The University of Cambridge has said it “lacks confidence” in the government’s new teacher training framework and wants its rollout delayed by at least a year.
The Russell Group institution, which runs a teacher training programme, said the initial teacher training and early career framework (ITTECF) unveiled by the Department for Education this week “falls short” of what is needed.
The new framework will combine and replace the currently separate initial teacher training core content framework (CCF) and the early career framework (ECF) from September 2025.
But the university’s faculty of education warned “we lack confidence in this document”.
It called for the new framework to implemented “no earlier than September 2026, if at all” to allow for further consultation and revision.
Clare Brooks, professor of education at the university, told Schools Week the revised framework was “just a tweak on what the current framework is and it’s not going to make it any better, it’s just a wasted opportunity”.
The faculty claimed the framework “sets unclear and contradictory objectives” for ITT providers and “it is unclear how Ofsted will be able to inspect” ITT programmes with “fair and reasonable expectations” under the new framework.
In a further broadside, it claimed “significant flaws in the existing frameworks have not been addressed” and that the evidence base for the ITTECF was “incomplete and thin”.
Calls for ‘more thorough’ framework
Longer-term, the university wants a “more comprehensive and thorough framework” to be developed, led by a non-party-political, cross-sector expert team.
This echoed calls from James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), who said the framework “should be developed by relevant professionals from across the education sector rather than being imposed by government”.
It’s not the first time the University of Cambridge has clashed with government over ITT reforms.
The university refused to apply to the February 2022 round of re-accreditation to continue providing teacher training, claiming there were “important inconsistencies” in the government’s reforms.
However, it later applied and is among those approved to deliver ITT from September.
Brooks claimed combining the frameworks would “lead to more repetition rather than less”, after the DfE argued it would “reduce unnecessary repetition”.
“There is no clear distinction about what a new teacher needs and how does that compare to someone who is in their first year: what do they need. And so, by putting it all under one umbrella you are going to get more repetition,” Brooks said.
“Ofsted will look at both ITE and the early career framework. When providers are preparing for an Ofsted inspection, they’re going to show they cover everything which is going to lead to repetition.”
The new framework has divided opinion in the schools community, and also in the teacher training sector.
Dr Thomas Ralph, head of initial teacher education at the University of Exeter, praised the DfE for “integrating CCF and the ECF more effectively”.
Lisa Murtagh, head of Manchester Institute of Education at University of Manchester, and its former head of ITE, said the CCF and ECF were “seriously flawed and revisions were undoubtedly needed”.
But she told Schools Week: “The DfE has missed a huge opportunity here to really listen to the sector, and instead of fundamentally revising them or indeed scrapping them altogether, have simply made ‘tweaks’ to their content…
“I have sincere doubts that the minor tweaks and the co-joining of the documents originally aimed at different audiences, will solve the recruitment and retention crisis they were ostensibly introduced to resolve.”
Claire Ball-Smith, head of ITT at University of York, told Schools Week: “On paper, the merger of the CCF and ECF is a very good idea, it does show that the DfE has heard what the sector is saying about the repetitive disconnect many ECts and their mentors have felt.
“However, there is a lack of clarity as to how the new ITTECF framework will operate for ITT and ECT providers – where will ITT end, and ECT support commence?
“And for schools, how will a busy ECT Induction Tutor be able to attend to the now inevitable different starting points of new colleagues joining their school as they create a suitable ECT programme?”
The DfE declined to comment but directed Schools Week to its press release issued on Tuesday.
This said the framework would ensure “all new teachers receive three or more years of training underpinned by the best available evidence” and “get a more joined up development journey beyond initial training into the early years of their career”.