Minor tweaks to initial teacher training plans

DfE ITT proposals have been controversial in higher education. An extra year to prepare is the best of the government response.

David Kernohan is Associate Editor of Wonkhe

The most controversial element of the proposed reforms to initial teacher training in England – the Institute of Teaching – merits just four mentions in the government summary of and reflection on consultation responses.

The idea of a government backed “flagship” teacher development provider has not unreasonably been raising hackles at education departments in universities. Positioned as an accreditation partner for school-centred initial teacher training centres (SCITTs) wishing to offer PGCE qualifications as well as recommending candidates for qualified teacher status (QTS) – it is hard not to see the idea as a direct attack on an already tenuous higher education position in training teachers.

Now competing with more direct routes to the classroom, PGCEs remain the dominant route to qualified teacher status and sit in a curiously ambiguous position as a one year vocational qualification offered only to graduates. A major plank of the reforms aims to give access to a popular qualification via non-university routes, with the Institute for Teaching intended to seek degree awarding powers in order to accredit awards from providers outside of HE.

Such providers are more likely to be on board with some of the centralising measures in the proposals, giving the department more input into what should be covered in qualifying courses. New four-week intensive practice placements sit alongside existing classroom placements – the newer variant are focused on a particular pedagogic approach based on applying newly acquired expertise in particular teaching techniques directly. Nobody can really argue about trainee teachers spending more time in the classroom, but putting a squeeze on the amount of non-classroom time available in a course could cause other problems.

Also causing concern is a new accreditation regime for teacher training. The concern in education departments is not that the requirements will be harder for universities to meet, more the lack of articulation with other quality assurance requirements – most notably the Ofsted inspections that have caused issues for some higher education provider. There’s nothing in the government response that really addresses that issue. The lingering suspicion that perhaps the government would be happier if ITT wasn’t in universities remains – despite clear market signals that trainee teachers rather prefer university-backed provision.

Perhaps in recognition of all this there is an extra years’ grace period before the new reforms kick in fully in 2024-25. On current DfE standards, it is difficult not to suspect some more changes will come in that time.

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