National College no longer approves teacher training providers

The government has stripped more powers from the National College for Teaching and Leadership, telling schools to submit requests to become a teacher training provider directly to the Department for Education.

The move is a “significant” step towards the government’s absorption of the college, say experts.

Originally opened to provide a standalone teacher training agency, the government closed and sold the NCTL’s £28 million flagship teacher training centre in July 2015. Since then, its responsibilities have diminished further.

Schools wanting to become initial teacher training (ITT) providers previously sought permission from the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) which then approved or declined the request.

Updated guidance, published by the Department for Education (DfE) during the half term break, says new providers must now send requests straight to the government.

NCTL is still officially an agency but has been absorbed to the extent that it has almost disappeared

The switch is further evidence of it taking full control of the college, after it was stripped of its status as a separate body and made into an executive arm of the DfE. The department now runs all its research functions.

The NCTL board was also abolished, although Roger Pope was appointed as chair to head the group.

The changes disappointed union leaders who feared for the future of the teacher training agency as a separate organisation.

Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham said the loss of power showed that the college would be fully “absorbed” by the DfE.

He told Schools Week that it was “significant” that guidance on teacher training now came from the DfE.

“The NCTL is still officially an agency but has been absorbed to the extent that it has almost disappeared.”

He warned the move risks schools’ applications being “considered on the correctness of the document submitted, without any sense of the likely quality of the proposed provision that someone with a background in teaching or teacher training would be expected to have”.

Pam Tatlow (pictured), chief executive of MillionPlus, the association for modern universities, agreed the role of the NCTL was being “scaled back”, but said the switch was “unlikely to make any difference as far as providers are concerned”.

Sian Carr, former operational director at NCTL and the outgoing president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the change was part of an ongoing review of the national college, with outcomes due to be published in April.

“I suspect [the switch of ITT provider submissions] it is part of enabling the DfE policy team and the NCTL which delivers aspects of that policy to work more closely together. As such it could be seen as a positive move so that policy and delivery are aligned.”

The DfE said the change would not make any difference in practice.

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