The government response to a major review of initial teacher training (ITT) has drawn a mixed reaction from a group of universities in England, as senior leaders welcomed a change of tack but warned some “serious questions remain”.
When it was published this summer, the ITT market review, commissioned by the Department for Education, went down like a lead balloon among many universities. MillionPlus, the Russell Group and the Teacher Education Advisory Group (TEAG) criticised the plans.
The government then opened a consultation on the proposals.
The ITT market review report, published on 5 July, sought to lay out a method of offering high-quality training alongside increased efficiencies and market effectiveness.
The government has now released its conclusions, detailing which parts of the review are to be implemented.
Serious questions remain regarding the future shape of the proposed accreditation system
– Rachel Hewitt, MillionPlus
MillionPlus, a membership organisation representing post-1992 universities, said there were some “welcome amendments” but warned the accreditation system was still unclear. Rachel Hewitt, the body’s chief executive, said: “The government response is welcome in that it demonstrates that they have listened to the concerns of our members and the sector generally, and it acknowledges that some of the ITT Market Review Report was out of step with the reality of how the sector operates, as well as the extraordinary pressure that schools remain under.
“We welcome amendments made to the initial recommendations, such as the extended delivery timetable to 2024-25 as the initial proposals would have been rushed and unworkable. Funding allocated for schools and providers in the 2024-25 financial year – £25m towards general mentors and lead mentors and £5.7m to support the implementation of intensive training and practice – is another positive development.
“However, serious questions remain regarding the future shape of the proposed accreditation system. MillionPlus would never oppose genuine quality assurance and maintaining high standards, however the implementation of such a structure needs partnership with the sector, as well as its trust. We remain open to working with the government on the design of such a system, adding to an already rigorous quality assurance framework for universities.”
MillionPlus had warned that, if left unmodified, the plan risked “serious jeopardy to the current teacher supply model”, adding it found “much within the report that is potentially damaging and, at the very least requires further clarification”.
In response to the DfE’s conclusions on initial teacher training (ITT), a spokesperson for the Russell Group, which works with over 2,500 schools to train more than 5,500 teachers each year, said it had “welcomed engagement with government over the Market Review proposals and are pleased it has considered feedback from the sector and addressed some of the concerns we had. Government’s response shows a clear recognition of the importance of provider autonomy, research-led training and the strong partnerships our universities have with schools.”
The mission group nonetheless criticised the rigidness of some of the proposals:
“However, some of the requirements remain overly prescriptive, for example those relating to the time trainees spend in school placements, which could reduce the time students can spend in the university environment and limit universities’ ability to provide innovative and flexible curricula.
“It is positive that the government has indicated there will be a more streamlined re-accreditation process alongside a longer timeline for implementation, however we remain concerned about some of the details in the accreditation guidance and the timeframe of the process, especially given some of the new requirements may require substantial restructuring of courses.
“We hope that government will be able to reconsider these requirements and would encourage further engagement with the sector to ensure there is a smooth process that does not disrupt teacher training.”
University Alliance – a group of mid-sized, technical universities – urged the government to pause the accreditation timetable. Said University Alliance chief executive Vanessa Wilson: “The assertion made that the autonomy of the sector has been ‘protected’ is not evidenced in the current system and indeed the proposed reforms, given the level of prescription still levelled at all elements of the teacher training journey and indeed the level of scrutiny and inspection that pervades initial teacher education.”
Read more: University groups pour scorn on ITT review