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.