teacher recruitment

The government will reboot its review of the initial teacher training market, which aims to tackle the “overly complex” nature of the sector, Schools Week has learned.

Originally launched last year as part of the teacher recruitment and retention strategy, the review was to be tasked with reducing duplication, weeding out poor-quality providers and creating a “more efficient and effective system”.

It fell by the wayside following the change of government last year. However it is now set to be fully established and is expected to run over the next nine months.

Schools Week understands the government is concerned that “too much of ITT is low quality and not rigorously tied to the evidence”.

“The government has shown through the early career framework and the national professional qualifications how seriously they take evidence-based training. ITT is next,” a source said.

The DfE’s new ITT core content framework, released last November, set out a minimum entitlement for trainee teachers and placed a duty on providers and their partner schools to meet this entitlement.

It is understood the government could use this duty to clamp down on providers that don’t meet the requirements.

Schools Week also understands the review will make use of some of the £22 million allocated in the spending review to raise teacher quality.

It was announced on Wednesday that some of the cash would be also used to help schools give experienced teachers time away from the classroom to mentor new starters.

The teacher recruitment and retention strategy, a flagship policy of former education secretary Damian Hinds, warned of “replication” in the “overly complex” initial teacher training market, which has more than 1,000 organisations. This complexity could lead to “inefficiencies and incentives”, it said.

However, Hinds insisted in an interview with Schools Week last year that he did not plan to get rid of small-scale school-centered initial teacher training programmes, or SCITTs.

It is not yet known what the review’s terms of reference will be, or who will lead it.

However, Professor Sam Twiselton, who led the DfE’s review of ITT content last year, confirmed she had been approached to be involved.

“The department are considering how to get expert input into the review and have approached me to ask if I will be involved,” she told Schools Week, adding the review was still at the “early planning stage”.

The teacher recruitment and retention strategy warned that as a result of the complexity of the market, recruitment processes cost
some small providers a “significant proportion of their funding, resulting in fewer good applicants being invited to interview and – consequently – fewer trainees recruited”.

“Similarly, whilst we are determined that trainees learn their craft in strong schools best-equipped to ensure they succeed, we want to ensure the right incentives exist to support strong trainees to work where they are needed most following high-quality training.”

It said a review of the ITT market would identify “improvements that reduce costs for providers”, and explore ways the government can encourage “high quality providers – including in high-performing MATs – to extend their reach, deliver at scale and do more to support the wider system”.

The reboot of the review means another policy from the teacher recruitment and retention strategy is finally being enacted.

As well as the new ITT content framework published last year, the government has started rolling out its early career framework, which will see all teachers complete a two-year induction at the start of their career with support from a mentor.

And Teach First has been given the power to recommend trainees for qualified teacher status, another pledge made in the strategy.

Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers, said her members had been expecting the review, but took “immediate issue” with the government’s concern about quality.

“By every objective measure, the ITT sector is performing exceptionally well. Ofsted inspections have 99 per cent of providers rated good or better. If the DfE does not trust Ofsted’s judgment in ITE, we would argue that this fundamentally undermines the validity of their own inspectorate across all remits.”

She also questioned the timing of the review, and said it had the “potential to undermine recruitment to the profession at an extremely sensitive moment in time”.

“The ITT core content framework has only just been rolled out, as have the expectations under the new ITE inspection framework. Providers need time to embed and consolidate this before any further changes are thrust upon them. We await next steps in discussion with the DfE.”

James Noble-Rogers, chief executive of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said his organisation had been “kept largely in the dark”, which raised questions “about the extent to which the more collegiate way of working that has developed between DfE and the sector in recent months might be coming to an end”.

“What the government appears to be considering could be the most destabilising thing that has happened to the sector for years. Anything that threatens the stability and autonomy of a sector that is already under significant pressure and could lead to many, possibly most, ITE providers (along with their partner schools) voluntarily withdrawing. That would be a disaster that we can ill-afford.”