School Direct teacher training “needs to be longer” if trainees are to get the experience across different schools that Justine Greening has said she wants to see.
The education secretary told delegates at the SCHOOLS NorthEast summit in Newcastle last week that she wanted trainees to “work in a number of different settings” so they could learn more about school improvement.
But the current mandatory two school placements are already a squeeze within the 10-month School Direct model, experts have said. Any more would be too short to have any impact.
Salaried trainees on School Direct can struggle to get just four weeks on their second placement, said Martin Thompson, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT).
“Those on salaried routes in particular do find it more difficult to be released for significant periods of time because they effectively have a job, and the criteria doesn’t say anywhere how long they have to go for.
“If Justine Greening wants everyone to have broader experience, it can’t really be done on the salaried School Direct route with the time they’ve got now.”
Mandatory two school placements are already a squeeze within the 10-month School Direct model
The government has increasingly pushed the School Direct route – in which teachers are trained on-the-job – in preference to university-based PGCEs.
However, plans to award qualified teacher status (QTS) after a period of employment in the classroom, rather at the end of the first training year, could create the longer time-frame needed for more placements, Thompson said.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of MillionPlus, an advocate group for routes based on universities, said PGCEs had two “substantive placements” and often included visits to a third school, while undergraduate courses offered three substantive placements.
She welcomed Greening’s suggestion of broader trainee experience, but said: “School Direct trainees do not have access to the same placement experiences as provided by the PGCE and undergraduate routes.”
Longer programmes would also increase costs for trainees, she said.
About 50 per cent of primary and 60 per cent of secondary trainees took the PGCE route, while Teach First trained 10 per cent and School Direct about 20 per cent at secondary, according to an analysis of 2013 to 2014 data.
The Department for Education told Schools Week that multi-academy trusts (MATs) were well-placed to move trainees around.
A spokesperson said: “As we see more multi-academy trusts, the opportunity for teachers and trainees to work across the trust schools in a range of environments will increase.”
But one expert said this could shrink trainee experiences.
James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said: “If MATs have a particular ethos and a particular way of teaching, and are made up of broadly comparable schools, that won’t necessarily facilitate a breadth of experience.
‘We would welcome any moves to either increase the length of ITT courses to allow for a broader range of school-experience, or to guarantee that newly qualified teachers receive structured early professional development that allows for a variety of school experiences during their first years of employment’.
The Department for Education spokesperson added: “School based ITT, like School Direct, provides trainee teachers with valuable classroom experience allowing school leaders to shape the next generation of great teachers. The popularity of school-led ITT continues to grow among both schools and trainees, with more than half of postgraduate training being via school-led routes last year.
“We want teachers to experience a variety of different settings so they adapt their teaching skills to ensure that all children regardless of background get a great education.”