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Choosing an initial teacher training (ITT) pathway: early findings from the Becoming a Teacher project

Andrew J Hobson
University of Nottingham

Angi Malderez
University of Leeds

Louise Tracey
University of Nottingham

Kirstin Kerr
University of Nottingham

Godfrey Pell
University of Leeds

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, 16-18 September 2004

Abstract

This paper presents findings relating to trainee teachers’ choices of ITT pathways in England. Data were generated via a questionnaire survey completed by approximately 4,400 trainees across a range of ITT routes, and via in-depth interviews with a sub-set of 81 case study participants. The main findings were: (1) that at the point of application to ITT, trainees had a differential awareness of the range of ITT pathways; (2) the vast majority of trainees were following their first choice of ITT route, and (3) trainees’ reasons for selecting routes varied according to the type of ITT pathway they were following and seem appropriate to the specific characteristics of those pathways.

Introduction

The Becoming a Teacher (BaT) project aims to investigate teachers’ experiences of Initial Teacher Training (ITT), induction and Early Professional Development (EPD) in England. The research is sponsored by the Department for Educational Skills (DfES), The General Teaching Council for English (GTCE) and the Teacher Training Agency (TTA).

In this paper, we discuss some issues arising from the first year of this six year longitudinal study, in which the research has focused upon why people chose to undertake ITT, their preconceptions and expectations of teaching and training, and why people opt for particular routes into teaching. Specifically, we present findings relating to this last area.

Context

In recent years, the number of routes to achieving Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) has increased markedly, as has the number of people applying to train as teachers. In the academic year 2003-2004 there were 33,930 teacher trainees, compared to just 25,970 in 1999-2000 (DfES 2004)1. Alongside this, an increasingly diverse range of training routes and programmes has been established, including both undergraduate and graduate training programmes. At an undergraduate level, trainees gain both a first degree and QTS, while at a graduate level trainees must hold a first degree or equivalent, either relevant to the subject they are to teach, or, if their degree is in a non-related subject, have substantial relevant experience.

There are presently seven main ITT routes, which are outlined below:

(1) Bachelor of Arts (BA) / Science (BSc) with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

(2) Bachelor of Education (BEd)

These undergraduate, higher education institution (HEI)-administered programmes allow trainees to achieve a Bachelors’ degree as well as Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and include substantive HEI input together with in-school experiences. Traditionally these programmes lasted for three or four years, though the length of programmes has become more variable, and some institutions now offer two year programmes (designed for entrants with professional qualifications equivalent to degree level study). Although trainees on these routes do not receive a training bursary, they may apply for funding if training to teach a designated shortage subject. The maximum amounts that can be awarded per year are £5,000 for those under 24 and £7,500 to those aged 24 or over, with awards being based on need. Trainees have to make a contribution towards the cost of university tuition fees.

(3) University-administered Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

(4) Flexible PGCE

These postgraduate HEI-administered routes have both a substantive HEI input and a substantial period of training in (a minimum of two) schools. Programmes typically last for one academic year (full time), or five academic years (flexible). Trainees are eligible for a tax free £6,000 training bursary, generally paid in monthly instalments from October to June of their PGCE year, and home students have their course fees paid. Flexible trainees receive their bursary in two payments: £3,000 when they register for their first assessment module, and £3,000 on achieving QTS.

(5) School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)

In this graduate route a single school or a consortium of schools is primarily responsible for a programme of initial teacher training. Depending on the training provided, trainees may achieve solely QTS, or may have the opportunity to gain additional academic qualifications, namely a PGCE. Programmes typically last for one academic year. As with the PGCE, trainees are eligible for a tax free £6,000 training bursary, generally paid in monthly instalments, and home students have their tuition fees paid.

(6) Graduate and Registered Teacher Programmes (GRTP)

These ‘employment-based’ training routes offer QTS only. In the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) trainees take-up a salaried teaching post and achieve QTS while in-post, with the GTP typically lasting for one academic year. By contrast, the Registered Teaching Programme (RTP) is open to those who do not yet hold a degree but have qualifications equivalent to the first two years of Bachelor’s degree study. Typically, the RTP is a two-year programme during which trainees will be employed in a teaching post, whilst also completing a further year of degree-level study on a part time basis. Trainees receive a salary from their training school of, at minimum, £13,599 – this being equal to the minimum salary for an unqualified teacher.

(7) Fast Track2

This graduate route seeks to recruit candidates of high academic calibre with the specific purpose of training teachers able to progress rapidly into management positions, and to be able to take additional whole school responsibilities. Trainees follow an agreed individual development plan and have access to centrally funded professional development opportunities, over and above activities provided at school/LEA level, and trainees are expected to commit additional time to these. Trainees also receive a laptop, digital camera and colour printer, and are provided with online support specifically geared to their needs. There are also a number of financial incentives for Fast Track trainees, including an additional £5,000 Fast Track bursary (over and above the £6,000 usually received by graduate trainees), a higher starting salary as an NQT, and a Fast Track recruitment and retention allowance.

Of the routes set out above, the full-time PGCE remains most popular with prospective teachers. Yet, much of the recent growth in trainee numbers has occurred in the ‘non-traditional’ school centred and employment based routes. For example, the numbers of trainees following the GTP rose from 930 in 1999-2000 to an expected 6,170 during the 2003-4 academic/school year (DfES 2004).

Recent years have also witnessed a change in the demographic characteristics of those entering the teaching profession. The age of those entering teaching is rising, with the TES (30.05.03) reporting that around half of trainee teachers in England are over 25 years old, whilst a third are over 30. In encouraging a diversity of training routes, the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) has anticipated that the provision of different training routes will suit the needs of different demographic groups, and create opportunities to widen the pool of potential teachers by encouraging different kinds of entrants, in differing personal circumstances, to consider teaching as a career. David Bell (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Ofsted) has argued, for example, that school centred and employment based training routes:

[make] training available… at a very local level and in places that are not well served by other ITT providers. This enables those, typically mature entrants, often with childcare or other personal circumstances that make it impossible to follow more traditional routes, to train as teachers. (National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers Annual Conference 2003)

This paper casts more light on these issues by examining trainees’ motives for choosing the various ITT routes (and, in the future, the BaT study will examine possible relationships between trainees’ motives for choosing ITT route and their actual experiences of ITT, induction, EPD, and any decisions about whether or not to remain in the profession).

That different training routes may target prospective teachers from different demographic groups raises a number of additional issues. Whilst trainee teachers’ experience of ITT may impact upon their subsequent development as teachers, the experiences people have had prior to entering teacher training may, to some extent, shape what they look for in a training programme, how they interpret different aspects of their training, and how they develop their identities as teachers (Richardson 1997; Sugrue 1996). Edwards and Ogden (1998) found that many trainees "come into schools with ready made identity projects they want to enact" (Edwards 1998: 218). Yet it is not clear to what extent this resulted from their earlier experiences of ITT, from the beliefs and personality traits held prior to embarking on ITT, or from the interaction of the two elements.

O’Hara and Cameron-Jones (1997) reported survey findings combined with an analysis of final grades received by graduating PGCE and BEd primary trainees, suggesting that the two routes produce teachers with different strengths. Those trainees who followed the PGCE were identified as being relatively stronger on assessment and subject content, while those who followed the BEd were seen to be stronger on the classroom skills of communication and management. Whilst this lends weight to the suggestion that different training routes may have differential impacts, it also raises questions about the skills and knowledge that trainees bring to their programmes, and whether trainees anticipate particular outcomes and choose their training route accordingly. It is possible that trainees with certain characteristics, expectations and biographies are attracted to different training routes, and that these factors, which are external to the content of training programmes, may do much to shape their subsequent experiences of training and teaching.

The design of the BaT project acknowledges that comparisons between the different ITT routes can be problematic for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the characteristics of trainees taking different routes can be very different, as can the selection procedures employed by different providers within and across routes (Draper and Sharp 1999). Legitimate comparisons would also need to take into account variation in ITT provision, across providers, within the same route. How these methodological issues have been addressed is explored in the next section.

Research Design

The findings reported in this paper are based upon the analysis of data generated from the first phase of data collection in 2003-2004. Two forms of data generation were employed: firstly, a self completion questionnaire, administered to trainee teachers in their final (or sole) year of ITT; and secondly, in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of the above group. Research instruments were informed by a systematic review of the literature on ITT.

The self completion questionnaire was distributed, during the academic year 2003-2004, to trainee teachers who were due to complete their ITT programmes in 2004. The sampling strategy underlying the questionnaire survey was informed by two main concerns. Firstly, we sought to generate a representative sample of student teachers in England from within each of the ITT routes being studied. Secondly, it was hoped to ensure that a sufficient number of trainees were recruited from among the routes with least training places, in order to enable viable statistical analysis by route up to the end of the project (allowing for attrition over a five year period). ITT providers were then stratified by route and a random sample of providers within each route was selected. In addition, a small number of providers were purposively selected to boost the numbers of certain types of trainees among the smaller routes. A total of 110 providers were approached to participate in the survey, of which 74 took part.

In terms of the issues explored through the questionnaire survey, trainees were asked to respond to a range of questions including (of particular relevance to this paper):

  1. Were they following their first choice of ITT route?
  2. Were they aware of different ITT routes? and
  3. What factors influenced their choice of ITT route?

Questionnaire respondents were also asked to indicate whether they would be willing to participate further in the study, most notably through a series of face-to-face interviews.

The findings from 4,393 questionnaire responses are reported here, with this total including those training to teach both in primary and secondary schools, and those following a range of subject specialisms. The breakdown of respondents by ITT route was as follows:

Comparison with the national profile data currently available (i.e. TTA Performance Profile data for 2003) suggests that (for HEI-administered undergraduate and postgraduate ITT programmes and for employment-based routes) the achieved sample is representative of all trainees by gender and ethnicity.

Following the self completion questionnaire, a sub-sample of 84 trainees was identified to take part in case study interviews. These trainees were purposively selected to allow for comparable samples to be developed for each route. Case study trainees were drawn from a minimum of three ITT providers per route (from a total of 18 providers3), and the sample was further stratified by phase, and subsequently, insofar as possible, by subject specialism, gender, age and ethnicity. In this paper we report on the analysis of 81 interview transcripts. These included 16 PGCE trainees, 14 BA/BSC QTS trainees, 8 BEd trainees, 11 flexible route PGCE trainees, 14 SCITT and 18 GRTP (14 GTP and 4 RTP) trainees.

Case study and questionnaire data were analysed concurrently and iteratively, with the findings in one strand informing interrogations in the other. The questionnaire data were analysed using SPSS software. The case study data were initially subjected to a grounded/inductive analysis, the findings of which informed a subsequent thematic analysis of the data. All transcripts were coded using NVivo software which facilitated comparison between trainees undertaking different training routes. Whether trainees talked about particular issues spontaneously, or as a result of specific prompts from the interviewer, was taken into account during the coding process.

Findings

In this section we report on the proportions of trainees who were following their first choice of ITT route and examine the factors which influenced their decisions to follow one ITT route rather than another. Before we do this, however, it is important to consider the extent to which, at the point of application, trainees actually had an awareness of the range of pathways into teaching that were available to them.

Trainees’ awareness of different ITT routes

Both questionnaire and case study data suggest that, at the time that they first applied to initial teacher training, many people had a limited knowledge of the range of ITT routes available to them. Questionnaire respondents were asked which of the six main ITT routes they were aware of when they first applied to train as a teacher. The results are summarised in Table 1, which gives the percentage awareness of each training route of all respondents except those following that particular route (thus indicating whether trainees had been aware of other ITT pathways apart from the ones that they were following).

Table 1: Training routes that respondents were aware of when they first applied to ITT programmes by age

 

Per cent*

 

Under 25s1

Over 25s2

Total

BEd

61

62

61

BA or BSc with QTS

43

36

39

University-based PGCE

71

79

74

Flexible, university-based PGCE

25

42

33

School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT)-based Programme

18

38

27

Graduate and Registered Training Programmes (GRTP)

13

39

24

1 N = 2,313
2 N = 2,000

* Figures exclude ‘awareness’ of those following the specified route
* More than one answer could be given so percentages do not sum to 100.

The data above show that respondents were most aware, at the point of application, of the university-administered PGCE and BEd routes, whilst only around one in five trainees who were not following SCITT and GRTP routes had been aware of these kinds of programmes. However, Table 1 also illustrates that trainees’ awareness of ITT route varied according to their age. Notably, those aged over 25 years old were significantly more aware of the SCITT, GRTP and Flexible PGCE routes, whilst those under 25 years of age were more likely to be aware of the BA / BSc QTS route. This suggests that trainees were more aware of the options deemed suitable for them.

Furthermore, case study data suggest that, where applicants were concerned to find out about the range of ITT options available to them, such information was available. This is illustrated in the following excerpts from interviews with two case study trainees:

I rang the TTA hotline and it was them that steered me towards this because when we discussed what I’d done, my age, that kind of thing, they suggested the GTP. (Female, 30-34, GTP, primary)

It was really brilliant how I found out… I never heard before about RTP and I… had a look on the TTA website and over there they had all the details that you need … and one of the factors was it said [a college near me] was a recommending body for the RTP so I decided to go ahead and do it. (Female 25-29 RTP primary)

Were student teachers following their first choice of training route?

The questionnaire survey asked trainees whether the training programme they were currently following represented their first choice of training route at the time of their initial application to ITT. Of the trainees who answered the question (n = 4,391), 90 per cent of trainees stated that they were following their first choice ITT route, while ten per cent indicated they were not doing so. However, there were (statistically) significant variations in the responses of trainees following different ITT routes (p<0.01). From Table 2 we can see that the most marked contrasts appear between the Flexible PGCE and SCITT programmes on the one hand, and the undergraduate HEI-based programmes on the other. Ninety-five per cent of BEd and BA / BSc QTS trainees indicated that they were following their first choice route, compared with around three-quarters of those following SCITT-based programmes and Flexible PGCE courses. This is perhaps not surprising given the more limited range of undergraduate programmes open to potential ITT applicants.

Table 2: Percentage of trainees following their first choice route, by training route

 

Per cent*

BEd

95

BA / BSc QTS

95

University-administered PGCE

92

GRTP

81

Flexible PGCE

77

SCITT

76

* N = 3,942 (3,942 respondents indicated that they were following their first choice of ITT route, while 449 trainees indicated that they were not).

Those questionnaire respondents who indicated that they were not following their first choice training route were then asked which of eight factors may have contributed to this. The responses are summarized in Table 3, which shows that just over one-fifth of this group indicated that they had one or more applications to their first choice route rejected, whilst just under one-fifth stated that the programme(s) they applied to were over-subscribed.

Table 3: Reasons given by trainees for not following their first choice of ITT route

 

Per cent

My application was rejected

21

The programme(s) I applied to was/were over-subscribed

18

I applied too late

14

I did not achieve the standard of qualifications required

11

It wasn’t available in my local area

11

It wasn’t available at the school/institution I wanted to attend

10

It wasn’t financially viable

7

I could not get the funding required

3

* N = 449.

Interviews with case study participants reinforce some of the reasons cited above for why some trainees were not following their first choice of training route. Drawing attention to the issue of over-subscription, one trainee recounted how:

I … applied for a PGCE … got an interview, went for it, and before we even started the interview process that day with us all there, they said ‘only 30 per cent of you will get on; we’ve had a thousand applicants for a hundred places.’ Obviously I just wasn’t on that day chosen… (Female, 20-24, GTP, primary)

Another trainee cited location as an issue which mediated against her following her first choice of route:

I did want to do the Fast Track teaching because I’m one of those people where if I do something I want to do it well and I want to get to the highest level I can with it, and I wanted to do Fast Track but there were no providers near enough to where I live and my boyfriend’s here and everything and I knew that I could do the PGCE [here] so that’s why really. (Female, 20-24, PGCE, primary)

The case study interviews revealed additional reasons why some trainees were not following their first choice of training route. Most notably, among those aged 20-24, some (non-GRTP) trainees indicated that would have preferred to have followed the GRTP route but, at the time they applied, did not meet the (then) minimum age requirement of 24.

I think when you were applying you had to be over a certain age to do a GTP… and I wasn’t. (Female, 20-24, SCITT, primary)

Factors influencing choice of ITT route

Those questionnaire respondents who indicated that they were following their first choice ITT route (N=3,942) were asked which of 11 factors may have contributed to their choice of route. The results are presented in Table 4. We can see from the final column of Table 4 that almost half of these respondents (across all routes) stated that the balance of in-school and out-of-school training was an influential factor in their choice of route, which is interesting given that this (differing balance) is one of the distinguishing features of the different ITT pathways. Four other considerations were each said to have been influential by over a third of respondents: financial considerations; a belief that prospective employers may prefer graduates from a particular route; a desire to be trained by teachers in schools; and a wish to train alongside their peers or people in the same situation as themselves.

Table 4: Factors influencing choice of ITT route

 

Per cent*

 

PGCE

Flexible  PGCE

BEd

BA/BSc QTS

GRTP

SCITT

Total

The balance of in-school and out-of-school training appeals to me

54

30

45

44

37

56

47

I thought it was the best option financially

50

40

14

16

81

28

37

I wanted to be trained by qualified teachers in schools

33

20

27

25

64

66

35

I thought that prospective employers may prefer applicants who have followed this training route

25

15

59

44

22

34

35

I wanted to train alongside people in my peer group/in the same situation as me

43

23

33

31

19

29

34

It was available in my local area

33

25

22

25

42

57

32

It was available at the school/institution that I wanted to attend

21

17

26

30

30

20

26

I wanted to get a broader qualification before specializing in teaching

28

11

19

16

5

11

19

It was entirely school-based rather than based in a university

2

5

1

1

61

37

11

The flexibility of the programme suits my other commitments

5

61

3

7

22

1

10

It was the only option open to me

6

10

9

11

9

6

8

* N = 3,942 (3,942 respondents selected at least one option from the above list)

* Respondents could give more than one answer so percentages do not sum to 100.

The case study interviews, in which trainees were asked to explain how they came to be following the particular ITT route and programme that they were following, but without being prompted about the possible influence of specific considerations, provide additional evidence relating to the salience of some of these issues. The factors mentioned most frequently by the interviewees, in discussing their choice of training pathway, are listed below, together with the number of interviewees referring to each consideration and the total number of occasions that each factor was mentioned (across all 81 interviews with trainee teachers):

  • The balance of elements within the programmes (43 interviewees; 79 mentions)
  • The length / duration of these programmes (40 interviewees; 58 mentions)
  • Financial considerations (32 interviewees; 42 mentions)
  • Their prior qualifications (19 interviewees; 26 mentions)
  • Their life stage (19 interviewees; 22 mentions)
  • The ‘fit’ with other commitments’ (17 interviewees; 27 mentions)
  • Geographical location (15 interviewees; 17 mentions).
  • We can see that the balance of elements within ITT programmes (which includes reference to the role played by schools and schoolteachers), financial considerations, and the availability of ITT programmes in applicants’ localities, all feature very strongly in both the interview and questionnaire data. However, whilst around a third of questionnaire respondents indicated that they were influenced both by (i) prospective employers’ likely views about the most effective form of training and (ii) the desire to train alongside people in their peer group / in ‘the same situation’ as themselves, the case study data suggest that these may not have been amongst the most powerful of the various factors impacting on (these) trainees’ choices of ITT pathway. Only seven interviewees suggested that prospective employers’ views about the most effective ITT route were a major consideration, whilst just six of the 81 interviewees referred to the importance of wanting to train alongside their peers.

    The case study data also show that course duration, which had not been included as a fixed response item in the questionnaire, was influential in the decisions to pursue particular training routes for as many as 40 of the 81 interviewees. The main considerations here were how long trainees wanted to take to gain a teacher training qualification (or how much time they felt they were able to give to this) and how long they felt a teacher training programme ought to take. The two points are illustrated in the following quotations:

    [I chose] PGCE because it was the easiest and quickest way to do the one year, basically a conversion degree. (Female, 25-29, PGCE, primary)

    I want to be as good a teacher as I do, and as I'm doing it because I want to be a good teacher so you've got to do the four year one properly. (Male, 20-24, BA QTS, KS2/3)

    The case study data also demonstrate the interactions between the different considerations influencing trainees’ choice of training route. This is illustrated in the following excerpts from two of the interviews:

    Why I chose here? … I wanted to go back to … where I did my degree but I couldn’t afford it really so this was second best… It would have been a PGCE but I’ve done a SCITT because of the locality and finance … GTP would have been my first option but I couldn’t do it because of my age. (Male, 20-24, SCITT, secondary)

    The [full-time, university-administered] PGCE just seemed the easiest option to be quite honest … I looked at the Fast Track … but then the more I looked at that the more I thought that I probably didn’t want to do that, especially with everybody saying how incredibly intense the PGCE was. I thought well, you get £5,000 more and a laptop and a digital camera but you also seem to have to give up a lot of your weekends to go on training days and you’ve got additional tasks to do for the Fast Track as well, plus I was a bit put off by the fact that [my preferred institution] didn’t do it. (Female, 25-29, PGCE, secondary)

    Having discussed factors influencing trainees’ choice of training route as revealed across the case study and survey sample as a whole, we now turn to look specifically at the reasons given by trainees following particular ITT pathways. Table 4 (above) revealed that the factors which influenced trainees’ choice of ITT route tended to vary depending on the particular route that respondents were following. In fact, statistical analysis reveals that on every item listed in Table 5 there were statistically significant differences (p<0.01) between the responses of those following different ITT routes4. Below, we outline the factors which were most frequently mentioned by participants within each training route, drawing on both questionnaire and case study data.

    University-administered PGCE

    In their questionnaire responses, the most frequently stated considerations which were said to influence university-administered PGCE students’ choice of ITT route, were the ‘balance of in-school and out-of-school training’ (54% of PGCE respondents indicated that this influenced their choice of route), financial considerations (50%) and a preference for training alongside their peer group or people in the ‘same situation’ as themselves (43%). Interviews with the (16) university-based PGCE case study participants provide strong support for the salience of the first two considerations – the balance of elements within the programme (referred to by 6 of the interviewees and receiving 8 mentions across the 16 interviews) and financial considerations (7 interviewees; 8 mentions). They also suggest that (i) programme length / duration (7 interviewees; 9 mentions) and (ii) geographical location (6 interviewees; 9 mentions) were other dominant factors influencing these trainees’ choice of route. Below we provide illustrative quotations for each of the four factors:

    I … did a full term teaching geography, history and RE as an unqualified teacher and loved it but felt that there were things which I was doing which were … not working … I thought … it would be useful to have the sort of background information, the theory and alternative suggestions and what have you, because when you’re up to your neck in the classroom, although obviously I discussed it with other people in the classroom, you don’t get the same theoretical background. (Female, 40-44, PGCE, secondary)

    …the money you get from doing this as well, was quite an influence because I didn’t have any savings, I didn’t want to get loans out, so this was a practical thing to do. (Female, 20-24, PGCE, primary)

    I am not exactly super-old but I am coming up to 30. I didn’t want to be, I didn’t want three years of my life studying, it would have been too long. I am used to having a wage and a lifestyle. (Male, 25-29, PGCE, secondary)

    I could do this [the PGCE] at home [living with parents]. (Female, 20-24, PGCE, primary)

    Flexible PGCE

    In their questionnaire responses, Flexible PGCE trainees were, perhaps unsurprisingly, most likely to state that ‘the flexibility of the programme suits my other commitments’ (61%), followed by ‘it was the best option financially’ (40%), and by ‘the balance of in-school and out-of-school training’ (30%). Data derived from interviews with 11 Flexible PGCE trainees support the questionnaire data in suggesting that the most powerful influence on Flexible route trainees’ choice of ITT route was the fact that it would fit with or around their other commitments (8 interviewees; 15 mentions), with this relating in turn to considerations regarding finance (5 interviewees; 9 mentions), geographical location (5 interviewees; 6 mentions) and trainees’ ‘life-stage’ (5 interviewees; 7 mentions). When talking about ‘life stage’, trainees commonly referred to their family circumstances, and the importance of being able to fit their training around their commitments to their children’s needs:

    [The] flexibility, especially with people like me, I have got young children, you know. That gives a huge breathing space, that I don’t have to re-start the whole academic year … So that was the big plus point actually. (Female, 40-44, Flexible PGCE, primary)

    Some interviewees went further, explicitly linking the need to fulfil a range of commitments, both to their families, and financially, to the training route’s flexibility:

    I was just going for [Flexible PGCE] for the fact that I could work in between. I needed some amount monthly to come in to pay my bills and mortgages and for my family… I thought ‘oh, okay, I’ll do it part time’ and it fell through because the universities that were offering part time were not close enough and I had to stay within a certain radius because of, you know, family. (Female, 40-44, Flexible PGCE, secondary)

    GRTP

    Eighty-one per cent of questionnaire respondents from the GRTP route stated that they chose this route because ‘it was the best option financially’, whilst 64 per cent stated that their choice was influenced by a preference for wanting ‘to be trained by qualified teachers in schools’, 61 per cent by the ‘school-based’ rather than university-based nature of the course, and 42 per cent by the availability of the programme in their local area. Interviews with GTP trainees provide strong support for the salience of these factors. Ten of the 14 interviewees referred to the balance of elements in the programme (including the role played by schools and schoolteachers) and this received 22 mentions; whilst 11 interviewees referred to financial considerations (14 mentions).

    Interviewees following the GTP route tended to discuss the factors which influenced their choice of training route in the light of their previous career experiences. For example, where finance was considered an important factor influencing choice of route, this was often related to the fact that trainees had been used to receiving a salaried income, and, to some extent, the GTP would enable them to continue this. Similarly, where trainees highlighted the perceived importance of being trained by qualified teachers in schools, and the ‘school-based’ rather than university-based nature of the course, this was often linked to a desire to continue a professional persona, and continue practices employed in their previous careers. Drawing together all of these factors, one trainee commented:

    I thought actually, at my stage in life I don’t really want to become a full time student. PGCE is not so practical. GTP is much better for a career changer like myself in that you get a small income to tide yourself through the year which I thought I could realistically subsidise for a year… Because we’re in a school, I can get a lot out of that environment because I’ve already worked for 10 years and been in a work environment and can draw from other people which I think comes from the experience of having worked already so it just, once I’d done my research, looked like a much better way to do it, for someone like me who’s coming in as a career change. (Male, 30-34, GTP, primary)

    Case study data have also allowed distinctions between the RTP and GTP programmes to be seen. Of the four RTP trainees interviewed, all highlighted the dual nature of the programme, the fact that it allowed them to complete an undergraduate degree at the same time as achieving QTS, as a primary factor influencing their choice of route. This, in turn, was linked by the trainees to financial considerations (the need to earn while training), course duration, and the opportunities allowed by the RTP route for trainees to build on their prior professional experience in schools. Drawing together a number of these points, one RTP trainee commented:

    If I’d gone in and done a BEd that would have taken me four years to do. It wasn’t really practical, the practical thing for me was a school based route and because I only had the HND. If the school hadn’t accepted me, then I would probably have had to do my degree in a year and then gone and done the PGCE and again it wasn’t practical to do it that way so I was lucky that I got a school that accepted me for an RTP. So basically for practical reasons and financial reasons. (Female, 35-39, RTP, secondary)

    SCITT

    When asked why they chose their ITT route, those survey respondents following SCITT-based programmes were most likely to refer to a preference to be ‘trained by qualified teachers in schools’ (66%), the availability of a programme in their local area (57%), and the ‘balance of in-school and out-of-school training’ (56%). The interviews with SCITT trainees provided strong support for the salience of these factors. Nine of the 14 interviewees (a total of 11 mentions) referred (without prompting) to geographical location in discussing their choice of route, whilst all 14 interviewees referred to the balance of training offered by SCITT programmes (a total of 32 mentions), specifically referring, in most cases, to the importance of being trained by experienced teachers in schools. The following quotation provides some illustration:

    I had friends that had done PGCE courses and friends that had done BEd’s, all of them said that from their experience that the PGCE, the general standard one, didn’t give you enough time in classrooms. From what everyone said that really made me think that I needed to find some way of spending more time in classrooms. This [programme] was really ideal, this is why I set my heart on doing the SCITT course. Because it was just the course that let you do set days a week in schools. So things that we learnt in lectures from tutors, you could almost apply them straight away. (Male, 30-34, SCITT, primary)

    BEd and BA/BSc QTS

    Finally, the factor cited most frequently by both BEd and BA/BSc QTS trainees as a reason for choosing these types of ITT programmes was the belief that ‘prospective employers may prefer applicants who have followed this training route’ (59% of BEd and 44% of BA/BSc QTS respondents). The next most frequently mentioned considerations for these respondents were ‘the balance between in-school and out-of-school training’ (45% of BEd, 44% of BA/BSc QTS) and wanting to train alongside people in their peer group or ‘in the same situation’ as themselves (33% BEd, 31% BA/BSc QTS). Of these three considerations, only the second one received strong support in the case study data, with five of the eight BEd trainees and six of the 14 BA or BSc QTS trainees referring to the balance of elements within the programme in influencing their choice of route. The case study data suggest that for both BEd and BA/BSc QTS trainees (at least those in the case study sample), the most influential factor was course duration. Typically, one trainee commented:

    I did look at all the different routes but basically this one interested me more because I thought well I actually train to be a teacher for four whole years rather than just doing a subject which is nothing to do with being a teacher and then just cramming it all into one very pressurized year by the sounds of things because I really don’t know how they learn it all or everything I’ve learnt. (Female, 25-29, BA QTS, KS2/3)

    For BA/BSc QTS trainees the opportunity to gain a vocational qualification was also seen as a key factor influencing choice of route, with trainees having discounted the PGCE route on the grounds of wanting to be able to see the relevance of their degree subject to teaching throughout their undergraduate studies.

    Why the BA QTS instead of doing the PGCE with a geography degree? Because I couldn’t possibly think of another career I could use geography in, other than teaching, because I am not [ ] outside that. This is what I want to do. I thought it was a lot quicker way to get my qualifications, really…. I wouldn’t use the degree for anything other than teaching, so I thought [a PGCE] is a waste of a year really when I could be getting on doing a career I want. (Female, 20-24, BA QTS, secondary)

    Finally, in contrast to some of the older entrants following non-traditional routes, some BEd and BA/BSc QTS students were (as one might expect given their age profile) attracted by the idea of continuing to be a student:

    I wanted to come back to uni I think by this stage, I think, that was the main, main incentive for me. I still had friends who were still at uni, in their final year or whatever. That was, that was my main reason for coming to this course was that I wanted to just go to university, on a university course. (Male, 20-24, BA/BSc QTS, primary)

    Conclusions

    The data reported above have focused on three key areas relating to trainees’ choice of ITT route, namely:

  • applicants’ awareness of the routes open to them
  • whether trainees were following their first choice of route
  • factors which affected trainees’ choices.
  • (1) Awareness of training routes

    Trainees tended to be most aware of the traditional HEI-based graduate and undergraduate routes. Although non traditional routes (especially SCITT and GTP) are the largest growth area in ITT, both our survey and case study sample trainees showed less awareness of these routes, and in some instances, misunderstood what was involved. This may, to some extent, be a reflection of the relative newness of school centred, employment based and flexible routes. Trainees’ comparative lack of awareness of these routes may be indicative of a wider lack of awareness within the educational profession more generally, and perhaps more specifically within the career guidance that may be offered to prospective teachers. Nevertheless, the data show that respondents’ awareness of different teacher training routes varied according to their age and that trainees were relatively more aware of those training routes which were more appropriate to them. Case study data also illustrated that information about the range of ITT routes was available to those who sought this out (notably via the TTA website and telephone hotline). It is also possible that awareness of ITT routes may have grown since the time that our research participants were applying to their ITT programmes. Nevertheless, we consider it important for potential applicants to the profession to be aware of the full range of options open to them.

    (2) Were trainees following their first choice of training route?

    The vast majority of trainees, both in the survey and case study samples, indicated that they were following their first choice of training routes. Those trainees following undergraduate HEI-based programmes were most likely to be following their first choice of ITT route. This may be considered a reflection on the limited range of training routes open to those without first degrees (and the comparatively higher number of options open to graduate trainees). Although the RTP has become an option which allows trainees to complete a degree, this requires trainees to have already completed two years of higher study (equivalent to BA/BSc level study) and moreover, our case study suggests, relies heavily on trainees already having a good relationship with their training school. This means that the RTP route is not viable for many potential trainees. In terms of the graduate routes available, that there are fewer training places available on the less traditional routes, than on more established university administered programmes, may offer some insight into why lower numbers of graduates, than undergraduates, were able to follow their first choice of training route.

    Where trainees were not following their first choice of route, a variety of factors were seen as influential. The survey data suggests that, most commonly, trainees’ applications were rejected or the programmes they applied to were over-subscribed. The case-study data have also drawn attention to instances where trainees were excluded from the GTP programme due to their age, though this restriction has since been lifted.

    (3) What factors influenced choice of route?

    Across the data as a whole, trainees were seen to be most influenced by the balance of in-school and out-of-school training offered by their preferred training programme. Indeed, case study data indicated that trainees had purposively sought routes which would provide them with a particular balance of training elements. This is extremely pertinent given that the differing natures of the training routes (and specific programmes) open to trainees relates very strongly to the precise balance of elements different routes provide trainees with. More ‘pragmatic’ factors were also influential, with trainees being concerned to ensure that they could meet existing financial and family commitments alongside their training commitments. As such, financial incentives, and course duration and organisation, were also seen to be key issues affecting choice of route.

    Limitations of the study

    We recognise, that in asking trainees to think back to before they started their training (which for undergraduates was often three years ago), the factors highlighted by trainees as influencing their choice of route, may not have been recalled accurately in all cases. In addition, because case-study participants had completed the pre-coded questionnaire survey before being interviewed, this may have raised awareness of issues which trainees had not considered when applying for an ITT place, yet subsequently talked about (‘unprompted’) in the case study interviews. Nevertheless, the data reported provides an indication of the wide range of factors which may impact on trainees’ choices of route, with case study data illustrating both the complex interplay of factors affecting trainees’ choices and revealing factors not covered by the questionnaire survey.

    Our findings suggest that some trainees were unable to follow their preferred route into teaching because of the very high number of applications to some routes/programmes, yet were persistent and found an alternative route that would accept them. This begs the question ‘how many other rejectees were put off by the rejection and did not seek alternative routes but would nevertheless have made good teachers?’ Once explored (see recommendations for further research below), there may emerge a need, for example, to provide incentives for HEIs to establish or re-establish one or more ITT routes, or to encourage (additional) potential providers in specific geographical areas to offer particular programmes.

    Further research might usefully explore:

  • The reasons behind the heavy demand for /over-subscription to HEI-based routes
  • Careers advisors’ awareness and understanding of different routes, as well as their practice in explaining these to students
  • Changes in understanding/awareness of different routes in successive cohorts of trainees across all routes over a number of years (and explanations of any such changes).
  • The Becoming a Teacher project will continue to explore the impacts of training route and of trainees’ / teachers’ motives for undertaking particular training routes, including possible relationships between these factors and teachers’ early professional development, career paths and retention in / withdrawal from the teaching profession.

    Acknowledgements

    We would like to express our gratitude to all of our trainee (now, for the most part, NQT) participants for giving up their time to take part in the research, and to their ITT providers for granting us access to the trainees, for giving up their own time and for the hospitality shown to members of the research team on our visits to their institutions. We also acknowledge the valuable contributions to the research of all other members of the research team, including Claire Simm and Fiona Johnson (MORI Social Research Institute), Peter Tomlinson, Gary Chambers, Tom Roper and Ken Hall (University of Leeds) and Christopher Day and Jane Healy (University of Nottingham), and of Gillian Redfearn (DfES Project Manager) and the project Steering Group.

    References

    BELL, D. (2003) speech at the National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers

    Annual Conference, St Bride’s Institute, London

    DfES (2004) Statistics of Education. School Workforce in England (including teachers’ pay for England and Wales). London: TSO

    DRAPER, J. & SHARP, S. (1999) ‘Becoming a Primary Teacher in Scotland: Comparing One-year and Four-Year Courses’. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15. pp881-893

    EDWARDS, A. (1998), Possible Futures for Initial Teacher Education in the Primary Phase. In: HUDSON, A. and LAMBERT, D. (Eds) Exploring Future for Initial Teacher Education: changing key for changing times. London: Bedford Way Papers

    EDWARDS, A. & OGDEN, L. (1998a) ‘Mentoring as Protecting the Performance of Student Teachers’, AERA Annual Conference, San Diego

    HASTINGS. S, (2003) Teacher Training: The Issue: Features & Arts; No. 4534; Times Educational Supplement, p.13

    O’HARA, P. and CAMERON-JONES, P. (1997). ‘Comparisons of newly qualified primary teachers past and present’, Scottish Educational Review, 29, 1, 76-79

    RICHARDSON, V. (Ed) (1997) Constructivist Teacher Education: Building a world of new understandings. London: Falmer Press

    SUGRUE, C. (1996). Student teachers’ lay theories: Implications for professional development. In: Goodson, I.F., & Hargreaves, A. (Eds), Teachers’ professional lives. Washington DC: Falmer Press.

    Notes:

    1. For 2004-2005 35,800 training places are available.

    2. Trainees’ experiences of the Fast Track route are not being examined in the BaT project.  A DfES-funded ‘Review and Evaluation of the Fast Track Teaching Programme’ is currently underway (2003-2008).

    3. Some providers were sampled for more than one ITT route.

    4. Statistical analysis reveals that there are also significant differences in the responses to some of these questions according to gender, age and phase of education (primary/secondary), but analysis of variance indicates that ITT route is the strongest of all these variables. As this is a large sample and the requirements of normality and independence have not been violated, it may be argued that statistical inference is only an issue in the critical region of the test statistic. The less sensitive non-parametric tests confirmed the findings of the parametric tests.

    This document was added to the Education-line database on 02 December 2004