ITT review: Histrionics can’t block an historic opportunity

12 Jul 2021, 18:00

The reaction to the ITT review is completely out of kilter with its proposals, writes Stuart Lock, and improving teacher training is far too important to cave in to it

It should be the entitlement of every new teacher to a structured introduction to the core body of knowledge, skills and behaviours that define great teaching. There are many ITT courses around the country – both university- and school-led – that deliver this entitlement.

Survey almost any staffroom in the country and you will hear testimony of brilliant teacher training; training that inducted new teachers into vibrant subject communities and balanced, rich academic theory with opportunities to practice and hone teaching craft.

But the quality of ITT is too low for too many teachers.

Judging from the reaction to the DfE’s ITT Market Review consultation over the past week, that is a heretical opinion. ITT providers are up in arms about new proposals to improve the quality of training.

The list of challenges identified by the DfE’s expert group are sadly familiar to many teachers: Mentoring is patchy, generic and too often unsupported by high-quality training for mentors who have been selected because of expedience; training curricula are too often unambitious and not well sequenced; and trainees have too few opportunities for structured practice.

The recommended remedies are similarly uncontroversial.

  • ITT providers should have an evidence-based training curriculum, which is cumulative and well sequenced.
  • Mentors should receive high-quality training, including phase- and subject-specific training.
  • Those mentors should be supported by ‘lead mentors’ who have benefitted from one of the new Specialist NPQs.
  • Trainees should benefit from 38 weeks of training, including a new four-week ‘intensive placement’, which provides focused opportunities to practise key classroom skills.

These are sensible and practical responses to some of the perennial weaknesses of the system. So why the furious reaction?

In order to deliver on the promise of this review, the expert group recommends that providers must prove their capacity to deliver high-quality ITT through a full re-accreditation process. Cue teeth gnashing.

Of course, there is understandable anxiety about a process that will cause disruption and see some existing providers lose accreditation or choose to merge to form bigger and stronger partnerships. And I join those worried that the recommendations don’t appear to start with what is distinct about each subject.

But the levels of outrage seem out of kilter with what is being proposed, and some quarters seem simply intent on preventing mostly sensible reforms.

And it is noteworthy that among those who are most insistent that the quality of ITT is unimpeachably high are those who are most worried about reaccreditation.

The DfE is consulting on the recommendations and seeking views on how to implement any reform. But instead of provoking an informed discussion about a thoughtful review, many have reacted hysterically.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Teaching Profession burst with fury, publishing an excoriating report before the government’s review had even been published. A number of education faculties seem to have read and digested the review in record time before threatening to withdraw from teacher training delivery. And there has even been suggestion of a mass-boycott of the reaccreditation process.

Quite the reaction to an expert review and government consultation!

This review presents an opportunity to build on the success of the Early Career Framework and the promise of the new NPQs. With serious engagement and thoughtful feedback to help shape implementation, hopefully with some nudges to further specificity of subject and phase, this consultation could be an opportunity to make this country the best place in the world to train as a teacher.

I hope we can quickly put this week’s reaction to the ITT review behind us. There’s an important discussion to be had about the future of initial teacher training, and we must grasp this opportunity.

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  1. Chris

    -You seem to assume bigger partnerships means better quality.
    -You say people have reacted hysterically – that’s patronising. When the majority of people think something is a bad idea, it’s usually a bad idea.
    -You haven’t mentioned that the consultation has only just opened, just before the summer holidays, and closes during August. It’s almost as if they don’t want many people to respond…
    -Do you think the timing of this market review could have been a smidge better? What with schools having had the toughest year ever, new gcse consultations, etc etc.
    – Can you explain how this 4 intensive placement will actually work? Why 4 weeks, which experts have decided 4 weeks is the magic number? Was it the ‘experts’ who wrote this market review, do you think those chosen accurately represent the current ITT landscape, seeing as 75% of teachers train in HEIs. Was 75% of those involved in the review from HEIs?…