Michael Gove at the National College annual conference

The Education Secretary speaks about the department's new policies aimed at recruiting and training the next generation of teachers.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

Thank you Steve for that introduction and thank you for all the great work you and the College have done over the past year.

Can I also take this opportunity to thank Steve’s tireless deputy Toby Salt - who is about to take up a new challenge as Chief Executive of the Ormiston Academy chain - and Andy Buck, who has done a brilliant job in establishing Teaching Schools - who is going to work for ULT?

It turns out that a downside of devolving power from the centre is that is creates great career opportunities for some of our best people.

But I think that’s a price worth paying…..

Those of you who have heard me speak before are probably expecting a brief tour around the educational policies of those countries that dominate the OECD’s PISA league table.

And it’s true we have looked all over the world in developing our policies.

Our curriculum reforms were inspired by the high expectations for all children in Singapore and Hong Kong.

The success of Finland and South Korea has informed our focus on getting more of our very best graduates into teaching.

The example of charter schools in New Orleans and New York - which have transformed the life chances of poorer children in those cities - have been critical in developing free school policy.


But while I’ve been inspired by Singapore, Finland and New Orleans another success story has perhaps had an even greater influence on my thinking. And it’s one that’s closer to home. London.

Until 2004 London always underperformed the rest of the country in exams. In the seventies and eighties inner London schools were seen by many as a by-word for failure. While some were, in fact, doing well in difficult circumstances there were serious problems. Poor behaviour was endemic, aspiration was low, life chances were stunted.

But over the last few decades there has been a transformation.

The difference between London and the rest of the country may not seem that great at first glance. 62 per cent of children achieve five good GCSEs with English and Maths compared with 58 per cent nationally.

Dig a little deeper, though, and there are some startling results. Across the country just 35 per cent of children on free school meals achieve five good GCSEs with English and Maths - a scandalously low figure - but in inner-London 52 per cent meet it - just a few points off the average for all children.

And this gap between the achievement of children in the capital and elsewhere exists for all ethnic groups and all income bands. For instance almost half of London’s poorest white pupils get five good GCSEs with English and Maths compared with 37 per cent nationally.

Nor has the success been patchy - there have been big improvements across the capital. There is now just one London secondary school below the floor standard.

So how has this happened?

Of course London has many advantages - it is a dynamic city with a fantastic cultural heritage. It benefits from a diverse mix of, often highly aspirational, communities. As the centre of so many professions - politics, media, the law - it is much easier to identify role models for young people than in other parts of the country.

But those things have been true for many years and London’s success is a more recent phenomenon. What’s really made the difference is that London has been the laboratory for educational reform over the past decade.

The last Government launched the London Challenge in 2003. There were several elements to this but the three most important were:

  • Sponsored Academies
  • The use of outstanding schools to mentor others
  • A focus on improving the quality of teaching - especially through Teach First

Each of these strands has had a profound effect on performance and on my thinking. In each case this Government has learnt the lessons and is spreading the benefits of these reforms across the rest of the country.

The sponsored academy revolution began in London. Until 2010 there were more in London than the rest of the country put together - and there are still more than in any other region.

Nearly all of them have seen massive improvements from their predecessor school - given a new lease of life by a committed sponsor and the independence to innovate. But some in particular have been so incredibly successful that they’ve had a transformative impact on expectations in their area.

There are a small number of schools where children on free school meals both represent more than a third of all pupils and achieve above the national average. These are the jewels in the crown of the state education system - a standing rebuke to everyone who claims poorer children are destined to do worse than others. And when you look for them across London you start to see a pattern.

In Hackney there is one such school. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that it’s Mossbourne Academy.

In Southwark there are two - ARK Walworth Academy and Harris Bermondsey Academy.

In Westminster there are three - Pimlico Academy, Paddington ULT Academy and one non-academy: St. Marylebone Church of England School.

In each of these local authorities the incredible performance of new sponsored academies has acted as a spur to others. In Southwark the percentage of free school meal children achieving five good GCSE with English and Maths has increased by 23 percentage points in 4 years; in Westminster 18 percentage points; in Hackney by 15.

Since the election this Government - inspired by these successes - has turbo-charged the sponsored academy programme. By this September we will have increased the number we inherited by well over 100 per cent. And, crucially, we have expanded the programme into primary schools - more than 200 have now been brokered and 34 are already open.

I know this has been one of our more controversial reforms - some of the usual suspects have sought to protect underperforming schools from necessary change. But it seems deeply irresponsible to me to allow schools to fail year after year when organisations, like Harris, that have proven their ability to turn round schools time and time again are willing to help.

Academies, though, are only part of what made the London Challenge successful. The leadership strand of the programme focused on identifying “system leaders” to support weaker schools. This proved extremely successful. Schools in Tower Hamlets and Newham - like Swanlea and Rokeby - have been amongst the fastest improvers in recent years - and have done so by working closely with each other to drive up standards.

The legacy of this success is widespread support for system leadership as the best method of school improvement. As former chief inspector Christine Gilbert put it in a recent speech: “we’ve reached a tipping point in favour of schools, school leaders, and teachers themselves, as the primary drivers of systemic improvement”.

That is reflected both in the National Leader of Education programme - which is being massively expanded by this Government - as well as the great work being done by good and outstanding schools that have converted to academy status to help others.

Indeed one of the Tower Hamlets’ schools originally identified as requiring support under the London Challenge - Bethnal Green Technology College - converted to academy status as an outstanding school in January this year and is, as a condition of that status, supporting Dartford Technology College, a school currently in special measures.

Increasingly the very best schools are going beyond ad hoc support for weaker schools and establishing their own chains and federations - in the same way Harris, Haberdashers and John Cabot City Technology Colleges did in the early years of the academy programme. 85 outstanding schools are now signed up as academy sponsors.

The third key strand of the London Challenge was a focus on increasing the number of outstanding teachers through professional development and recruitment of the best graduates via Teach First - which was in its first few years a predominantly London centred programme.

Of the 1,000 Teach First trainees who completed training under the last Government over three-quarters were based in a London school.

While these 750 plus teachers represent a small percentage of the London workforce they have had a disproportionate impact. It is notable that the schools I mentioned earlier that help children on free school meals outperform the average have all relied heavily on Teach First in their recruitment.

Indeed many Teach Firsters have already reached leadership positions in these schools and others like them. They are often young people who would not have considered teaching without the additional prestige of Teach First, or the opportunity to start working in a challenging school straight away, but who have now decided to commit their lives to helping some of the most disadvantaged children in our society match - or supersede - their own achievements.

The Importance of teaching

Their success emphasises one of the key messages of international research over the past few years: no education system can outperform its teachers and the most successful jurisdictions, though they may differ hugely in other aspects, share a focus on recruiting the very best graduates and training them in outstanding institutions.

Under this Government Teach First have been given the funding to grow in commensurate proportion to their ambitions. By the end of this Parliament they plan to train 1,500 graduates a year; three times as many as they were doing at the beginning. They have developed a bespoke primary programme and expanded to all parts of the country.

But we are not just growing Teach First itself we are also applying the key lessons of that programme to the whole teacher training system. And how we’re doing that is what I want to focus on today.

Some changes we’ve already made.

One lesson from Teach First, as well as of PISA, is the importance of attracting the best graduates.

So we have introduced bursaries of up to £20,000 to attract the very best science and maths graduates. And we have raised the bar for potential trainees - they now need at least a second class degree to receive a bursary - to signal to undergraduates the intellectual rigour required to become a teacher.

We know that a big reason for Teach First’s success in recruiting hundreds of graduates from our best universities is the sense of prestige attached to a programme badged as elite. We now need to extend that sense of prestige to teaching as a whole.

As a result of these changes we have already seen a 12 per cent increase in the proportion of candidates with a 2:1 or first class degree accepted on to maths, physics, chemistry and modern foreign languages teacher training courses.

In physics - traditionally the hardest subject to recruit for - there has been an incredible 29 per cent rise in the proportion of graduates with a good degree accepted on to courses.

And attitudes are changing too.

In their annual survey of final year undergraduates the Teaching Agency found that:

81 per cent agreed that teaching had real status and kudos - up 4 per cent since 2010.

72 per cent thought their friends and family would react positively to them becoming a teacher - up 6 per cent since 2010.

And, encouragingly, 71 per cent thought the image of teaching is improving.

Schools at the heart of teaching training

But it’s not just about ensuring that we recruit the very best talent available. We also need to make sure that our very best educators are at the heart of training each new generation of teachers.

And the best vehicle for doing this is something else that started in London as part of the Challenge - the Teaching School - pioneered by George Berwick the visionary headteacher of Ravens Wood School.

There were just a handful of Teaching Schools in 2010 but the potential was obvious. The idea is a simple one: take the very best schools, ones that are already working to improve other schools, and put them in charge of teacher training and professional development for the whole system.

Via the great work of the National College this Government has already set up a network of 200 Teaching Schools - with the aim of opening 500 by the end of the Parliament. Their impact has been immediate and profound.

Fantastic projects have popped up all over the country - not driven by the demands of Government or by Ministers’ prejudices but by school leaders.

Whether it’s Fairlawn Primary in Lewisham supporting Maths teaching across the borough.

Or Wroxham school in Hertfordshire working with Cambridge University to develop a new pedagogy that breaks free of previous obsessions with ability-labels.

Or the network of Teaching Schools across the North-West who are developing their own school improvement programme for local schools.

And, of course, nearly all Teaching Schools are getting much more involved in teacher training.

Pushing more teacher training through schools has been an aim of successive Governments since the late eighties. And there have been important initiatives. The last Conservative Government allowed groups of schools to form together to offer teacher training. The Labour Government introduced the Graduate Teacher Programme - allowing typically older trainees to learn on the job - as well as Teach First.

In fact this is a global shift. As the OECD’s head of education Andreas Schleicher put it in a speech last year “many countries have shifted the emphasis from academic preparation to preparing professionals in schools instead. Teachers now get into classrooms earlier, spend more time on-site in schools, and get more and better support in the process”.

But previous efforts in this country have always been piecemeal - hamstrung by the lack of a proper network of outstanding schools to deliver training on a serious scale.
Now we have the Teaching School network.

Earlier this year we launched a pilot version of a new programme called School Direct. Teaching Schools were offered the opportunity to bid for teacher training places.

Those participating will be able to recruit their own trainees and develop their own training programme in partnership with a university. In return for this additional control the schools will be expected to find a job for the trainee once they finish their training. As such it represents a better deal for both schools and trainees.
Because of the short notice and the select group of schools involved we expected a maximum of 500 places would be bid for - instead it was over 1,000, of which 914 were allocated. We were blown away by schools’ enthusiasm.

Now these places have been allocated, the schools involved are already recruiting trainees; and working with a wide-range of universities to develop high-quality training programmes; and putting teacher training at the heart of their plans for the future.

For example Harris academies have decided to partner with Canterbury Christ Church university and have worked closely with them to select trainees and design a training programme. Harris staff will be as closely involved as possible in the core teaching days on the programme, and will increase this involvement as the programme evolves. Staff from Harris have already accompanied staff from Canterbury Christ Church on a research trip to Finland.

And Cabot academies have developed a programme that will see each trainee mentored by an existing outstanding teacher in their chain - following a bespoke 10 day induction in their schools before Autumn term begins.

As we grow the Teaching School network, many more heads have come to us, asking to be involved.

So we are going to expand School Direct significantly over the next few years.

Schools won’t have to be part of a Teaching School alliance to get involved but we envisage that most will - because of the advantages of training across a group of schools.

And while we anticipate that the majority of schools participating will want a strong partnership with a higher education institution, we expect that some of the very best schools will want to become their own provider.

Indeed some of the most forward thinking Teaching Schools and academy chains have already gone down this route.

Like the Kemnal academies trust who will use the wealth of experience in teacher training across their member schools to offer courses in English, mathematics, physics, chemistry and MFL from September.

Or Tudor Grange Teaching School alliance who will offer courses in the same subjects from September 2012 with Masters level credits awarded by Cumbria University.

By the end of the Parliament we expect as many as 10,000 students a year could be trained by schools that are either offering Schools Direct places or are full providers of teacher training.

So there will be a spectrum of engagement for those schools that want to get involved. Some schools may not want to get involved at all. Many will want to participate in School Direct - having the opportunity to recruit staff and develop training programmes with the support and assistance of existing providers. Others will want to run the whole show - taking control of the process from start to finish.

As these programmes grow, more and more schools will be able to recruit, train and hire their own teachers; working in partnership with other schools and top-quality ITT providers to give new teachers the best possible start to their careers.

New recruits will learn and train in schools, working with experienced teachers and putting their lessons into practice from day one.

And they will be recruited with the expectation that they will be employed at the school at the end of their training - something which the traditional, university-based PGCE could never offer.

Of course, for existing providers involved in teacher training this will mean some big changes.

We want to ensure the very best providers remain committed to teacher education so universities, and others, rated “outstanding” by Ofsted will be guaranteed their existing level of places for the next two years.

But we will no longer guarantee places to institutions rated good or lower. They will compete for training places through School Direct, designing courses in collaboration with schools. If schools don’t rate their provision, they will go out of business.

And we’re going to work quickly in identifying and shutting down providers which simply aren’t good enough. If they receive two “Requires Improvement” judgements under the new - tougher - Ofsted framework - they will be swiftly de-accredited.
If an ITT provider isn’t delivering the sort of high-quality, highly-respected training which each new teacher deserves and needs - then they have no place delivering training at all.

Recruiting the best career changers

Along with recruiting the best university-leavers and ensuring they are trained in the best schools and universities, I also want to do more to attract more of the best and brightest career-changers.

The Graduate Teacher Programme, or GTP, has been in place since 1998. In that time it has delivered some superb training, and recruited some brilliant teachers.

But it has also suffered from some serious flaws. Recruitment has been ad hoc - there has never been a sense that the programme is targeted at high-fliers.

There has never been a central website that any career-changer interested in becoming a teacher could go to to find places.

And sometimes schools have felt frustrated by restrictions over salary and training.

So we are going to close the GTP, but build on its strengths to launch a new, school-led teacher training programme for the best career-changers.

From September 2013, a new employment-based strand of School Direct will be available for candidates who have already gained at least three years valuable experience in other careers.

Any school that wants to participate will be asked to advertise places on a single website which will allow the Teaching Agency to better market the programme to the target audience.

Schools will have much greater control of funding - they will be able to decide how much to spend on trainees’ salaries and how much on training - giving them the autonomy and flexibility to decide how to get the biggest possible bang for their buck.

And to help schools in deprived areas to recruit and train the very best teachers, schools with 35 per cent or more of their pupils on free school meals will receive a 10 per cent funding premium.

In 2013-14, we will fund up to 5,000 places on employment-based School Direct- more than the number of places on the GTP this year.


The cumulative impact of these changes on initial teacher training will be revolutionary. By the end of this parliament well over half of all training places will be delivered by schools whether through direct provision; Teach First; School Direct; or our new employment-based route.

Most of the rest will be doing PGCE courses in existing providers rated outstanding.

The weakest providers will no longer be in business. They will have been de-accredited following Ofsted inspections or unable to persuade schools to commission support from them.

This represents a huge opportunity for school leaders - to take control of teacher training - to create programmes that reflect their school’s ethos - to recruit better trainees.

I was delighted to read in the National College’s independent survey of 2,250 school leaders that 98 per cent think it’s a great job. It is a great job and one that makes such a difference. I want to thank you for all that you have done so far as leaders to improve the life chances of the children and young people in your care. I know that your roles are challenging and that this government is asking even more of you but that is because I believe the children and young people in this country deserve the very best.

I am asking you to work with me to move these important proposals forward. It is a big responsibility - you will need to show that you can manage the development and improvement of the profession rather than looking to others to do it for you. But if London’s improvement has taught us anything it is that putting schools in control of their own destiny is the key to success.


Published 14 June 2012