Recruiting effective teachers to the profession
How do you make sure that tomorrow’s teachers are the best possible?
Part of that answer is to recruit the best available people for PGCEs and BEd
courses- but how do you identify them, and how do you attract them?
Different countries have used different methods- with various levels of success.
The research base does provide some clear answers- evidence that should be used
in the design of policy.
The Schools White Paper 2010 on education states:
Will the strategy, in the context of this post the minimum requirement of a 2.2 degree, work?
Hattie (2009) examines the influence of a teacher’s subject knowledge on student achievement:
It looks pretty irrelevant compared to other factors that he measures, ranking 125th on his table of
138 effect sizes.
Ok... Maybe we should look to Finland?
Finland have down amazing well in the annual PISA tests- coming first in every test since 2001 bar
the 2010 analysis. Incredibly, Finnish students spend less time in school than those in other
countries- starting at age seven and spending only three to four hours each day in lessons. There is
very little variation in the effectiveness of Finnish schools, and the influence of a child’s background
on how they perform is weaker than in any other OECD country! (Whelan, 2009).
More than 25% of young people in Finland rate teaching as their top career choice. Nationally there
are 6.7 applicants for every teacher training place- this compares with 3.2 at Oxford and 1.2 in
England as an average. People want to teach in Finland- they want to a lot.
Finnish applicants for teacher training are rigorously selected: national tests in literacy, numeracy
and problem-solving slim down the applicants. This is followed by rounds of interviews, group
tasks, essays and assessment days probing motivation and various soft skills. The number of
successful applicants is controlled so that the number of graduates matches the number of places
likely to be available, and to keep the courses as competitive as possible. (This, it is claimed, has a
secondary effect of raising the status of the profession as a whole.)
Whelan (2009) states that many countries support teacher training programmes that, “accept
between two and four times as many candidates as are actually required by the system”. This, it is
claimed, “pushes down the status of the courses and makes them unattractive to those who can opt
for more selective programs”. To compound this negative effect, the quality of training falls due to
the dual effects of the available resources being spread across too many trainees and because some
of those on the course are likely to be less capable and committed.
Whelan (2009) considers the financial incentives that attract (or dispel) applicants to the teaching
profession, “the next part of getting the right people to become teachers is paying good
compensation”. Milanowski (2003) for example has shown how the number and calibre of people
applying for teacher training courses is influenced by salary.
Future discounting seems to be important- starting salaries seem to be more important than
incremental growth in earnings through a career. Whelan (2009) points out that a lower starting
salary acts as a barrier to potential teachers who can earn more elsewhere. The incremental rise
may have a different effect- it keeps some teachers in teaching when really they should be
The results from PISA research shows that schools in developed countries which pay higher salaries
have stronger overall performance.
UK pay reforms
So, what will be the consequences of current UK reforms to the pay and conditions of the teaching
profession? Given the impact of a recession and the prevalence of future discounting for many
young people, the tinkering with the teacher’s pension scheme may be ignored by recruits in the
short-term. However, a reduced pension and a pay-freeze combined with an observable erosion in
the morale of the profession is highly unlikely to result in successful recruitment of higher calibre
graduates- whether a new minimum of a class 2.2 degree is introduced or not.
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So... examine the evidence
So... adopt evidence-based methods
So... enhance learning