There have been calls for ideological views about university-led teacher education to play no part in a review of initial teacher training (ITT).
The review of the “quality and effectiveness” of ITT has been announced by the Department for Education (DfE).
Officials have said that the investigation will include the full range of ITT provision including university providers, SCITT (school-centred ITT), and the new School Direct partnerships.
However, teachers have said that the review must be driven by evidence of what works, and not ideology about the influence and views of university academics on education.
Education secretary Michael Gove has made no secret of his preference for on-the-job, school-based training routes and since 2010 has sought to move teacher training away from universities via the new School Direct scheme.
This conflict reached a climax last year when a letter signed by 100 academics was published in The Independent criticising a number of his education reforms. Responding in the Daily Mail, Mr Gove labelled the academics “enemies of promise” and part of “the blob” – a term that has now become common parlance for Mr Gove’s critics.
Mr Gove wrote: “School reformers in the past often complained about what was called The Blob – the network of educational gurus in and around our universities who praised each others’ research, sat on committees that drafted politically correct curricula, drew gifted young teachers away from their vocation and instead directed them towards ideologically driven theory.”
It was in this context that Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, this week welcomed the ITT review but urged for a full range of views to be heard.
She said: “We hope that the review will listen to a range of voices involved in initial teacher training and education, and will be led by evidence of what is effective, rather than by ideology.”
The number of places for graduates to train as teachers on university-led PGCEs is to fall from 20,005 to 16,342 for 2014/15, while places to train via School Direct will go up from 9,586 to 15,254.
However, both teachers and school leaders want the review to tackle concerns about possible teacher shortages after last year School Direct only filled 68 per cent of its allocation and universities had to step in to prevent a shortage.
Speaking to the BBC last year, Sir David Bell, former chief inspector of schools and former permanent secretary at the DfE, who is now vice-chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “The cracks have been papered over thanks to universities stepping in at the last minute to take on unfilled places. We’ve got to ask some serious questions about schools’ capacity to take on even more trainees next year, when they fell short this year.”
At the time, the DfE said there were never formal targets and that allocations were over and above what was required.
Dr Bousted added: “The recent rapid expansion of School Direct has raised concerns about a looming teacher shortage crisis in some subjects and places, the lack of sustainability of university-based teacher training and the insufficient level of support for an unacceptably high number of trainees.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “There have been extensive changes to initial teacher training in recent years with introduction of School Direct, and we know there have been issues with shortages in some key subjects. Therefore it is the right time to look at quality and effectiveness, and see what is working well and what can be improved.”
The ITT review is to be carried out by Andrew Carter, the headteacher of South Farnham School, leader of a SCITT provider and ITT lead on the Teaching Schools Council. Mr Carter is to issue his report later this year.
Mr Gove wants the review to “define effective ITT practice” as well as “assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT”. He has also asked for recommendations as to where and how improvements could be made and for ways to “improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods”.
Mr Gove said: “There has never been a better time to be a teacher. There are more teachers in England’s classrooms than ever before, with a rise of 9,000 in the last year, and there is no doubt that the current generation of young teachers is the best ever. While we have already taken steps to improve teacher training, including through the popular School Direct route, it is right that we look at how we can ensure all courses are providing the best possible training.” CAPTION: Training focus: The ITT review will consider all training routes, both school-based and university-led