The Initial Teacher Training landscape

A DfE review into the Initial Teacher Training market concluded that ITT providers must comply with a new set of quality requirements and go through an accreditation process. Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, examines the current situation

At the start of last year, the Department for Education (DfE) announced a review to make well-informed, evidence-based recommendations on how to make sure all trainees receive high-quality training; how the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market maintains the capacity to deliver enough trainees and is accessible to candidates; and how the ITT system benefits all schools.
The review, published in December, concluded that all existing and incoming ITT providers must comply with a new set of quality requirements and therefore go through an accreditation/reaccreditation process to ensure they have the ability and capacity to meet these for the start of the 2024-25 academic year. This caused a considerable and uncomfortable backlash. ITT providers were understandably concerned about the timeline for accreditation (the first round of applications closed two months after the review was published), the sheer amount of work involved in the application process, and the practicalities of implementing some of the quality requirements.
In May, the DfE notified providers who applied to round one of the ITT accreditation process of the outcome. Figures released show that 80 out of 216 providers spanning school and university-based ITT were accredited – and these headline outcomes led to further rumblings of discontent. However, in my view, this is not the time to be speculating about worse-case scenarios in terms of established and proven ITT providers exiting the system, the impact on the market, and what that might look like at a key moment in recruitment. DfE is well aware of the implications of losing quality providers. Providers who have not yet been accredited are able to re-apply in round two (deadline 27 June) and, importantly, were given feedback from the DfE which will support their resubmission.
There is still a very real opportunity for the vast majority of ITT providers to be accredited. We are only part-way through the process, and whilst some providers have been counted in, nobody has been counted out (also not all providers applied in the first round). That was echoed by the Schools Minister Robin Walker MP, who I met shortly after the round one announcement, and he said then he is clear that we are only at the start of the accreditation process. In that meeting, he wanted to understand how NASBTT members are feeling about the outcome and encourage any providers who have not been accredited to continue to engage in the process as we move to round two. This spirit of partnership from the DfE was continued in our follow-on member accreditation briefing as they took time to answer questions from ITT professionals (over 200 were present).

Questions raised

That said, in the same meeting, a number of common concerns were expressed by providers. For example, that whilst the DfE want to encourage collaborative working, the process itself is in some cases causing conflict in the sector. Questions were also raised about the experience of ITT of those evaluating the bids, the lack of consistency and clarity on feedback, and how some providers were approached for further information and others were not. Also on the application itself, and I quote one of our members here: “Are you confident that the process will ensure that the very best providers are accredited as opposed to the best bid writers?” At the same time, we also need to acknowledge that many providers have been accredited – and we offer our heartfelt congratulations to them.
Moving forward – and it is important to look ahead and not back – we remain confident from the data we have gathered that there is no pattern or preference emerging in the accreditation process for size and scale of provider – a fear expressed by many in the process. We are also confident that the government at large will want to avoid a potentially catastrophic risk to the teacher supply chain – and quality and availability of provision – which would come from losing significant numbers of providers and further undermining teacher supply at a time when ITT applications are back to, or below, pre-Covid levels.
Praise for the sector

There remains no doubt that the ITT sector is incredible and we are privileged to be in it. The quality is evidenced as more Ofsted inspection reports are published – with 73 per cent of providers (at the time of writing) now inspected under the new framework judged as good or better – and indeed current ITT providers are playing a major role in the delivery of strategic priorities outlined in the Schools’  White Paper, Opportunity for All. Therefore any doubts about the general quality of ITT must surely be unfounded.
For example, with the Engineers Teach Physics teacher training programme, we are delighted that three NASBTT members (National Mathematics and Physics School Centred Initial Teacher Training, Yorkshire Wolds Teacher Training and the University of Wolverhampton) have been chosen to deliver this. We are also pleased to see the new scholarship to attract language graduates and the sector should be aware of the National Modern Languages SCITT whose mission is to create the next generation of MFL teachers in the UK. They offer training to teach in French, Spanish, German and Mandarin across eight geographical hubs in the UK, and there is a natural alignment with the government’s objectives to attract language graduates into teaching and the approach taken by this SCITT, as well as related policy on a new network of modern foreign language hubs by 2023.
Broad curriculum

With both of these initiatives, it is important to consider that whilst the wider focus of the Schools White Paper is on literacy and numeracy as the building blocks to a world-class education. If we are looking for more trainees to fill subject shortage areas, they will need to continue to be able to access the breadth of foundation subjects on their school ITT placements. As we know, schools are currently being challenged to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, so we need to ensure that continues if we are to recruit teachers in the specific subject areas that the White Paper identifies.
We are also wholly supportive of the new bursaries for international trainees with the potential to be brilliant teachers in priority subjects. There is, of course a big opportunity with iQTS that we are championing. By broadening the diversity of teachers, overseas schools will have a staff cohort that is more representative of the nation in which they are based and this could be a real incentive. Potentially those same staff can then use that qualification to move to another international school around the world, or indeed to the UK.
Finally, and in terms of the overall picture, school-based ITT providers are clearly heavily invested in the delivery of up to 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities which will be available until 2024. NASBTT is supporting SCITTs, Teaching School Hubs and, in turn, MATs around the development of their ITT provision. Many of these are based in Education Investment Areas (including the 24 priority areas). We also have links with a large number of the school groups and specialist partners involved in the new National Institute of Teaching, which will offer ITT and Early Career Framework training from September 2023 as well as the full suite of National Professional Qualifications.
Whilst the future is currently unclear for many ITT providers, we will soon have clearer idea of the landscape going forward. Evolution is welcome, revolution is very risky indeed.

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