ITT: Which is the odd one out?

The deeply flawed ITT reforms are a threat to sustainable teacher supply for purely ideological purposes, writes David Spendlove

The deeply flawed ITT reforms are a threat to sustainable teacher supply for purely ideological purposes, writes David Spendlove

5 Aug 2023, 5:00

Question: Which is the odd one out? Ambition Institute, Durham University, the National Institute of Teaching or Teach First?

If you are familiar with the ‘Odd One Out’ round on Have I Got News For You, you will know the premise is based on stating the obvious answer but not for the evidently apparent reason. And so is the case here, as Durham University is the odd one out but for the less obvious reason that, from 2024, they will not be able to ‘train’ teachers under their own governance while Ambition, Teach First and NIoT can. This was the outcome of a deeply flawed DfE ITT accreditation process.

In reality, Durham university could have been replaced in the question by the universities of Sussex, Cumbria, Greenwich, Hull or any of the dozen higher education providers who were not accredited as part of the contradictory accreditation process. This was alongside 27 school-centred initial teacher training programmes that also were not accredited to continue provision by the DfE.

Regardless of the fact that Durham – like other universities and in contrast to Ambition, Teach First and NIoT – have degree awarding powers, an extensive history of teacher education, are part of a leading school of education, have long-established local partnerships and have been regularly inspected by Ofsted for their own ITT provision, from 2024 they will no longer be accredited to train teachers.

But what does this really mean?

First, it is hard to understand any rationale for even considering marginalising over 30 providers who collectively provided in the region of 4500 training places in the middle of a long-standing recruitment crisis. Yet this is exactly what the DfE have done while gambling that their new favoured ‘providers’, who lack local ITT knowledge and who do not have long-standing partnerships, can address the immediate shortfall in provision.  Ultimately, DfE are willing to gamble on ideology rather than sustaining sufficiency in provision.

DfE are willing to gamble on ideology

Second, a less obvious answer to the ‘Odd One Out’ question is that Durham is the only autonomous provider among those listed above. The other three forms of provision have all been developed and funded by the DfE and subsequently are susceptible to being controlled in various ways via funding and contractual arrangements. The message here, evidenced by the emphasis on adherence to the heavily criticised core content framework within the accreditation process, is simply that the DfE values compliance and control over quality.

Furthermore, the process of change adopted by the DfE should be a cause for considerable concern for those who believe in integrity and transparency, as the evidence base for systematically disrupting ITT provision simply did not exist. Therefore, the manoeuvring and machinations by the DfE under the guise of its ‘market review‘ was an entirely political charade that presents a sustained threat to those remaining in ITT provision and an even greater threat to the future of the teaching profession.

Fortunately, having formed a partnership with Newcastle University, Durham University will still be able to train teachers. This further confirms that the market review was never about quality. But other institutions have not survived, and the cumulative impact of rapid policy developments and implementation requiring extensive operational changes is having a damaging and distracting impact across the sector. For over a decade, universities have faced relentless challenges with little to suggest such changes were based on informed evidence or that they have resulted in enhanced provision.

ITT has unfortunately long operated under the radar. It lacks clear representation and a collective voice. Yet somehow each year it has managed to train around 35,000 new teachers who by all accounts have high levels of satisfaction and effectiveness.

The disruptive nature of the reforms and the increased prescription influencing how trainee teachers are recruited, where they train, what they are taught and how their ongoing professional development is going to be constrained should be a huge concern to the entire teaching profession.

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  1. David Poole

    As a previous head of an outstanding SCITT which has not been accredited I contributed to the consultation and expressed my concerns that the new system would not work.
    It is supremely galling that the teaching hub that took over responsibility for ITT had no experience or interest in ITT before being awarded its hub status!
    There has been no outcry about this appalling policy despite my trying as chair of the London school based ITT

  2. Alex Standish

    Increased centralised control of ITE is indeed a pressing concern. For the first time, our curriculum is being dictated by the state. But we also need to talk about educational vision and content. Providers that are more interested in promoting the latest politically correct messages rather than encouraging intellectual depth and subject specificity are part of the problem.

  3. I might be mistaken, but I believe that Teach First has the worst retention of – what were previously described as – routes into teaching. It has its ‘reasons’, but surely it’s model isn’t beneficial to the profession in the long term.

    (According to a recent Schools Week article the retention rate for Teach First teachers one year after completed their NQT was 69 per cent. This was 87 and 88 per cent for teachers trained through HE and school and employment-based routes, respectively.)