All entries for March 2018

March 26, 2018

A glance at and reflection on the demographics of the PGCE applicants – Kate Ireland

A glance at and reflection on the demographics of the PGCE applicants, Centre for Teacher Education, University of Warwick

It is an ongoing challenge for the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) sector to produce robust application and recruitment three-year trend data, due to the recent in-year changes to allocations of ITE places and the impact this can have on an ITE provider’s autonomy and flexibility to recruit to good size groups of phase and subject specialisms.

The following summarises the Centre for Teacher Education (CTE) recent analysis highlighting the changing levels of applications and accepted offers for the admissions cycles 2015-16 to the current 2018-19.

Applications and accepted offers from 15/16 to 18/19 cycle

Figure 1.1: Applications and accepted offers from 15/16 to 18/19 cycle

Interestingly, the years where applications were lowest (16/17 and 18/19) show slightly higher rates of accepted offers (18/19 represents the picture as of March 2018).

On the whole, trends are similar across phases, although Primary applications appear to have suffered more over the last two years than Secondary. This however, has had little effect on the conversion to their respective accepted offers.

For applications, Warwick is largely on par with the sector, taking between a 20%-30% drop on last year. However, a larger proportion of our applicants are accepting our places than across the sector, especially in the Primary phase.

It is interesting to consider whether, when applications are down, but accepted offers are up in-year, are we attracting higher calibre applicants or are we offering places to a wider group? This question can only be explored by an over-time analysis to include in-year retention data as understanding how many students stay the course and are recommended for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is a key factor.

Age demographics of applicants by phase, recruitment cycle 2017-18

Figure 1.2: Age demographics of applicants by phase, recruitment cycle 2017-18

When studying the age demographics of CTE applications as shown in the above graph, Early Years and EYITT show no applicants over 40, but with far fewer applicants overall, these phases are difficult to compare with Primary and Secondary. The Secondary phase shows a slightly higher proportion of younger (21-30) applicants. Primary phase shows a slightly higher proportion of applicants over 50.

Gender demographics of applicants by phase, recruitment cycle 2017-18

Figure 1.3: Gender demographics of applicants by phase, recruitment cycle 2017-18

In recent years, we have seen an increase in males being accepted on the PGCE Core programme. Typically most primary providers have 10-15% male trainees so CTE does very well against this figure. We will explore this area of our work further to include a greater understanding of male applicants onto all primary ITE routes alongside accepted offers and progress whilst on the PGCE programme.

There are remarkably similar proportions of degree classes for Secondary and Primary PGCE with 20% for both Primary and Secondary holding a 1st class honours degree and 47% holding a 2:1 for both phases. 30% and 31% for Primary and Secondary respectively hold a 2:2. The similarities here of entry qualifications are fascinating! Early Years and EYITT, although a small cohort, have a much larger proportion of 1st class degree applicants and very similar 2:1s and 2:2s.

Degree classifications of applicants by route, recruitment cycle 2017-18

Figure 1.4: Degree classifications of applicants by route, recruitment cycle 2017-18

When considering the home location of our applicants, responses indicate that PGCE students whether university-led or School Direct (SD), tend to return to their home location to study. Through the SD route, particularly salaried, many trainees identify their chosen school to train to teach, which is often in their home town or city.

We are acutely aware that only small numbers of Warwick graduates identify teaching as their chosen profession and acknowledge that more should be done with academic departments to raise the profile and status of the profession. The national careers framework which states teaching as a ‘tier 2’ career, when medicine and other critical professions are rated as a ‘tier 1’ is not helpful. With the critical challenges the sector is facing in recruiting and retaining high calibre teachers into the profession, national messaging of this type is a significant concern.

We are working with academic departments at Warwick to ensure undergraduates (UGs) have the opportunity to explore teaching as a career and have developed the Warwick in Schools Programme (WiNS) to offer the 15/30 Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme CATS teaching module, now offered to a range of academic departments. Approximately 20% of WiNS students go onto an ITE programme, which is strong evidence to suggest the programme is contributing to recruitment into teaching. However, currently 2% of WiNS students go onto the PGCE programme at Warwick which is an area for review and development. We are keen to explore with WiNS students why they chose the module and during the module, has their view of teaching and the teaching profession changed

With the Minister’s recent ITE selection criteria announcements on my mind, a robust approach to getting under the skin of fully understanding our application and recruitment data over-time may make this task just a little more challenging.

Kate Ireland – Director, Centre for Teacher Education, University of Warwick
Data analysis and graphs created by Sam Cruickshank – Data analysis, CTE

March 19, 2018

Creativity and the curriculum at an Early Years conference – Rebecca Bartram

I recently attended a British Education Research Association (BERA) conference on Creativity and the Curriculum. As an alumnus of Central Saint Martins College with a degree in Jewellery, creativity and learning have always been important to me both personally and professionally. It is my need to be creative which led to me specialising and becoming passionate about Early Years Education and the subject of childhood.

At the conference, delegates shared fantastic work in the form of PhD research and larger international studies. Throughout, the emphasis was on subjects and creativity working together with equal value rather than the model that we might be more familiar with (or find more comfortable) where art is used to make mathematics more interesting, or to complement a piece of further writing. Particularly exciting, inspiring and interesting to me was the work presented on science and creativity. Whilst this was a large European funded study, a school presented a case study where a group of children had participated in a project that made artistic responses to four big questions - time, evolution, energy and forces.

The results were astonishing. The artistic merit and scientific knowledge explored and learned through self-directed study far exceeded that of the national curriculum expectations. For example one child, in response to the question ‘energy’ had learned how particles behaved and had designed and created a ‘particle physics’ chess game, playable with moves governed by the behaviours of different particles. Another example was a response to ‘time’ where the child after exploration and discussion with their peers and the art and science teachers, made ice cube models of polar bears; these were arranged on a set and filmed melting using time-lapse photography. The final piece of work was poignant to say the least.

Interestingly, the children offered this opportunity were in years seven, eight and nine (non-tested year groups) and the time allocated to do this was lunchtime. Over the course of the day and in discussion, the recurring theme to me was the notion of the space for creativity, a physical space and also space in time to develop ideas and to explore creativity. Space where the process of working creatively is valued for the learning it can produce.

This led me to reflect on teacher education and the current education system in UK schools. What is our responsibility as teacher educators and where in the diagram below does our responsibility lie? Are we modeling in our programmes a compliant, box tick, teaching system or are we modeling a pedagogy of creativity? Can we give trainees the knowledge and confidence to take creative learning into schools to inspire children who in turn will have the skills to think creatively as adults and could this be a critical skill for the next generation and our society?

Compliance and cretivity model 

Hewitt and Tarrant (2015)

Those in attendance at the conference overwhelmingly had some sort of arts background before joining the teaching profession. For them the idea of being creative and working creatively was not uncomfortable. For others it can be challenging to not have prescribed outcomes that you work towards. There is security in ticking the boxes and covering the curriculum in a clear, measured, linear fashion. From an Early Years perspective the pedagogy embraces learning that takes place in a myriad of ways and in the most unexpected of places; good Early Years practice enables children to access an environment full of curiosities and possibilities. A space where children can explore and learn, be curious and take risks, without fear of failure. The big question for me is how do we engender this confidence in ourselves, create this safe space in our timetables, to model it effectively to our trainees, so that they can have the confidence to embrace a creative approach to the curriculum?


Hewitt, D. and Tarrant, S. (2015) Innovative Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools. London, Sage Publications Ltd.

March 12, 2018

Marking – does research help? – Sean

Literature Review: How did reading around pedagogy affect my teaching practice? A trainee’s personal reflection

Certainly in terms of my own professional development, reading around effective feedback within marking revealed a lot to me which I had never thought of before, particularly the negative impact that feedback can have. Being a brand new trainee, I assumed that the more feedback the better for the pupils, so had no problem writing swathes of response for each piece of assessed work and spending a lot of my time in the process.

Initially when I first set foot into the world of marking, I wanted to attempt it on my own to see how I would independently respond to a piece of work; the result of which is aforementioned and this of course was unsustainable. I was recommended by colleagues to give lots of praise within my first set of marking as a way to build rapport with the pupils - and it definitely seemed to work, pupils appeared up-beat and engaged in the lesson which followed. Utilising this ‘praise culture’ fitted in well with the school marking policy of ‘two stars and a wish’, a principle used across many schools under various aliases; praise followed by ways to improve.

Being a relatively young teacher who was mistaken as a new year 12 student by year 13s does have its draw backs – you just don’t have the automatic respect which a mature teacher can assume from a class of students. In which case you need to adapt and use your strengths to build respect – this is where praise becomes invaluable and two stars and a wish offered me the opportunity to utilise this tactic. I enjoyed using this method as it gave me scope to praise the students and build rapport whilst also giving me the chance to comment on where they can improve. I assumed this was working well for me without giving it a second thought – I was ticking all of my boxes; praise, improvements and progress.

Praise is an essential tool within a teacher’s arsenal; however what became apparent within reading around my topic was that praise within feedback can have a detrimental impact on a student’s progress; studies have found that students can start to slack and relax when given praise on their work, removing their desire to push themselves further. Discovering this research has really changed my approach to the way I teach and particularly mark, however breaking away from giving lots of praise was something I struggled to do. Worrying I would offend some students about their work was a main concern; my thinking was that giving no written praise could in turn knock their confidence and impact their learning within future lessons.

Working on my new understanding of feedback, I have attempted various techniques to change my marking style; I still feel it is important to feature written praise, however I now use it in far smaller doses. Ultimately what I have taken away from reading around the pedagogy is that whatever principle you are researching, whether it be providing feedback or behaviour management; it should not dictate exactly how you teach but should instead add depth to your style. Use reading to mould your personal approach in a way which best suits you and your personality; the profession is based on all teachers having their own individuality and that is always important to bear in mind in your training year.

March 06, 2018

Mind the Gap! (between what is taught and what is learned) – Jeremy

I had three Latin teachers. Between them they taught me everything I know about Latin … and a whole lot more besides. It is this “whole lot more” which concerns me right now. We have taught something to a class, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of them (or even any of them) have actually learned it. In my previous career with HMRC I was concerned with closing the “tax gap”: the difference between the amount of tax which was owed and the amount of tax which was actually collected. In my new career as a teacher I am concerned with closing the “learning gap”: the difference between the things we teach and the things our pupils actually learn.

In mathematics, this problem is particularly acute. Children do not like learning mathematics. Boaler (1996, 1997, 1998) and Nardi & Steward (2003) have conducted studies which offer some very keen insights as to why this is: it’s all down to the way in which we are teaching them. When I learned woodwork at school, they didn’t just show me how to use a drill, tell me to drill 16 holes in a piece of wood, and then move on to the next skill as soon as they judged that I had mastered drilling holes (or move on even if they didn’t judge that I had mastered drilling holes). They taught me woodworking skills in context, and I actually used them for a purpose. I made a box, with dovetailed corners and a hinged lid. I veneered a chess board on the top and a backgammon table on the inside. I never finished it, but that doesn’t matter: I learned the skills and what they were for. I used the skills in order to make something. I have not forgotten those skills.

In mathematics, we just seem to teach the skills, without any context, and then move on. We cannot take time to explore how those skills are used in practice, to set them in context, because then we wouldn’t have time to get through the whole syllabus. And we must teach the whole syllabus, mustn’t we?

Must we?

In Boaler’s comparative study, the pupils who were taught the traditional way covered the whole syllabus. The pupils whose teaching consisted of open-ended mathematical investigations did not. There were gaps in their teaching. But … they performed better in their examinations, because the “learning gap” was smaller. They were taught maths with a purpose. They “made boxes”, rather than just “drilling holes”. At the end of the day there was a closer identity between the maths they had been taught and the maths they had learned, and they understood how to use what they had learned.

Maybe we need to spend more time in the mathematics classroom “making boxes”, and not be afraid if this results in a “teaching gap”. It is, after all, the “learning gap” that matters.


Boaler, J. (1996) Learning to lose in the mathematics classroom: a critique of traditional schooling practices in the UK. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 9 (1), 17 – 33

Boaler, J (1997) Experiencing School Mathematics: Teaching styles, sex and setting. Maidenhead (Open University Press)

Boaler, J. (1998) Open and Closed Mathematics: Student Experiences and Understandings. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 29 (1), 41 – 62

Nardi, E. and Steward, S. (2003) Is Mathematics T.I.R.E.D? A Profile of Quiet Disaffection in the Secondary Mathematics Classroom. British Educational Research Journal 29 (3) 345 - 367

March 2018

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  • Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Great CPD reflection. by Joel Milburn on this entry
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