less selective certification schemes, but the effect size (ES=+0.07) was very small. Still, this was estimated to be the equivalent of an additional 2.6 months of school for the average pupil nationwide. In contrast, there were no differences in maths outcomes between Teaching Fellows and their controls.

In the UK, Rebecca Allen from the Institute of Education (IOE) presented findings of new research into Teach First at the BERA Conference. Like TFA, Teach First places graduates with good degrees in challenging classrooms. The IOE study found that the introduction of Teach First teachers produced no school-wide gain in the first year, but in years two and three there were gains equivalent to a boost of one grade in one of a pupil’s eight best subjects.

Source: The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows Programs (2013), Institute of Education Sciences.