The government recently announced its response to the consultation about the reforms to initial teacher education. In summary, the proposal is that from September 2024, all students going through teacher training will:
- Learn from an updated curriculum free to go beyond but expected to encompass the national Core Content Framework; the curriculum will include phase- and subject-specific content, and be carefully sequenced
- Start a journey that begins with this framework and leads into the Early Career Framework, and beyond that to the new National Professional Qualifications, themselves built on an evolution of the same ideas
- Work with an ITT provider that has been carefully accredited through a new process that will be ‘light touch’ for existing providers
- Experience 4 weeks of intensive, on-the-job training in schools, designed to have more (and more structured) coaching and mentoring than current placements
- Benefit from mentors with greater training funding and entitlement, including always having access to a specially trained ‘lead mentor’ who may work across schools.
This is a pretty exciting prospect. We now have two vital policy threads: the ‘golden thread’ of shared language and evidence that every teacher can learn and build out from, and the ‘silver thread’ (if you’ll allow me to coin a new phrase) of CPD leadership and entitlement that goes through everything from CPD and headteacher standards to NPQ frameworks and much more.
These two threads combine to give future teachers important and enhanced guarantees. Not only will they get to learn more and in a more structured way than before; they will also be entitled to the collegial and expert support, leadership and culture of professional learning that together make it more likely they’ll thrive and stay.
But while all of this is welcome, implementation is not without its challenges. Teacher recruitment continues to be difficult in some subjects, groups and areas particularly. And of course there’s the toll of Covid, which is completely exhausting schools as they continue to work much more widely than ever before to support their pupils’ welfare, picking up ever more of the weight of the impact of the pandemic on families and communities.
School leaders are thoroughly exhausted from this level of operational leadership. Teachers and wider school staff are going far above and beyond to cover for sick colleagues and deal with temporary closures and pupils absences. Any change is tough even in the best of times, but this change is substantial and times are tough so implementing this new policy needs to recognise this reality and respond with due care.
On top of that, huge efforts have gone into creating some of the very best current examples of ITT in England now. These reforms won’t immediately strike those involved as a golden opportunity. But what may at first look like a threat could be reframed as an opportunity for our best ITT thinkers to come together and create the next generation offer. To do that, policy makers must show they value their expertise and wisdom, and focus on a common end goal: a more even-handed entitlement for all teachers that can benefit our profession for years to come.
A successful rollout will therefore depend on four key factors:
- Sufficient support for the many experienced ITT providers who rightly want to bring their record of success with them into the new policy landscape
- Ongoing and careful consultation with the sector, with a willingness to adapt timetables and support offers if further pressures build from challenges like Covid
- A focus on leadership and culture, because content and mentoring alone are not enough to shape our schools into places where teachers can develop and thrive
- Support and time to ensure schools are have the resources and enthusiasm to engage with ITT and offer the required intensive placements consistently
As hard as developing such a thorough and intertwined set of reforms may have been, the hardest part will be to deliver it on the ground. And the prize is potentially so big that we must take care not to lose it to ‘unforeseen consequences’ later.