One of the most powerful ways to improve the quality of education and raise educational outcomes is to invest in the expertise of teachers. The government’s recently published Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market review states that its intention is to make England the best place in the world to become a teacher and promises radical teacher training reform.
Here we share 5 key takeaways from the review, but first, a quick recap of why the government is keen to reform.
The ITT market review aims
The ITT market review was originally proposed in 2019 as part of the Department for Education’s recruitment and retention strategy. So, what does this review aim to achieve? Key objectives are as follows:
- all trainees receive high-quality training
- the ITT market maintains the capacity to deliver enough trainees and is accessible to candidates
- the ITT system benefits all schools
The review is part of a broader arc of wide-ranging and profound reform to teacher training, as well as teacher and school leader development. It sets out to address inadequacies in how the teacher training market operates, looking to weed out poor quality providers, and to ensure the consistent provision of high-quality initial teacher education, in line with the ITT core content framework (CCF) and early career framework (ECF). It also looks at ways of building on the capacity and expertise afforded by the new teaching school hubs.
Academies Minister Baroness Berridge said the review aims to ensure “every person who goes through ITT has that joined up experience through that academic part and in the classroom”.
She added they “want to build on the good quality [of the ITT Sector] and have specifically asked the review to look at the sufficiency of teacher supply which is an issue in some parts of the country”.
It also aims to solve some of the access complexities found in the teacher training market to encourage more people into the profession. Professor Anna Lise Gordon, the Director of the Institute of Education at St Mary’s University, says “The current application system can also be quite challenging to navigate and, with such a diversity of routes into teaching on offer, simplifying the application process could help with the recruitment of teachers.”
Overview of the ITT market review report and its recommendations
The review, led by Ian Bauckham CBE, CEO of Tenax Schools Trust, and supported by sector experts, outlines 14 recommendations for improvements in the teacher training sector (summaries of the recommendations can be found in Annex A of the report).
The expert group’s conclusions offer insight into the features and characteristics of leading ITT, including curriculum content, course structure and delivery, and mentoring (the base required for high-quality, evidence-based teacher training).
The recommendations are geared to strengthen quality standards in initial teacher training courses. They include a new accreditation process, intensive school placements, and improved mentoring for trainees.
A new set of quality requirements will regulate all ITT providers that offer courses leading to qualified teacher status (QTS). This includes:
- the design of the training curriculum (incorporating all aspects of the CCF)
- the identification of placement in schools
- the identification and training of mentors
- the design and use of a detailed assessment framework
- a quality assurance requirement for all accredited providers
- new structures and partnerships with the capacity to deliver high quality training
5 Key Takeaways from the ITT Review
1. Provider accreditation
The review found a lack of consistency across partnerships, and between providers in the content and quality of the training curriculum.
A robust accreditation process is recommended to ensure all teacher training providers have the capacity to meet quality requirements in full, both at the point of accreditation and on an ongoing basis - once accredited, providers will need to continue to meet accreditation conditions. Moving forward, all providers will be inspected by Ofsted using the revised initial teacher education (ITE) inspection framework.
Where providers don’t make the grade, the review recommends government intervention to “broker transfer of trainees to another provider”.
The DfE proposes that all ITT providers (including existing ones) will have to apply for accreditation (or reaccreditation) based on new quality requirements. The new process could be launched as early as this Autumn in preparation for the introduction of new quality requirements in 2023. ITT providers will need to start gathering evidence for accreditation from now in readiness for submitting applications in Spring 2022.
It leaves a short window of time for providers to establish new partnerships, especially if wider capacity is required for the delivery of training under the new accreditation criteria.
Professor Sam Twiselton, Director of Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, (also a member of the government's expert group advising on the review), said the "very short timescale" proposed for implementing the changes presents "risks to teacher supply and quality".
Teaching school hubs would be required to partner with an accredited provider.
2. New quality requirements
New quality standards (outlined in Annex B of the ITT Review Report) could mean some providers will have to form different partnerships to meet those requirements. A report in Schools Week highlights the review’s prediction of “significant market reconfiguration.”
The review acknowledges that additional funding may be required to “pump prime” the extra work needed to meet new quality standards.
Another condition of accreditation is that providers develop their own quality assurance processes, including monitoring and the quality assurance of mentors.
3. Evidence-based training curriculum
The further development of an evidence-based training curriculum will become a condition of accreditation. This, the report states, would enable trainees to “understand and apply the principles of the CCF in a controlled, cumulative and logical manner in line with quality requirements.”
It is the view that an evidence-based curriculum will be more effective in enabling new teachers to teach well from the very start of their careers.
In general, there is support for consistency in standards, but some providers are concerned about a homogenous national approach to curriculum, delivery and assessment of ITT. However, the DfE consultation document states providers “would still have freedom to design their curriculum and programme as long as these requirements are met”.
How this will impact PGCE courses at universities remains to be seen. In a statement responding to the government’s ITT review, Cambridge University (which currently prepares around 300 new teachers to enter the profession each year) voiced concerns: “The single model of training proposed would obstruct our delivery of a flexible, highly-personalised, innovative curriculum, responsive to trainees’ and schools’ needs.”
Several other leading university education departments have also warned the changes may make courses unviable.
4. Intensive placement experience
As a condition of accreditation, school-centred initial teacher training will be intensified. The review states, “providers will be required to design and deliver an intensive placement experience of at least 4 weeks (20 days) for single-year courses and 6 weeks (30 days) for undergraduate. To be delivered over the duration of the trainee’s course, the placement should allow opportunities for groups of trainees to practise selected, sequenced components of their training curriculum, and receive highly targeted feedback”.
Ian Bauckham assures it is a myth that school-centred training will be driven out of the market. He promises it will be quite the contrary: “No evolution of the teacher training market could reasonably overlook the explosion in high-quality school-based training over the last decade.”
5. Involvement in ITT to be included in the education inspection framework (EIF)
The supply of high-quality placements was found to be an issue. As a result, it has been recommended that the DfE and Ofsted explore how involvement in ITT might be included in the education inspection framework (EIF).
Participation in ITT brings many potential benefits for schools, especially through the training and professional development of the staff supporting trainees. The recommendation includes “a significant strengthening of the expectations on accredited providers to provide a minimum entitlement of high-quality mentor training to all school-based ITT mentors”.
In terms of school-based teacher training, there will be a move towards giving schools, and particularly trusts, more responsibility in the training of teachers. The DfE has recently restated a commitment to growing strong and sustainable trusts across the country. According to the ITT report, trusts will be central to the “system architecture” of the future, playing a key role in the training of teachers.
Many people involved in the training of new teachers have expressed concerns about the ITT review recommendations. Even before the review was carried out, a lot of providers were sceptical about what the review was trying to achieve, with some fearing that short-term contracts would become the norm.
Several of England's top universities warn that the radical reforms outlined in the government's teacher training review could put the quality and supply of provision at risk. Though Mr Bauckham argues that the reforms will help not hinder supply because better quality ITT will encourage more to apply.
Both the Chartered College of Teaching and the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) have opposed the findings. Nick Brook, NAHT deputy general secretary, said “As schools focus on education recovery post-pandemic, this is the worst possible time to embark on an unnecessary shake-up of teacher training.”
There are obvious concerns.
But Stuart Lock, CEO at Advantage Schools, believes the reaction to the ITT review is out of kilter with reality. Lock explains, “the quality of ITT is too low for too many teachers.” He says the recommendations in the report are “sensible responses to some of the perennial weaknesses in the system”.
The ITT report has been put out to consultation (now closed). We await the government’s response to these in the Autumn. For now, ITT leads need to get to grips with the recommendations and understand how potential reforms could impact future teacher training programmes.
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