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Evidence check: National College of Teaching and Leadership

Education Committee

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8 Contributions (since 18 November 2014)
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Valentine Mulholland (NAHT)

15 December 2014 at 09:29

The creation and development of the NCTL has been part of a political drive towards a particular type of school led system, and the DfE’s ‘evidence check’ does not provide any evidence to substantiate the changes that have taken place over the last few years. Whilst there are some examples of excellent practice arising from this shift, in both initial teacher training and some of the professional development offered through teaching schools, NAHT also has some areas of concern that would merit attention by the Education Committee. In terms of initial teacher training, there are issues of subject and regional shortages in teaching trainees, with the NCTL national supply model failing to ensure that there are enough teachers trained in all regions and continued issues in recruiting enough teachers to fill vacancies in shortage subjects. NAHT members reported in a recent survey of 1200 respondents that they are starting to really struggle to recruit to all teaching posts including NQTs, and this will grow with the forecast rise in school places by 20017/18. When we asked members about recruiting NQTs, a third of respondents thought that the NQTs they had recruited in the last two years were not well prepared to start working in a school, and classroom management was the top areas that 73% identified as inadequate. A lack of subject knowledge (58%) and a poor understanding of pedagogy and child development (56%) were also commonly cited as missing skills in NQTs. These are the areas in which higher education institutions are often best placed to take a lead but under the School Direct programme, some teaching schools have very little involvement from any HEI and their teaching of these subjects can be variable. Whilst School Direct can be very successful, there is a role for better quality control and moderation by the NCTL of teacher training across providers. This issue of patchy provision of ITT is compounded by the diminished role of both the NCTL and beleaguered local authorities in the provision of continuous professional development (CPD). Again, the NCTL policy move has been to leave this to a school led system and again this has led to patchy provision on the ground with some teaching schools more successful in delivering CPD than others, and some also more proactive in reaching out to schools outside their alliance. Some schools have been left with little support and guidance in the provision of CPD, and we know that schools are not always confident purchasers of external training. The result is an apparent decline in true CPD and reliance in INSET training which is more about compliance training. The scale of changes to the educational landscape in the last three years has also meant that schools have to focus on understanding and implementing these rather than developing their staff but this is starting to become an issue that merits further attention. On a final point, the NCTL has already moved away from a role in relation to the professional qualifications for school business managers, leaving this entirely to licencees to offer and develop, and has indicated its intention to move away from a role in relation to the school leadership qualifications ( NPQH, NPQSL, NPQML) after 2016 if a suitable alternative body can be found. NAHT is concerned that we should have excellent professional qualifications to support leadership development and progression to headship, and it is important that these retain some form of national quality framework and consistency across providers without which they would become fragmented and unreliable. NAHT believe that the diminishing role of the NCTL, the rationale and impact of this, needs to be evaluated and fully understood and would welcome the Education Committee’s focus on this. Valentine Mulholland Policy Adviser NAH

Jon Richards, UNISON

12 December 2014 at 16:13

This appears to be a description of the process in how the NCTL was set up rather than an evidence check on whether the NCTL is successful. I am not sure why the evidence check does not reference some of the excellent work produced by some of its predecessors. (I should declare that I sat on the board of the CWDC, which even the previous Secretary of State recognised did a good job - as the nice letter I received from him said when he announced the CWDC's abolition...). It is disappointing that as the various government agencies have merged and shrunk that the coverage of the body also shrinks. For instance the NCTL no longer covers school support staff and the very useful training resources for support staff have been archived on the DfE/Gov UK website, making it very difficult to find them. Similarly the work done by the CWDC has also been discarded or hidden away like an embarrassing parent at a teenagers party. In times of austerity it would seem sensible for the DfE to trawl through and identify which pieces of work have been effective and continue to be useful pieces of work to include in a 'evidence check'. UNISON's comments on the Teaching Assistant 'Evidence check' will be submitted early Monday!

Jose Coles

12 December 2014 at 11:11

I recently attended a 3 day Governor training event run by the nNational College. The final day failed to provide the group with an evaluation - so we were unable to voice our concerns about the poor quality of the training. Day 3 started with the presenter telling us that we had to get a move on as he has 92 slides to get through! Dreadful!

Rebecca Sullivan HA

11 December 2014 at 16:46

The Historical Association [HA] would like to know what research into the history-specific features of 'university-led' PGCE courses the NCTL took into account in making the decision to cut by one third the number of history places allocated to such ITT routes. What knowledge did they draw on in relation either to history-specific programme elements or to the strengths of the history partnerships between the school-based mentors and university tutors or to the extent of mentor ownership of the curriculum programmes? In that action, NCTL emasculated those history mentor communities which are the chief settings where collective knowledge about history education is nurtured, generated and sustained. These communities have been built up over time; their knowledge is hard won and is all the stronger for being a collective product that reflects both scholarly knowledge (of history and of history pedagogy) and practitioner research by history teachers. The professional knowledge generated among the communities of history mentors within some of the history PGCE programmes that have been cut lead the world in their generation of solutions to pressing current problems in how to make young people more knowledgeable, more analytical and more positive about history. How was this action deemed to strengthen history partnerships and school-led history ITT practice in those settings which have maintained exceptionally high standards of gate-keeping in determining who mentors history trainees? What knowledge of, or research into, the history of history education over the last twenty years, particularly knowledge of successive history assessment policies and associated practices, was used in making a judgement about the fitness of the advice in the document on assessment recently issued by NCTL: 'Beyond levels: alternative assessment approaches developed by teaching schools'. Given that the example on page 15, for example, re-invents the square wheels of both the 1991 and 1995 History National Curriculum (in its highly fragmented structure and separation of substantive knowledge from conceptual understandings), ignores History HMI/Ofsted guidance developed in the early 2000s on assessment, ignores all the main strands of research into history education in England and elsewhere, and take no account of the large number of articles by leading history practitioners over the last ten years who have striven to build assessment models that work without levels, the Historical Association would like to know: What history education expertise or research was drawn on within NCTL in order to judge that this was responsible advice to give?

Matt Perks

10 December 2014 at 20:22

The DfE response does not appear to include any evidence that led to the policy of closing previous agencies or to establishing the NCTL. The evidence of efficiency savings is only evidence in support of not re-instating the TA and NCSL. The DfE has omitted other relevant evidence that does not support the success of the current policy. For example the continued expansion of SD despite evidence suggesting that this policy is exacerbating the current teacher recruitment crisis. I'm not suggesting that there is any evidence that the NCTL is not the best way to deliver its various functions but the DfE response to this question is definitely evidence that understanding of evidence-based policy-making is not strong in the department.

Nansi Ellis ATL

10 December 2014 at 16:16

This takes the prize for having the least evidence in an evidence check. The NCTL should have an absolutely key role in supporting and developing effective leadership and great teaching. It has responsibility for new teacher induction, initial teacher training, teaching schools and leadership programmes. And yet the only concrete evidence it can provide is of the decrease in budget and staffing that combining two organisations. There is absolutely no evidence that the functions of those organisations have been successfully maintained or transformed. This document shows the difficulties at the heart of 'evidence-based policy'. The evidence upon which the creation of a new agency is based appears to be 'It became clear there was logic to bringing together responsibility...' But even if, as it would appear, there was no good evidence for creating the NCTL, surely some thought has been given to developing, evaluating and sharing the evidence-base for good teaching and leadership – which would fill an entire library; for evaluating the programmes implemented by the NCTL (for example the success of teaching schools); or for holding the NCTL to account for its oversight of ITT and induction programmes for example. None of that is obvious here.

Sally Bates

04 December 2014 at 13:30

I have concerns about the professional development and support available for new headteachers. I was fortunate to have a programme provided for me under the Headlamp scheme, 15 years ago. New heads need quality support, mentoring and professional development. Such a programme needs to be national and validated by an accredited body. Currently the UK has no strategic plan for developing school leaders other than piece-meal arrangements. As a matter of priority attention should focus on developing the skills and confidence of headteachers to equip them in facing the challenges and opportunities of a fast-moving world.


28 November 2014 at 11:13

The NCTL is one of the most incompetent organisations I have to deal with. The regularly make mistakes and then take a long time to rectify. They take too long to respond to any queries and when the do the just copy and paste a quote from the document you are querying. They do not demonstrate any understanding of the policies they want schools and ITT providers to adhere to. The most irritating thing they do is send a message saying they have haven't received a document I was to send to them when I have. When it is pointed out to them that this is not the case they either don't respond at all or send a quick apology. I believe they send out a blanket email to everyone on the email list rather than remind individuals. This causes me great stress and additional workload.I think you should definitely investigate their administration proficiency and their understanding of key policies they are asking schools to adhere to. Are they fit for purpose. Also I must say it has been extremely difficult to find this page on your website so it might explain why you haven't received any other comments. I can assure you I have not met anyone who thinks NCTL does a good job.

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