An independent review of the key skills that teachers need to improve students' performance has been launched today.

Every new teacher must meet a series of standards to stay in the classroom - but the current standards aren't rigorous, clear or effective enough.

In a recent survey, more than a third of teachers did not feel the current standards provided a good definition of teacher competence and 41 per cent believed that professional standards did not make any difference to the way they taught.

Instead of focussing on the essential skills of great teaching, the current standards are a vague list of woolly aspirations. For example, an experienced teacher must “contribute significantly, where appropriate, to implementing workplace policies and practice and to promoting collective responsibility for their implementation”.

The new approach will set out rigorous standards teachers should meet in order to:

  • provide excellent teaching
  • crackdown on bad behaviour
  • improve pupils’ skills in the basics of English and maths
  • provide better support to those pupils falling behind.

New standards will help raise the bar for performance and help identify those who need more support to improve. Under the current approach, teachers and headteachers say:

  • it is hard to measure a teacher’s progress
  • there is a lack of clarity about when a teacher is meeting the standards
  • the standards do not fit easily with the procedures for tackling underperforming teachers.

The review will be led by Sally Coates, the outstanding Principal at Burlington Danes Academy in London. Other excellent headteachers, teachers and education experts will sit on the review.

They will recommend to Government a simple and clear set of key skills that teachers must meet. They will also review the GTCE Code of Conduct and consider how the standards fit with the new Ofsted inspection criteria.

The current bureaucratic standards are expected to be replaced from September 2012.

The current standards include:

  • 33 standards a trainee teacher must meet in order to qualify for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Three are focused on how to “communicate effectively” and “have a commitment to collaboration and co-operative working”. Only two standards are explicitly about skills on how to teach effectively
  • 120 pages of guidance to go with the QTS standards that trainee teachers are expected to follow
  • a total of 102 standards teachers must meet across all levels. There are four core standards on ‘health and wellbeing’. Just two are on making sure they have a good ‘subject and curriculum knowledge’.

Education Secretary of State Michael Gove said:

We already have the best generation of teachers we’ve ever had working in our schools. But the progress being made by other nations to improve their education systems means that we need to redouble our efforts to transform our schools.

We are already expanding Teach First and focussing our reforms on attracting the best graduates into our schools. But we need to make sure that those already in the classroom are continuously improving. 

Headteachers and teachers have told me in no uncertain terms that the current teachers’ standards are ineffective, meaningless and muddy, fluffy concepts. There is also no clear evidence that they help to improve standards.

That’s why we need clear standards that teachers can use to guide their development. I am delighted that one of the best headteachers in the country, Sally Coates, who has made it her mission to transform schools, has agreed to lead the Review.

Sally Coates, Chair of the Teachers’ Standards Review and Principal at Burlington Danes Academy in London, said:

Clear and focussed Teachers’ Standards that are relevant to classroom practice are key. They need to reflect the craft of teaching and be meaningful to teachers so that they can teach and develop to the best of their ability.

With more than a hundred different standards on top of the GTCE’s Code of Conduct, it has become bureaucratic and confusing for headteachers and teachers alike. That is why I welcome the opportunity to lead the review into Teachers’ Standards.

Ava Sturridge-Packer CBE, headteacher at St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Birmingham, said:

As the educational landscape continues to change, it is timely for a review of the skills, dispositions and evaluations in teaching. They impact on the climate of teaching and learning in schools today.

Greg Wallace, Executive Principal of the London Fields and Woodberry Down Federation in Hackney, said:

The move towards defining clearer professional standards for teachers has been positive in many ways. Now is the time to go further, to seek to define unequivocally clear standards that ensure the best classroom practice becomes the norm.

There will always be huge scope for some exceptional teachers to develop new ideas. However, I think the new standards should give due weight to the importance of understanding how to teach reading, writing and maths. They should define a precise core of skills and knowledge to enable the best possible start for every child.

Patricia Sowter, Principal at Cuckoo Hall Academy in London, said:

I welcome a review of professional standards for teachers to achieve improved clarity, with a strong emphasis on excellent teaching and outcomes for children. Behaviour and conduct of teachers can be made explicit within the standards therefore eliminating the need for a separate GTCE code. I look forward to a review of the current Ofsted framework to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy for schools.

Dr Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of Harris Academies, said:

As things stand the existing Teachers Standards are poorly used. They are complicated and over burdensome and as a result too many schools make little reference to them beyond the 12 month induction period for new teachers. This is a lost opportunity.

We now have a chance to produce a more slimmed down, coherent and user friendly set of standards with recommendations on how these can be incorporated into the life of a school in a meaningful and practical way. It will help transform the quality of teaching and the lives of young people. It is long overdue.

Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said:

The production of one explicit and concise set of professional standards for the whole teaching profession has the potential to greatly assist school leaders to maintain a consistently high standard of teaching throughout the service.

There are currently too many sets of standards relating to the teaching profession. This proliferation makes the standards very bureaucratic and difficult to use. This review is therefore to be welcomed if it leads to the production of one set of standards which can be applied to the whole profession.

This review comes as part of the Coalition Government’s plans to raise the status of the teaching profession and improve standards in schools. 

The White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, says that raising the quality of teachers is the most vital reform if the education system in England is to become truly world-class.

The Teachers’ Standards Review will submit an interim report to the Secretary of State in July 2011, setting out the recommendations for the standards required of teachers to acquire QTS and to pass induction (Core). 

A final report is expected during the autumn term making recommendations for the entire suite of teachers’ standards, with the new revised standards planned to come into effect from September 2012.

Notes for Editors

1. The Teachers’ Standards Review Group consists of:

  • Chair – Sally Coates, Principal of Burlington Danes Academy, London
  • Richard Aird – headteacher of Barrs Court Special School, Hereford
  • Professor Roy Blatchford – Director of the National Education Trust
  • Joan Deslandes – headteacher of Kingsford Community School, Beckton
  • Judith Fenn – Head of School Services at the Independent Schools Council
  • Patrick Leeson – Independent Observer        Director of Development, Education and Care at Ofsted
  • John McIntosh OBE – former headteacher of the London Oratory School
  • Dr Dan Moynihan – Chief Executive of Harris Academies
  • Professor O’Hear – former Head of the Department of Education at Buckingham University
  • Leanne Simmonds – Subject Leader of Modern Foreign Languages at Evelyn Grace Academy, London
  • Patricia Sowter – Principal of Cuckoo Hall Academy
  • Ava Sturridge-Packer CBE – headteacher of St Mary’s CofE Primary School, Birmingham
  • Greg Wallace – Executive Principal for the London Fields/Woodberry Down Federation in Hackney
  • Brett Wigdortz – Chief Executive of Teach First
  • Lizzie Williams – Primary School lead teacher at King Solomon Academy, London

2. Full details of the Review panel along with the Terms of Reference and further details of the Review can be found on the Review section of our website.

3. Currently teachers have to meet the standards of professional competence currently promoted by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) as well as the General Teaching Council for England’s (GTCE) Code of Conduct and Practice for Registered Teachers.

4. The Framework of Professional Standards for Teachers developed by TDA (2007) is available on the TDA website.

5. GTCE Code of Conduct and Practice for Registered Teachers (2009) is available on the GTCE website.

6. The associated guidance for trainee teachers on the QTS standards can be found on the TDA website.

7. Research into the current teachers’ standards, Survey of Teachers 2010, Support to improve teaching practice, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research and GTCE can be found on the GTCE website.

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