Kitchen flooring, Poor training courses, and more. In this episode, Andy, Robin and Adam discuss the difficulty of selecting the best teacher training programme. Are there too many options? How does a teacher know where to start looking? Plus, what can we learn from Singapore’s teacher training model?
The school of school podcast is presented by:
Subscribe to get the latest The School of School podcasts delivered to your inbox.
Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hi, I'm Robin Potter.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School podcast.
Are you an early years teacher struggling with lack of support for lesson planning? Foundations can help. Foundations is the new reception programme from Maths — No Problem! It's a complete reception package with workbook journals, picture books and online teacher guides, all in one place. Visit mathsnoproblem.com today to learn more.
All right, welcome back everyone to the School of School. And we've got the core team here, say hello, Robin.
And Adam say hi.
How you doing everybody?
Now, neither of that, you see Robin conformed to my, but Adam said something entirely different. I'm just pointing that out. I don't know what it means, but anyway, today we're talking about, how do I select the best teacher training? And I guess that's a question for both individual teachers as themselves, as well as school administrators. What do you think, Adam? What do you think about this?
Well, I was really curious because I think about teacher training. I think what a hugely, hugely important role that plays in the success of children, because you know, you want to be trained well and what does good teacher training look like? And we got models from overseas. So I thought, I just got a bit curious over the weekend. I thought I'll have a wee look. So if I was restarting my career and I thought, "I'm going to try to be a teacher, where shall I get trained?" So I typed in teacher training and then I went to the government website, because I thought, well, anything government related it'll be accredited. So it'll be legit. So I put in primary, I didn't subject specialise. I just said primary. And I just said, find a course for me. Do you know how many courses there are in England to be a teacher? Have a guess.
How about that.
That's too big Robin. How many do you think? Maybe I just, I find found it stunning, but maybe I shouldn't have done.
Oh, see, close to a billion.
Different courses that you can click on a link and apply to become a teacher. So that got me curious, right? So I thought, I want to click on some of these links because how do I, Adam, coming into this for the first time, I don't know how, what makes a good teacher? I've got no idea, but all I want to do is train it because I like working with children and that sort of stuff. So I start to click on them and then some of them, when you look at About This Course, so you click on a link, some of them are sort of school direct, right? So there's just a single school that's doing this, you click on it and it'll tell you a little bit about the school and it might have a couple of quotes, but it might not.
And it got me thinking, this is really interesting because how do we, and I hope there's an answer to this because that's up until where I got to, I started to think, "how do we quality assure the teacher training that's done, when we've got 1,198 courses all offering the same thing, which is at the end of it, you become a teacher?" I just found it a lot. Especially when the programme isn't standardised in the same way as if I, say, wanted to learn to ride a motorbike, right? There's a specified number of hours that I need to spend on a certain engine rated motorbike. And I've got to do this piece of written work and I've got to do this and this. Whereas I think, yes, there's fundamental core aspects of teacher training, but I just, is it just me? Do you find that number staggering?
Well, it sounds like a lot, but I'm not sure if I'm seeing the whole picture. I mean, that was a general, for primary...
I'll break it down for you, Robin. I'll break it down for you. So, where a lot of the numbers come from, is let's just say, a local school round here works with, say school direct. So you can come into that school. You can apply to work and train as a teacher and that school will get funding. And they're often associated with another institute or group or trust that has been given, if you like, the ability to qualify a teacher. I just thought it was a huge number that I couldn't find easily. The best I could find in terms of that sort of differentiator or the, as part of that being a quality assurance or just some sort of statistics about the group that's offering the training. It was very difficult to find in and amongst that number. So if I was starting out as a training teacher, I struggled to, what do we do? And I just...
Especially as a new teacher, right? Like you're saying, the new teacher needs some direction. I mean, I don't know if the school gives direction, but that does sound a bit staggering or overwhelming for a new teacher to walk in and think, where do I even begin?
What are you puzzled about Adam? Is this stuff regulated enough? Or is it, how does a teacher decide which one to take?
Yeah, I think the reason why it piqued my interest and why I started looking into it is because I thought, if you're deciding to be a teacher, and you want to choose the right training, that suits you, right. How do you differentiate between all of the providers who offer you that level of training. Especially when, and this is the part that I think is the part that is my...
Well, I mean, there's a deep philosophical question behind that as well. Right? Which is, what is the right training. It might be different for different teachers. So if I want to be the greatest teacher in the world, then I want to take the greatest training in the world, is going to motivate someone a lot differently than, I want to be teaching next year, because I need a job. Okay, maybe not next year, but you know what I mean? I see this as a "whoa teaching, that sounds like a cushy job. What's the least that I need to do to become a teacher so I can get that cushy job?" You know? I mean, obviously it's not a cushy job. We know that, but it might look like that before you get into the profession, right? And then that person's going to make a very different decision than the other person. So.
I suppose the other thing that got me thinking, Andy, and I don't mean to put you on the spot with this, but you know, the Singaporean system pretty well, right?
And you know that their teachers, that the training of their teachers is very uniform.
Well, they all go through the same programme at the National Institute of Education, right? There's only one place you can go to become a certified teacher in Singapore. And everybody takes the same courses and goes through the same school, right? Has the same professors.
So if you Google search Singapore and options for becoming a teacher, you'd get one.
It's like, go to the National, apply to take the teacher training course at the National Institute of Education.
So let me broaden this out and generalise a little bit more. So on one hand, you've got somewhere that's got one. Another hand, we've got one thousand, one...
...Which is the best country in the world in education.
Well, no, no, no, actually we're already. Yeah. And statistically it wins on everything. So, you could just say straight away by default, "oh, that must be the better option." But what I wanted to really throw it out there in the course of this conversation, is...
Well, we don't know that's the cause, right, of it being the best.
No, no, no. Of course, we don't. Of course, we don't. And it's not to say that there's not fantastic teachers that come out from the 1,198. So I suppose what I wanted to ask you two was, is it better in your opinion, to have a greater amount of choice? So you can start to do things like you were saying, Andy, I might decide, actually, this is more of the area that I want to work in and do this with this school and training this way, or is it better to have uniformity in your training? So we can guarantee that every teacher that comes out is more consistent in their approach. So, that's what it came down to, to me.
I think that's an easy question to answer.
I think that's an easy question to answer. I suppose that the heart depends what it is that you're trying to produce. So if you're trying to produce a country that performs extremely well in education, according to things that you can measure, AKA Singapore, then you want to limit choice. If you want to create a society that will be much more messy and an education system that will generate people that are much less similar to each other and potentially sacrifice the common good of having everyone do really well for the sake of getting several exceptional people, the other system is probably better, right? So, if you think that the goal of education is to get everyone performing really, really well, then you want to go down the Singapore road. If you want to produce a small group of elite people, then the UK route is probably better. So you decide what it is you want to produce as a society, because the one about creating a bunch of elite people, by definition, almost means that you're going to sacrifice a lot of other people.
It's conformity to the nth degree.
You see there's arguments either way, that's the interesting thing, because as a socialist, you might argue either argument, right? Whereas, a really starch right wing person, you might argue either one. So there's no really easy answer. It's like, it's not even a political issue. So like a philosophical one, right? What do you what do you want to achieve?
But I keep thinking about my kitchen and I keep thinking about when I got my kitchen done and I could either have, they gave me...actually, because of the pandemic, I was limited. So, say, they gave me five choices of flooring. And so I picked one. Now, before the pandemic, because supplies were easier to get, I think I probably had more like 50 choices in flooring. That's too many. That's out of control. But they didn't give me just one. If they did give me one, I don't know how happy I would've been about it, because I would feel like, well then my neighbours and I all have the same identical flooring, probably will have the same kitchens, and probably the same counters and everything. I still had a choice, but it was limited. Is there a happy medium, Adam, do you think?
Yeah, I have to say from the start, that I am absolutely sure that the vast majority, or anything with that sort of number of offerings, I would like to think that because it is regulated, there're finances involved, there will be a set of criteria that attendees and participants will need to meet. The vast majority I'm sure are good and provide a basis to go on, to be a good teacher, if you choose to keep learning and to put your heart and soul into it, right? I think that there are pros and cons to both.
I think that the single Singaporean model, they've based it on some really sound research and it's very, very good. It's not left a chance. And I imagine that with 1,198 providers, there's a certain element of chance involved in that, that if you were just to take a punt and have a look. But I think what it came down to me was is that's the way that it is. But I think, and answer the question, is how do we choose is to go and see the schools themselves and be selective in that way, because I'm not convinced that giving that level of choice...so if you were given a brochure, Robin, and it had 1,198 different flowers in it, and they all looked very similar...
I couldn't do it.
...I think it's just, it's too much. And it's too big...
...And it's very difficult to quality assure.
So for mere mortals, wanting to get into teacher training, right? Like the average candidate for teacher training, to be an average candidate for teacher training in Singapore, right? You would get a better, I would guarantee you would come out a better teacher out of Singapore's teacher training programme than you would in the UK for the average student. For the top students, like top, top, top students, right, We're talking about people who could apply at a programme at the top universities, Oxbridge kind of stuff. You're going to get teacher training. It's going to be about as good as it's going to be anywhere in the world. Right?
It's going to happen. It's probably going to be better than the National Institute of Education, right? Probably a lot better, but there's only going to be a couple of you, but for the bottom teachers, well, you probably, or the bottom candidates, those that just squeak in, right? They're going to be pretty darn good and they're going to get a pretty darn good education in Singapore, but in the UK, if you're going to Jones one, two, three School of Teacher Training. Right?
But an alphabetical check, I don't know. No, it's not, of course it's not, of course it's not.
But there are people out of those 1,300 institutions or courses that are out there, the ones at the bottom are probably not going to be very good, right? Yeah. And that's the difference. That's the difference. That's what it comes down to. So would we be, as the UK, would we be better off adopting a system like Singapore? I don't think it's ever going to happen. Singapore's like a laboratory, right? It's one city, basically. And the government has complete dominion over the education system, which doesn't happen in the UK. And the politicians don't mettle so much in Singapore like we do in the UK. Change of government, everything changes in education. You see it even just the last couple of years, the tremendous amount of change that there's been in the education system in the UK, even though they haven't even changed their curriculum. There's this kind of, undercurrents and things changing all the time. So, as a teacher, how do you select the best one? That's really hard. I don't know.
It's simple. You just take a Maths — No Problem! training course.
Yeah. There you go. Yeah. Well, we don't train people how to be teachers. We train them how to teach maths mastery. Right.
Once they already know how to be teachers.
Oh, I just had to plug it, right?
Yeah, but yeah, you did. You did, but it is, our training is the best. You're right.
Um hum (affirmative).
Yeah. I don't know, Adam. I don't know. I don't know there's an answer for this, but yeah, there should be more regulation, I think. Right?
Yeah. And I think make it transparent, go and see schools. If you're thinking about becoming a teacher, good. That's a good first step, thinking about becoming a teacher and then pursue it with vigour and go and see the schools, go and see, because it is overwhelming. If I was starting again, I'd find that really quite daunting. If I looked at that and I wouldn't know how to separate them out. So go into schools, find out, ask how many people got employed at the end of it. Find out also how long they stayed teachers. You know? But I think ask those questions because it is tough. And I didn't realise just quite how tough it would be if you were studying on a career and the training's important, you know? So just talk to people, go and see the schools and...
Yeah. Talking to other teachers would have to be critical, I think. Talking to your friends that are teachers, finding out what kind of training they got. That's key.
But Adam, you've hired many of these people largely.
Do you think that these people are coming out, that the system is creating, there's nothing wrong with the people, right? We know that. People are people, but are the institutions, are they doing a good enough job?
Well, I got to be honest with you, Andy. And I've had this discussion with governors when we were looking through applications and those sorts of things, I think there was one year and I think it has, believe it or not, even though there's that number. I think it has been reined in a little bit, where we were looking at applications and they were asking me, well, this person's come through this route. This person's come through this route. We must have gone up to about six or seven routes. And there were a couple of them where I said, I honestly don't know. What it comes down to though, is the people. And what I do think is important is having, for those people that are doing the training, finding out as much you can from teachers who are in the game now, because I think some of them were some of the answers that we saw at interview, that got short changed.
And I think that's the difficulty when you've got so many different options and don't always just go for the cheapest or the shortest, right? Because the skills that you learn at the beginning of your training, they're the ones that you fall back on after 20 years, after one year, two years, three years, four years, good training does that, you go back to it. So yeah, shortest is not always best and be really clear about it because it's easy to see when you come to interview, those people who have got a good grasp of understanding that couples with their passion. And I think that if you've got those two, you're employable. If you've been let down a little bit, because you don't have that first sort of skill set, it's a financial mistake for the place that you choose. So talk to teachers who know and I think get your steer there because it's difficult online. It's difficult.
Thank you for joining us on the School of School podcast.