Universities have written to ministers about their concern that the government’s teacher training application portal “inadvertently” favours big national providers such as the National Institute of Teaching (NIoT).
Prospective teachers can search for courses online by entering their postcode, which brings up a list of courses in their area sorted by distance.
However, rather than just list their courses, national providers such as NIoT list each of the partner schools they work with on placements.
It means those searching for a course can face hundreds of results, seemingly going against the government’s promise that its controversial market review of ITT would “simplify” and “streamline” the process.
But it also means university providers, which are less likely to list all their placement schools, are “less visible”.
“The listing of so many schools could, albeit inadvertently, disadvantage some providers because the schools that they work with are less visible amongst all of the detail,” said James Noble-Rogers, the executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET).
“The listing of so many schools might also give prospective students the impression that they can choose a placement school, which is something that providers will not always be able to guarantee.”
UCET has raised the issue with the Department for Education.
‘It’s a perfectly valid business reason’
Peter Flew, dean of the school of education at the University of Roehampton, pointed out that a candidate looking for a primary course in Roehampton would be faced with 380 choices. In York a search brings up 160 choices.
Reaccreditation led to a 25 per cent cut in the number of teacher training providers, but also to 16 newly-accredited providers, including NIoT and the Ambition Institute.
“The only national presence previously was Teach First,” Flew said. “Those with a national or regional presence don’t quite know how to sell themselves to candidates searching for a place [locally].”
“I understand why they’re doing it. It’s a perfectly valid business reason – to make it obvious that they work at a local level – but because of the way the system’s set up makes it very confusing for candidates.”
Noble-Rogers suggested the government should consider making providers only advertise the area they work in, rather than list all their placement schools.
The Cathedral Group of universities, which covers 14 higher education institutions that will operate in the ITT market next year – including Roehampton – said there was “widespread concern” about the issue.
Group plans to ‘take it up with ministers’
“It risks creating greater complexity for those interested in applying for teacher education courses,” said a spokesman.
The group plans to take “this issue up with ministers”.
In its consultation on the ITT market review, the DfE identified a potential for “streamlining” recruitment, suggesting reforms would create an “ITT landscape that is more easily navigable for potential trainees”.
It is understood that part of this improvement was hoped to have been achieved through cutting provider numbers.
In its response to the ITT market review report, the government added that it had “heard during our engagement that, as a result of the reforms to market structure, providers and their partners should be able to establish streamlined recruitment and selection processes”.
NIoT declined to comment. DfE did not respond to requests for comment.
Correction: We had written NIoT did not respond to a request for comment. This was inaccurate, they did respond but declined to comment.