Councils will continue to check on schools’ teacher induction provision for an extra year after ministers decided to “phase” plans to put teaching school hubs in sole charge.
But proposals to toughen up guidance to ensure schools face more rigorous checks will go ahead as planned.
Ministers had proposed a shake-up of “appropriate bodies” under the early career framework from 2023, amid concerns new teachers and their mentors are not given enough time for induction.
But the department today pushed this back by a year, after consultees warned the proposals would not give enough “transition” time.
Appropriate bodies are meant to check that early career teachers (ECTs) and mentors receive their statutory entitlements during their two-year inductions. The responsibility is currently shared between teaching school hubs and councils.
But Schools Week revealed in April that nearly half of mentors said they were not given additional time to work with ECTs. One in five leaders confirmed they were not giving extra time for the role, despite getting funding to do so.
These concerns prompted a change of tack, and the consultation in May proposed a shift away from council involvement from next year.
Phased move to hub-led approach
However, 40 per cent of consultees warned the 2023 implementation date would not give councils enough time to wind down their operations, or give teaching school hubs time to scale up theirs.
As a result, the DfE has said it will introduce a “phased transitional period” for this reform to allow councils to continue acting as appropriate bodies for their existing ECTs until September 2024.
However, “in the interest of consistency”, local authority appropriate bodies will not be able to register any new ECTs from September 2023.
In the document, the DfE said the reform was “not a reflection on the quality of all local authority services”.
But it added that there was “no direct accountability mechanisms to ensure quality across local authority AB services”, whereas the DfE has formal agreements with teaching school hubs.
In its consultation response, the government also said it would press ahead with a proposal to publish clearer guidance on the “rigorous checks” appropriate bodies are supposed to make on schools’ provision.
DfE to clarify ‘expectations’ of checks on schools
Although most respondents reported that appropriate bodies currently carried out their responsibilities “effectively”, there was variation in the feedback for different duties.
For example, 83 per cent said the bodies effectively monitored and verified assessment against the teachers’ standards, and 80 per cent said they ensured ECTs received statutory entitlements.
But a lower proportion of respondents (68 per cent) said the appropriate bodies ensured mentors and induction tutors had enough time and ability for their role, and 64 per cent said the bodies were good at contacting institutions not fulfilling their responsibilities.
Respondents reported barriers around the capacity of appropriate bodies, a lack of understanding of schools’ contexts and not having access to data or proper regulatory powers.
The DfE concluded that there were “aspects of the AB role that are being conducted inconsistently and there is some uncertainty about the expectations for ABs”.
“The clearest example of this is the AB role of checking that ECTs are receiving their statutory entitlements.”
The government said it would issue guidance “that clarifies expectations on certain aspects of the AB role”.
No ‘rigid framework’ or extra powers
However, they will stop short of setting a “rigid framework that dictates how ABs must undertake every aspect of their role”.
Guidance will cover how and when appropriate bodies should check entitlements are being provided, and how to look for issues of concern during quality assurance checks and visits to schools.
It will also cover the “approaches to fidelity checking where schools are not offering ECF-based training through the provider-led programmes”.
The DfE said it did not plan to create new regulatory powers for the bodies, but will “ensure that all ABs are made aware of the existing routes for escalation”.
The consultation also sought views on whether the formal assessment process for ECTs added value to the induction experience, but found “broad agreement” with the current system and has announced no plans to make “significant changes”.
However, the consultation did conclude that “some aspects of formal assessment are being conducted inconsistently across the country”, and the DfE has pledged to “review and test” existing guidance, “with a view to clarifying expectations”.
Amended statutory guidance is expected next spring.