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2.1 The evidence from around the world shows us that the most important factor in determining the effectiveness of a school system is the quality of its teachers12. The best education systems draw their teachers from the most academically able, and select them carefully to ensure that they are taking only those people who combine the right personal and intellectual qualities13. These systems train their teachers rigorously at the outset, focusing particularly on the practical teaching skills they will need. At each stage of their career, and especially as they move into leadership positions, teachers in the highest performing systems receive further focused training and development14.
2.2 In the highest performing countries, teachers and teaching are held in the highest esteem. Rightly so, because all the evidence shows that good teachers make a profound difference. Studies in the United States have shown that an individual pupil taught for three consecutive years by a teacher in the top ten per cent of performance can make as much as two years more progress than a pupil taught for the same period by a teacher in the bottom ten per cent of performance15.
2.3 In this country, the evidence about who is being attracted into teaching now is encouraging: where once the average degree class of those joining postgraduate initial teacher training was below average for the graduate population, it is now above average16. But we still have some way to go before the status of teaching here matches its status in the highest performing countries: some 43 per cent of teachers here rate the status of teaching as low17, and 66 per cent of final-year students at 30 top universities believe that teaching offers slow career progression and limited chances for promotion18. We continue to struggle to attract enough graduates in some shortage subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics19. And while some countries draw their teachers exclusively from the top tier of graduates, only two per cent of graduates obtaining first class honours degrees from Russell Group universities go on to train to become teachers within six months of graduating from university20.
2.4 Equally, we do not have a strong enough focus on what is proven to be the most effective practice in teacher education and development. We know that teachers learn best from other professionals and that an ‘open classroom’ culture is vital: observing teaching and being observed, having the opportunity to plan, prepare, reflect and teach with other teachers21. Too little teacher training takes place on the job, and too much professional development involves compliance with bureaucratic initiatives rather than working with other teachers to develop effective practice. Only 25 per cent of teachers report that they are regularly observed in classroom practice and two-thirds of all professional development is ‘passive learning’22 – sitting and listening to a presentation.
2.5 In training leaders, we face equally significant issues. One in four head teachers is due to retire in the next three years23. And head teachers consistently tell us that their ability to lead their school is constrained by the burdens of bureaucracy, legislation and central guidance, making headship much less attractive for the next generation.
2.6 So, we will:
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