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Good teachers are crucial – so how can we make them better?

No one disputes that good teachers are crucial if students are to perform well. And the evidence seems to back this up this consensus. The problem is that we don’t know much about what makes good teachers. For most practitioners, the question of what qualifies a teacher to teach is almost synonymous with whether they have QTS. But the empirical research tends to find that formally trained and more experienced teachers are not necessarily better teachers. Neither, it appears, are the beneficiaries of investment in CPD – the variable quality and relevance of which has thus far frustrated researchers’ efforts to identify common characteristics.

Though policymakers and practitioners alike often maintain otherwise, the sufficiency of either traditional or modern teaching methods for cognitive development, domain-, skill-specific, or otherwise, has yet to be established. And, as experience and research have shown, wholesale adoption of particular pedagogies as a strategy for raising teacher effectiveness is likewise no guarantee of success.

In seeking to improve standards, the present Government has focused on raising the level of demand through curriculum and qualifications reform, but it not clear whether recent moves to introduce a performance element to pay progression will adequately support teachers’ efforts in rising to the challenges.

This event will consider the viability of measures to raise teacher quality through controlling entry requirements, re-validation, and uniformalising curriculum and pedagogy, as well as exploring an alternative approach which decentralises qualification requirements, employment terms and pay to the school level, and leaves matters of curriculum and appropriate pedagogy to the judgement of practitioners in context.


Olmo Silva is Associate Professor at the London School of Economics. He is also a Research Director of the Spatial Economics Research Centre and Research Associate at the Centre for Economic Performance both at the LSE. Olmo's research concentrates on: the economics of education; the economics of entrepreneurship; urban and real estate economics. He received his BSc and MSc in Economics from Bocconi University, Milan, and earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the European University Institute, Florence. He also spent some time visiting University College London as a Marie Curie Visiting Fellow and Harvard University as a Visiting Scholar. He has been serving as a Governor at the Ark Putney Academy since October 2013 and has spoken in a number of public events and expert witness meetings at the House of Commons on the issues of school governance, school autonomy and pupil attainments.

David Weston is Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust, which he founded in 2012. David taught maths and physics (MEng (Oxon) ALCM PGCE) for nine years before founding a consultancy specialising in data and assessment. He is also the author of several textbooks. David now writes and speaks regularly in media and at conferences and advises ministers and policymakers in matters relating to professional development.

Laura McInerney is Deputy Editor of Academies Week. Laura taught in East London for six years, starting out as a TeachFirst participant and finally as an Advanced Skills Teacher. After writing a book in 2011, The 6 Predictable Failures of Free Schools…and How To Avoid Them, she spent the next two years in the US studying education policy on a Fulbright Scholarship. During this time Laura regularly wrote features for LKMCo, TES, and the New Statesman and she stills writes a monthly Guardian column.

Gabriel Heller Sahlgren is Director of Research at the Centre for Market Reform of Education and a PhD Student at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is the author of Incentivising excellence: school choice and education quality, which discusses the conditions that need to prevail for choice to produce higher achievement, based on an extensive survey and rigorous analysis of the available literature on this topic.