Education White Paper

24 November 2010

Commenting on the Education White Paper, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, said:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to raising educational attainment in schools in England.  This is by far the most important factor in the likelihood of a student going to a leading university. Success in improving academic achievement will help us more than any other measure to increase the number of students from low income backgrounds in our universities."

On teacher training

“The Government is right to introduce additional measures to increase the recruitment of teachers in shortage subjects.  We hope that this will result in more students being offered the science and maths subjects which are so important. 

“However, we are concerned about proposals to reduce the role of universities in teacher training and look forward to contributing to the consultation on ITT in the New Year. 

"Of course, it is important that teacher education should involve training in schools.  However, trainee teachers based at universities already spend a great deal of their time in schools. Russell Group universities work in a close and complementary partnership with schools to ensure that teacher education is both closely related to the realities of the school environment and is informed by a thorough understanding of the theory of pedagogy.  Only yesterday, OFSTED confirmed the very high quality of university-based teacher training.

“We would urge the Government not to put the quality of teacher training at risk, by marginalising the important contribution of universities.

“Over 4,000 students currently have the opportunity to do their training at Russell Group universities in England, where they can mix with undergraduates and postgraduates in other subjects and disciplines and combine their time in schools with the experience of studying at a world-class research-intensive institution. It would seem a shame if fewer students in future were offered these sorts of opportunities and if fewer teachers could communicate, from personal experience, the benefits of going to a leading research-intensive university.

“The training school model is an interesting one and should build on the highly effective partnerships that already exist between universities and schools. We look forward to working with government on the development of their proposal.

“It is also important that proposals to transfer more responsibility to schools do not put the quality of teaching and learning at risk or place undue pressure on teachers and other staff.”

On subjects studied at school

“Quality skills in and knowledge of Modern Foreign Languages (MFLs) are vital to the UK so we particularly welcome incentives to study a MFL until age 16. We hope that this will lead to an increase in the number of students choosing to continue with a MFL post-16.  In particular, we have been concerned about the low proportion of students who take MFLs at A-level within the state school sector and we hope that this latest announcement will help solve this problem.

“It is vital that all students are given appropriate information and guidance about the choices that will maximise their potential from an early age.  Key to this are the subjects they study and it is crucial that they have access to appropriate information and guidance on these.

“Too few students from state schools are opting for STEM (and particularly single science) subjects at GCSE, advanced level and university and it is important that all students understand what benefits they can gain from doing so.

Notes to editors

  1. OFSTED has judged 47% of teacher training taking place in HEI-led partnerships to be of 'outstanding' quality, compared to only 26% of school-based training programmes.  (OFSTED, Quality and Standards Initial Teacher Education, 2009/10)
  2. Across the UK, the Russell Group accounts for 9% of all university-based teacher training.  In England, in 2008/09, there were 4,160 students undertaking Initial Teacher Training in RG universities (94 percent at Postgraduate level)  (HESA).
  3. Teacher training is provided by 12 RG institutions in England.  In most cases the overall quality of this provision is judged by OFSTED to be 'outstanding'

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