National Institute of Teaching wants to be ‘tide that lifts all boats’

CEO Melanie Renowden tells Schools Week why the sector should embrace rather than fear the new flagship teacher training initiative

CEO Melanie Renowden tells Schools Week why the sector should embrace rather than fear the new flagship teacher training initiative

31 May 2022, 17:00

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The new National Institute of Teaching should be judged on its success as a “rising tide that lifts all boats”, improving teacher training nationally, according to its founding chief executive.

Ministers confirmed last week the School-Led Development Trust – run by Star Academies, the Harris Federation, Outwood Grange Academies Trust and Oasis – would launch the flagship project in September.

Melanie Renowden, a Star executive director who led the bid and is now its first CEO, told Schools Week both the NIoT and other trainers have “work to do to get the message out” that teachers and leaders should prioritise their own development.

“It’s the most important factor in terms of outcomes for children.”

The NIoT hopes to do so by offering much more “joined-up” provision across all different levels, from initial teacher training to the National Leaders of Education programme.

“There’ll be an end-to-end offer and coherence between those things. It really matters for individuals thinking about career progression and support, but also for leaders that development is joined-up so it maximises the efficacy of time spent on it – as that’s the most precious commodity we have.

“Every moment on development you want to be of the best quality.”

‘We’re focused on collaboration – I hope people respond in kind’

While the institute’s success should be partly judged on the difference its training makes directly to children, Renowden said it should “also be judged on the success in terms of being a sort of rising tide that lifts all boats, in terms of the quality of the system as a whole”.

Some have voiced concerns about the institute’s competitive impact on other providers, and questioned the need for new provision.

But Renowden said there were “lots of organisations out there of all different stripes that are making an absolutely vital contribution to this whole agenda, and there’s places for all of them”.

“We’re focused on being that rising tide, and establishing constructive collaboration with organisations across the system. I hope people are going to respond in kind see it as an opportunity and say: ‘Great – the institute is here now, so how can we work with it in such a way that it helps really deliver for schools and teachers and leaders?”

Asked how schools can start to tap into the NIoT’s work, she said a communication drive with teachers and schools would be its next “big focus” – answering questions like: “What is the institute, what’s it going to do for me, and how can I engage?”

How new NIoT will work

With 12 “associate colleges” and 13 “specialist partners” signed up to work with the NIoT, Renowden said the partnership will “build on and build out” the four trusts’ current training work – widening coverage of regions, phases and specialisms.

Training will be delivered through four regional campuses, each supported by one of the trusts. The new institute will also receive the power to award degrees, becoming the first UK university focused solely on teacher and school leader development, via classroom practice and study.

Renowden said the first cohort of around 1,000 staff would take National Professional Qualifications in the next academic year.

NLE training will also start this year, but early career framework provision will start a year later than planned in September 2023 following the government’s legal dispute with the Ambition Institute, a rival bidder.

The government’s aim is for the institute to train 1,000 trainees a year at full capacity, but it will start with 500 in the 2023-24 academic year.

Renowden said the NIoT hoped to boost both the “quality and quantity” of training, but she did not have figures to hand on how planned numbers compared to the trusts’ existing provision.

Aim to influence wider training reforms

Asked whether the SLDT was frustrated by the dispute-related delay, Renowden said they were focused on “getting on” with the launch, but also on moving “further and faster” on a second key strand of its work – sharing best practice.

Ministers have promised the trust will “generate and share cutting-edge research and insight into best practice, to improve the quality of teacher training nationwide”.

The institute will seek to influence current wider training reforms, by examining and “reporting back” on best current practice.

It will seek to answer questions like “how do we refine what we’re doing on the early career framework, or how do we adjust what we’re doing on initial teacher training so we’re reading for September 2024”.

Longer-term, the NIOT will aim to be a “magpie” in seeking to draw on best practice not only from “what’s gone before us” in the UK, but also from international evidence.

But its founders are keen to stress above all it is “school-led” – with training informed by classroom practice in trust and partner schools, and by current rather than former practitioners.

“We’re trying to shrink that gap between research, evidence and practice in schools.”

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