Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

The quote at the head of this piece came into my mind when I read the announcement by Michael Gove that he was establishing an independent review of teacher training courses led by a Surrey Primary head teacher with 26 years experience in one school. The DfE gave the aims of the review as:

  • define effective ITT practice
  • assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT
  • recommend where and how improvements could be made
  • recommend ways to improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods

Now these seem suspiciously similar to the task of Osfted inspectors when they look at teacher training provision. So, will the review team just read Ofsted reports, collate the findings, and publish a Report? In view of the time frame; a Report by the end of the year, from a group yet to be established, means that it will be interesting to see what more they can achieve.

Were I to commission a review it would have had terms of reference something like: consider the nature and content of the teacher preparation scheme needed to deliver an effective and improving school system that measures its performance among the best in the world for the range of children it serves while competing for entrants in a thriving labour market for those who after training will teach a diverse range of subjects and ages of pupils in many different types of schools.

The Gove review will need to consider what the purpose of choice is within training? We don’t need choice about standards. We may offer choice of course that is different for new graduates and older career switchers but we may also like both groups to train together. The Review might also ask why we don’t offer methods to allow teachers post-entry to retrain for different subjects or phases.

However,, perhaps the central question that any Review will need to address, if it is not to be a superficial endorsement of current policy directions, is how do we ensure sufficient teachers in the right places to drive the school system forward when an improving economy makes teaching seem less competitive to some new graduates as a career choice than other possible options? And once trained, how do we ensure they are recruited where they are needed?

As a primary head teacher, I hope that Mr Carter takes a long hard look at both the PGCE for primary teachers and School Direct in the primary sector, as well as Teach First’s primary offering, even if it is not actually included in his formal remit. Are there enough high quality applicants to sustain the pressure of a 39 week course that puts them in the classroom almost from day one? If not, how can we achieve such performance from the 20,000 trainees we need each year to create an improving school system?

On the secondary front, there are almost as many issues to consider, but I doubt course content and methods are really an issue except, perhaps, to see where subject knowledge fits into the picture.

Finally, the Review might like to comment on whether QTS should remain unspecified after the preparation phase or be more linked to specific subjects and phases of teaching.




6 thoughts on “Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  1. The timing of the review is interesting given the lead in to the 2015 GE and Labour’s Blunkett review report of yesterday. Ofsted were considering reviewing School Direct next school year so perhaps this won’t happen now?

  2. A Report by December 2015 looks like arriving in the dying days of the parliament. Whoever wins the election there is likely to be a new Education Secretary and the Report can have little effect before the 2016 allocations and new teachers in 2017. Would have helped if it had been announced earlier, and some rationale given as to why Ofsted cannot do it.

  3. I may be cynical (a charge often made), but I cannot help thinking that thios review is more about vindicating School Direct than it is about a genuine attempt to look impartially at the best way to train teachers and ensure we have the right provision in the right areas. I fear a rush job that seeks to reassure the DfE that school Direct is working so that it can (possibly) be used in the run up to the election ‘we promised X and we have delivered X’.

    I am concerned that in the rush to excise ITT from universities schools are being forced to deal with situations for which they are unprepared and understaffed. Providers, on the other hand, are not able to carry on employing people with skills and experience as the numbers given to them make it unsustainable. There is going to be an inevitable loss of ITT training skills.

  4. Reblogged this on James's space and commented:
    Reblogged on my blog space.
    There are important questions to0 anser about this review, in particular the why ones, why now, why this chair why just those questions?

  5. When commissioning a review, the extent to which it is given a broad or narrow remit and a long or short timescale does, I think, depend on the extent to which the commissioner knows what outcomes they want. Choosing the head of one of the flagship School-Centred Initial Teacher Training providers is another indication of this. On the back of Michael Wilshaw’s speech about the effectiveness of ITT, and the clear policy direction of the DfE to reduce the role of HEIs, I’m pretty sure the intention is for a review that backs up the current agenda. However, the SSF SCITT that Andrew Carter heads works in partnership with Roehampton University so hopefully he is actually someone who is clear about the strengths that HEIs bring to the current ITT smorgasbord. The Roehampton Ofsted report from last year makes me think that might not be a bad HEI to have in the middle of this. And hopefully Andrew Carter is also independent-minded, and recognises the need to talk to a lot of different people and include the problems on the ground with the exceptionally rapid expansion of school-based ITT, whatever his conclusions about ITT over the longer term. He might be reporting at a time of uncertainty for the future direction of the DfE. I hope that he is a good and honest man!

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