ITT review won't squeeze out small SCITTs, insists Hinds

The education secretary has denied that he plans to get rid of small-scale teacher training programmes run by schools after the government pledged to “simplify” the market.

Damian Hinds insisted he was “trying to grow channels [into teaching], not remove them”, but said it was “right that we think about the way these things work”.

In its recruitment and retention strategy, the Department for Education 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”.

The announcement of the initial teacher training review, alongside plans to increase the role of larger organisations, such as Teach First, has prompted speculation that the often-confusing network of small school-centred initial teacher training programmes, or “SCITTs”, could be slimmed down.

But speaking to Schools Week during a visit to a primary school in Kent, Hinds said he still felt that having “a variety of platforms and routes is important”.

“Right now I need all channels, and I’m trying to grow channels, not remove [them]. But it is also right that we think about the way these things work.

“We need to make sure the system works for would-be applicants, so that you don’t just get overwhelmed with the variety of choices and abbreviations. It needs to be clear what the options are and the differences between them.

“Different routes do work in different ways for different people, and of course we should never forget that a substantial part of our intake into the profession is not from people who’ve finished the third year of an undergraduate degree at university, it’s from people later on in their lives.”

As well as ongoing work to support career changers – who make up about half of entrants to postgraduate ITT – the government will also explore whether Teach First should have the power to “recommend” qualified teacher status. At present it can only do so through a university partner.

This will “encourage them to work with small school-based providers”, officials predict.

Schools Week understands Teach First sees the strategy’s warm words as a vote of confidence in its work. It comes at a time of change for the organisation, which has launched a substantial shake-up of its operations, as it faces having to re-bid for its contract.

The announcement comes just four years after the last review of ITT was published, but Sir Andrew Carter, who led that review, said it was right to look at the issue regularly.

“Everybody looks all the time at how we’re training teachers,” he said.