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Young people could be put off becoming the next generation of teachers due to a culture of top down accountability measures, pay-related incentives and high stakes testing and appraisal, according to the latest report from the RSA. 

The report, Licensed to Create: Ten essays on improving teacher quality, concluded that the profession will fail to attract the brightest and best due to a perception of teaching as an excessively bureaucratic and compliant vocation.

View the Licensed to Create: Ten essays on improving teacher quality report

Faced with a generation of young people who are more ambitious, entrepreneurial and community minded, but also expect their workplace to offer them opportunities to harness their creativity, this may mean that developed nations will continue to face shortages of teachers when their economies begin to grow. 

The report warned the Government has not responded adequately to the concerns expressed in the Education Select Committee’s 2012 report on teacher recruitment and retention.

Drawing on 10 essays from across the education sector (including one by Charlotte Leslie MP and another by Tristram Hunt MP who suggests a new teacher licensing scheme in England could become a key lever for improvement), the report examined new ideas about the role of teacher creativity and innovation in driving up standards in the classroom.

It concluded that only one quarter of teachers across the OECD feel that they would be rewarded for innovative teaching. Instead, our education systems need to be designed to give teachers the support, motivation and incentives to take risks and experiment with ‘disciplined innovation’, both informed by and generating the best possible evidence.

The report called for policy makers and school leaders to place deliberate, rigorous focus on the development of teachers’ creativity and innovation within education reforms. It warned that trying to change behaviour through top-down accountability measures is creating a teacher identity which reduces the teacher role to that of ‘compliant technician’, whose job is largely to implement protocols and carry out instructions.

The report concluded that increasing downward pressure on schools means that too many teachers leave after just a few years, and that of those who stay, too many fail to keep improving and rarely improve together as a cohesive community of practice, whether through within-school or within-subject communities.

At a time when tinkering with school structures and changes to accountability frameworks appear to have a diminishing return on outcomes for learners, nations around the world are now placing a forensic focus on how to improve the everyday practices of teacher, the report said.

One way to meet this challenge could be to reconceptualise teachers as designers of effective learning experiences, the report proposed. Design thinking combines intuitive and analytical thinking to solving real-life problems and dilemmas. The teacher who embraces design thinking becomes the author of her own pedagogical practice within the school, not just its recipient. She is able to combine both data and insight in order to create personalised and engaging educational experiences for all students, the report concluded.

The report recommended:

  • Rigorously constructed and evaluated Initial Teacher Education and professional development trials that focus on developing teachers’ ‘design thinking’.

  • Rewriting of teacher and head teacher standards to support evidence-informed innovation and creativity.

  • Enabling a new Royal College to lead the creation of a licensing process, led by a peer-based portfolio review approach, including a commitment to ‘supported risk-taking’.

  • New targeted recruitment for those with design-related degrees to become teachers – not necessarily in design-related subjects

  • A New offer for teachers who are prepared to teach, or stay teaching, in schools in challenging areas, including a ‘term out’ sabbatical that supports their creativity and connections to the wider world

Commenting on the report, Director of RSA Education, Joe Hallgarten said:

“Although current rumours of increasing teacher recruitment difficulties in England have not gone beyond the anecdotal, there is no doubt that our teacher labour market is currently vulnerable to positive economic winds. If the main legacy of the coalition government’s school reforms amounts to increased teacher shortages during a period of relative austerity, this could significantly reduce their impact on outcomes for pupils. We need a new approach to teacher recruitment and development that puts research-literate teachers in charge as designers of curricula, assessments, pedagogies and relationships. Great school leaders already do this, despite central constraints. We need policies that give all schools the power to create.”

The authors of the 10 essays are:

  • Alison Peacock is Executive Headteacher of The Wroxham Primary Teaching School. Alison is co-author of Creating Learning without Limits (2012).

  • Charlotte Leslie MP has been the Member of Parliament for Bristol North West since 2010 and has served as a member of the Education and Health Select Committees. In 2013, she published Towards a Royal College of Teaching, which brought together leading figures in education to call for the creation of a professional body for teachers.

  • David Weston is the Chief Executive and founder of the Teacher Development Trust, the national charity for effective professional development in schools. He is a primary school governor and a former secondary school maths and physics teacher.

  • Debra Kidd taught all age ranges from primary to HE in a career spanning 21 years. Her first book, Teaching: Notes from the Frontline was published in August 2014. The second, The Matter of Mattering is due for publication in January 2015.

  • Dylan Wiliam is Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London.

  • Kristen Weatherby conducts international policy research on teacher practices, ICT use and effectiveness. Until recently she was senior policy analyst at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

  • Lorna Owen is a Vice Principal at Holyhead School in Handsworth. She previously worked in industry and is now part of the Future Leaders Programme.

  • Philippa Cordingley is the Chief Executive the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) and an internationally acknowledged expert in using evidence to develop education policy and practice.

  • Tom Sherrington is the Headteacher of Highbury Grove School in Islington, member of the Headteacher’s Roundtable and author of the headguruteacher. com blog.

  • Tracey Burns heads the Governing Complex Education Systems project in the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI).

  • Tristram Hunt MP is the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, and Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London. He was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Education in October 2013.

View the Licensed to Create: Ten essays on improving teacher quality report

Notes to editors

1. For more information contact or call 020 7451 6893 or 07799 737 970


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