Never mind the quality, feel the width

The announcement today by Ofsted that it proposes to change the inspection framework for ITE partnerships from May, effectively immediately after the 13 week consultation period ends, suggests there is still no answer to the basic question; who is in overall charge of teacher supply policy?

In a year where there are already insufficient trainee teachers in some subjects, making it harder to enter and then to pass the preparation period risks making that situation worse. If that happens, who will teach the children in those schools that cannot recruit a teacher; and will these schools be in the leafy suburbs or the inner cities?

It is now time someone took overall control of how we train and then offer employment to teachers. Are schools and higher education departments of education agents of central government or independent operators in market-based environment working within a regulatory framework?

For design and technology students, a subject area of key importance where the government had difficulty securing enough training places for 2014, presumably because recruitment had been so poor in 2013, the notion of changing the ‘standard of professional dress’ needed in the kitchen or workshop might be open to debate. Will such teachers now need one set of clothes for when they are with their tutor group, and another when they are actually teaching? Will this promote a return to the use of academic gowns as cover-ups for shabby suits, patched elbows, and no doubt the ties that male teachers will be required to wear at all times.

More seriously, providers have no control over where their former trainees find a teaching job. Many years ago I questioned the problem of trainees that learnt their craft skills in a cathedral city, but ended up working in an inner city. The cultural and other shocks for the successes of our education system learning to work as teachers with the whole range of learners have been brought home very clearly in the two recent TV series. Preparing teachers for the ‘real world’ in its many manifestations is a key part of training, but at present using their skills and qualities to best effect as they emerge during training isn’t part of the deal.

Are Ofsted really pointing to a disconnect in the profession between training and employment that has affected the primary sector ever since training was taken away from the employers and moved to higher education, where training for selective schools and the independent sector already mostly took place to the extent that there was any training at all.

Ofsted, do at least seem to be on the side of the need for a training requirement; otherwise what’s the point of the framework? However it isn’t clear whether they support the notion of any school-based trainees teaching from day or accept the need for some initial input such as the 30 days offered by Teach First. What may be more important is how trainees in schools with few behaviour-management issues are prepared for more challenging situations where they might eventually want or be required to work? Is training entirely in one school a good idea, or does a period in more than one school enhance and deepen the experience of learning how to become a teacher?

It seems to me that changing the framework for inspection without clear ministerial guidance on the training process, and its link to employment, is like putting the mobile phone before the mast to update the cart before the horse analogy.

You cannot penalise a provider that has no control over where a trainee takes a job unless you make it an absolute requirement as to what needs to be covered during the training period, and make that the same for all providers.

Ofsted, the NCTL through the DfE, and the employers of teachers, all need to sort out a framework for producing both enough teachers, and teachers of high quality so that we can move the school system forward. At present, what is emerging is a muddle that might have serious consequences for teacher supply at a time when the school population is rising rapidly.


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