Rather than build on the strong foundations of the ITT market we have, this expert group’s review risks destabilising it, writes Emma Hollis
Taken together, the recommendations of the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market review final report, published today, represent an immediate and catastrophic risk to the teacher supply chain and the quality and availability of provision.
We have a number of grave concerns about some of the recommendations around structures and partnerships, the speed of implementation and, in particular, the recommendation for all providers to undergo reaccreditation. In fact, we simply cannot support the recommendation that a reaccreditation process is necessary to achieve the suggested adaptations to ITT curriculum design and provision.
The report presents no evidence to suggest that existing providers of ITT would be unable to deliver the quality requirements set out in the recommendations. We strongly believe they would be able to meet these requirements,without the need for a wide-scale, expensive and disruptive reaccreditation process which poses a huge risk to teacher supply. Introducing an unnecessary administrative burden with no clear rationale for the benefits it will bring is simply indefensible.
What’s more, the risks associated with the recommendation for reaccreditation are exacerbated by the timescale the report recommends. The development of truly high-quality partnerships and well-sequenced curricula takes significant time and resource. Forcing providers to submit applications for reaccreditation within just a five-month window risks the loss of some exceptional ones because they simply do not have sufficient time, resource and capacity to undertake the process effectively. This will inevitably lead to gaps in provision at a regional level, could lead to some shortage subjects without providers to offer them, and will have a catastrophic impact on teacher supply as a whole.
Worse, the costs of an extensive reaccreditation process have not been set out in the consultation document. We believe that a fully costed plan, setting out the DfE’s capacity to undertake an unprecedented volume of reaccreditation applications in a short timescale, must be published and consulted on in full before public money is assigned.
The quality requirements are rightly ambitious. But they also present some barriers
Additionally, by its nature, a reaccreditation process is a paper-based exercise. We do not believe that this is an efficient or robust way to measure the quality of ITT provision, nor that a reaccreditation process is a more reliable method of determining quality than other, more robust, quality assurance mechanisms that are already in place, such as the Ofsted inspection cycle.
We do, of course, welcome the ITT market review group’s aspiration to create a ‘world-class teacher development system’ and its broad principles around a new set of quality requirements. Quality has always been at the forefront of school-based ITT, and providers have consistently demonstrated it in every measurable way. It is absolutely right to seek to continually develop provision, so we fully support the broad aim to further build on the existing quality of provision.
The quality requirements themselves are, quite rightly, ambitious. But they also present some practical, logistical barriers which will need to be worked through carefully and tested rigorously to ensure their introduction doesn’t give rise to unintended negative consequences. We believe these barriers could be overcome with sufficient time, resource and support to test and learn key elements of the recommendations.
In short, we don’t understand why the reforms to the content and structure of ITT programmes could not be achieved through changes to existing ITT criteria, inspected by Ofsted in the usual way, without going through the turmoil and risks that a wholesale restructuring of the ITT market would entail.
As the final report itself says, ‘it is important that existing strong SCITTs and School Direct lead schools become part of the reshaped market’, alongside universities and the valuable contribution of teaching schools. But other ITT reforms are still nascent or in their infancy and adding more into the mix with such tight timeframes risks becoming dangerously destabilising.
ITT providers have been extremely effective in supplying schools with around 30,000 new, well-trained teachers every year. Now really is not the time to be reducing their numbers – by design or through unintended consequences.