Teacher supply: ITT reforms present 'catastrophic risk' say critics

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A new accreditation process for providers of initial teacher training (ITT) presents a “potentially catastrophic risk” of destabilising teacher supply, it was said this week.

The Department for Education has launched a quick-fire consultation (ending August 22) over plans to dramatically overhaul the system of ITT, which could force providers to apply for re-accreditation within a five-month window.

Critics say the plan “risks the loss of exceptional providers from the system” and see re-accreditation as unnecessary given Ofsted’s existing close scrutiny of ITT provider quality.

The proposals have been set out in an ITT “market review report” commissioned by the DfE and published this week alongside the consultation.

Its central recommendation is for a new set of “Quality Requirements” to be implemented by all ITT providers of courses that lead to qualified teacher status.

It adds that: “A robust accreditation process should take place to ensure that all providers have the capacity to meet the exacting Quality Requirements in full, both at the point of accreditation and on a continuing basis.”

Around 30,000 trainees are awarded QTS each year and there are currently 240 accredited ITT providers, including 70 higher education institutions and 170 SCITTs (school-centred ITT). There are also 918 School Direct lead schools.

The proposals come after the implementation of the new Core Content Framework (CCF) in September (DfE, 2019) and the Early Career Framework (ECF) for early career teachers, which is being rolled out fully this September.

Draft Quality Requirements included within the DfE market report touch upon issues including curriculum design, mentoring and guidance, assessment, quality assurance, structures and partnerships.

This includes “the design of the training curriculum, fully incorporating all aspects of the CCF, closely and explicitly based on evidence and the latest pertinent research, carefully sequenced, with detailed content specific to subject and phase, and clarity about how, where and by whom the curriculum will be delivered.”

The consultation includes an “indicative timeline for accreditation” which would see the process open in November with a deadline for submissions in March 2022, notification of the outcomes in July 2022 and first delivery in September 2023.

This tight timeline is just one of a number of concerns held by Emma Hollis, the executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT).

Responding this week, she said: “We simply cannot support the recommendation that a re-accreditation process is necessary to achieve the recommended adaptations to curriculum design and provision. The report presents no evidence to suggest that existing providers of ITT would be unable to deliver the new curriculum requirements in full.

“A wide-scale, expensive and disruptive re-accreditation process poses a huge risk to teacher supply. Introducing an unnecessary administrative burden to the sector, which, in turn, presents such clear risks to our teacher supply chain, with no clear rationale for the benefits it will bring, is simply indefensible.”

Ms Hollis continued: “The risks are exacerbated by the timescale recommended in the report. The development of truly high-quality partnerships and well-sequenced curricula takes significant time and resource. Forcing providers to submit applications for re-accreditation within just a five-month window risks the loss of exceptional providers from the system because they do not have sufficient time, resource and capacity to undertake the process effectively.”

Ms Hollis is also confused as to how the DfE will be able to “robustly assess” the applications between March and July 2022 and why it thinks “that a paper-based process will be a better determiner of provider quality than their current quality assurance processes, namely the Ofsted Inspection Framework”.

Ms Hollis acknowledged the ambition of the proposed Quality Requirements and said that these could be delivered with sufficient time, resource, and support. But she added: “Right now, however, there is a potentially catastrophic risk to destablising the market.”

Further recommendations in the report include ITT providers implementing new more intensive school placements. It states: “Providers should design and deliver an intensive placement experience of at least four weeks for single-year courses and six weeks for undergraduate over the duration of their course, as a condition of accreditation, that allows opportunities for groups of trainees to practise selected, sequenced components of their training curriculum, and receive highly targeted feedback, as set out in the Quality Requirements.”

Other recommendations include a new lead mentor role and specialist training for mentors and quality-assurance arrangements across ITT partnerships.

The National Association of Head Teachers is also perplexed by some of the proposals, pointing to the recent report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Teaching Profession which found that ITT providers receive the highest marks from Ofsted of all the sectors it inspects.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT, said: “At a time when more people than ever are looking to join the profession, these proposals take a sledgehammer to the existing model of teacher training and will only serve to significantly reduce the supply of teachers for years to come.

“It is extremely worrying that warnings have gone unheeded, that many well-respected universities could withdraw from teacher training as a consequence of these proposals. This consultation proposes radical, controversial and complex changes to the way in which teachers are trained and the part that schools play in that training. There has been no substantive engagement with the schools sector. Given the far-reaching implications for ITT providers and schools to consider, a six week consultation is insufficient and a deadline of August 22 is wholly inappropriate.”

Sam Twiselton, a member of the ITT Market Review Expert Advisory Group and director of Sheffield Institute of Educationn at Sheffield Hallam University, said that fundamental to the proposals would be alignment between centre and school-based experience, priority for mentors, lead mentors and time and training to support them, and carefully crafted and sequenced evidence-based curricula.

He added: “It will be important to work through how both the system and the ITE and school sectors need to work together to maintain a supply of high-quality new teachers. Central to this will be thoroughly testing the recommendations set out in the review. As such, I welcome the consultation and I would encourage people with an interest in high quality ITE to respond in detail to the questions. I have agreed to support DfE with working through these implementation considerations and know they intend to work closely with schools and ITE providers going forward.”

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