This paper documents the evolution of attempts to codify and standardise teachers’ work in England with particular attention to how this phenomenon has impacted the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) sector. In recent decades the teaching profession in the UK has undergone various iterations of competency criteria, culminating with the current policy, the Teachers’ Standards (TS) (DfE, 2011). Discussion focuses largely on the most rapid period in the evolution of competency-based approaches from 1997 to the present, analysing aspects of the political landscape which have precipitated this rise. Two key themes evident in, and precipitated by, the Teachers’ Standards policy initiative are discussed: i) the political necessity for a reductionist view of teaching and learning and ii), the centrality of the teacher. It concludes by imagining how, taking these themes into account, the policy could evolve to become more useful to both teachers and pupils.