Spielman: Data focus in ITT inspections may be covering up 'weaknesses'

Ofsted’s reliance on data during inspections of initial teacher education may be covering up “weaknesses” across training partnerships, Amanda Spielman has admitted.

The chief inspector acknowledged today that the watchdog’s current framework for initial teacher training inspection “places a lot of emphasis on data”, such as employment and completion rates, and that inspectors place “relatively little weight” on what trainees are taught or how well training in school and outside is combined.

The reliance on other outcome measures may, therefore, cover up some kinds of weakness across partnerships, or even mask strengths

This reliance on outcome measures “may, therefore, cover up some kinds of weakness across partnerships, or even mask strengths”, she warned.

Last month Ofsted announced plans to rewrite its ITT inspection framework next year, adding that it would include an increased focus on managing behaviour.

Now Spielman has published commentary which sheds more light on Ofsted’s plans, and reveals a new emphasis on the curriculum content of ITT courses.

The chief inspector also acknowledged a need for the new framework to respond to changes in the diversity of the ITT sector.

“Our inspection outcomes data shows that, although four-fifths of trainees are still training in university-led partnerships, only around a third of inspected partnerships were university-led routes,” she said.

“There has been a large increase in school-led routes opening since 2015. These tend to be relatively small institutions, taking, on average, 50 trainees a year. As we approach the end of the current cycle, it makes sense to look again at the ITE inspection framework to make sure we can apply it across a more diverse sector.”

The watchdog has also published the findings of a literature review by Sheffield Hallam University.

Spielman said one of the unexpected findings of the research was “an absence of explicit references to ‘ITE curriculum’ within the research literature”.

She said the lack of overall discussion of ITT curriculum “may mean that, in practice, these areas of learning are not always covered as deeply as they should be or that one aspect tends to take priority over the others”.

“The time available on a course to cover all aspects, particularly in a single-year training course, is one possible explanation for this.

“An example of this is that some trainees are not fully prepared in understanding and applying effective practice for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

“Curriculum balance, therefore, seems an important aspect of ITE curriculum that we need to investigate further.”