The latest changes by Ofsted to the inspection of initial teacher training announced today look interesting on the surface, but may be fraught with some interesting issues.
The two stage inspection process; Stage 1 in the summer term, and Stage 2 in the autumn following the completion of training assumes inspectors will visit many more schools to see NQTs teaching in their first term than has been the case in the recent past. Indeed, they may almost take on the role of the former LA adviser dropping in to see how an NQT is progressing.
The new process raises interesting challenges for providers. For instance, the reference will take on a new role. A trainee that has only been in mono-cultural school settings teaching a specific subject might warrant a more caution reference when applying for a post in a multicultural setting dealing with many students whose first language isn’t English. Similarly, it might lead to specific subject certification, such as ‘this NQT is has only taught history during their training, and cannot be deemed to be suitable to teach humanities without further preparation’. If the school appoints the NQT, and the HMI doesn’t like the RE lesson observed because of the material used, does that reflect badly on the ITT provider? The same issue might arise where a primary trainee was appointed to teach a mixed-age class having never experienced that situation in training: does the ITT provider bear the responsibility for the observed outcome? And what of undergraduate trainees that might not normally teach in the final summer term of their course? Will special placements now need to be arranged to satisfy Ofsted?
The summer term may also be too late to observe trainees effectively, especially those in UTCs, Studio Schools, or sixth form colleges where the majority of students might be on examination leave. At the very least, these students might have different timetables to those in 11-16 schools and their primary colleagues. I would personally favour a window between February and May for the observation phase, as ITT providers should by then be indentifying those students that are making good progress, and those that need additional help to reach the required standard. That is one of the benefits of HE and SCITT provision over some forms of School Direct in that the training provider can tailor the placements more directly to the needs of the trainee.
At the end of the day, we need to train enough teachers for all schools, and if the Ofsted process does not match outcomes to training, there is a risk that won’t happen. Of course, since academies can employ anyone, it is difficult to see how Ofsted can judge training provision against teachers seen where the ITT provider has specifically stated that the trainee is not suitable for the post. That raises interesting questions for providers going forward, and for partnership agreements with School Direct. ITT providers will want to know how they will be judged on the part of a training regime they offer where they have no relationship with the trainee, and where they eventually work. Unless that scenario is discussed, the risk to HE and SCITTs will be greater than to the same training provision offered through School Direct: but perhaps that the logic behind the change.