August 11, 2011 • 3:44 pm


“Many trainee maths and science teachers do not have good degrees in their subject, a study suggests.”

“Those training to be foreign language teachers are also less likely to have a ‘good’ degree, with more than a third holding a 2:2 or lower, the Good Teacher Training Guide 2011 found.”

The Daily Mail, 11 August 2011

“Barely half of trainee maths teachers have a top degree in the subject. A study found just 51 per cent got a first or a 2:1 at university.”

The Sun, 11 August 2011

There has been a renewed interest in recent weeks in the standard of teaching in the UK following the publication of a report produced by Carol Vorderman for the Conservative Party on how maths teaching in the UK can be improved.

Today various publications claimed that recent statistics suggest that there are a significant proportion of trainee teachers who do not achieve a 2:1 or first class degree at university.

The Daily Mail reported that more than a third of trainee foreign language teachers have a 2:2 or lower and that around half of science and maths trainees fail to achieve a ‘good degree’.

The Sun also reported similar numbers today.

But what do the figures show?


The statistics come from data compiled in part by the TDA and published in the Good Teacher Training Guide 2011 produced by the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham.

The graph below shows the percentage of those entering Initial Teacher Training (ITT) with a ‘good’ degree: 2:1 or first class degree by subject.

The graph shows that Classics, History and English trainee teachers are among the highest achievers in terms of university degrees, with Maths and Science teachers at the lower end of the scale.

The figures in the graph correlate to those reported in both the Mail and the Sun today.

However the CEER report explains that the graph does not include those with degrees from outside of the UK who join the UK teacher training programmes.

This may have implications for any analysis of the results, in particular the data on trainee teachers of modern languages.

As the Daily Mail reported, the graph shows that ‘more than a third’ do not achieve a 2:1 or higher at university.

However the report also provides figures for the number of modern languages teachers who took university degrees outside of the UK, which works out as 25 per cent of total entrants.

Although some of this percentage will have achieved the UK equivalent of ‘poor’ degrees, it is highly probable that some of these entrants will have achieved ‘good’ degrees overseas.


The report also provides figures for the trends in the levels of degree qualification achieved by teachers entering ITT. The graph below shows the percentage of secondary school level ITT intake who achieved a 2:1 or higher at degree level plotted alongside the percentage of ‘good’ degrees awarded in the same year.

The graph shows that the twelve years up to 2009 have seen a slight increase in the percentage of trainee teachers achieving a 2:1 or above.

However this increase closely follows a slight increase in the number of ‘good’ degrees being awarded by universities each year.

The report by the CEER suggests that this therefore shows that ‘teaching is not increasing its relative share of good graduates, but is keeping pace with the expanding output.’


The figures published by the CEER do show that a significant proportion of those entering ITT in the UK do not have a 2:1 or first class degree.

However, as they explain, the fact that those teachers without UK degrees are discounted means that, potentially, there is more to the figures than it may first appear- particularly in subjects where overseas staff play a key role.

The year on year trends show that although the percentage of teachers achieving ‘good’ degrees has continued to increase, the number of first and upper-second class degrees being awarded in general has also increased.

While today’s articles which reported on the state of teaching in the UK stated the correct figures as published in the report, there was perhaps scope for a deeper analysis of the implications of other factors.

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