Today (17 July) NAHT has called for the immediate halt of the government’s consultation on plans to reform initial teacher training, in a joint letter with education unions to the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said: “This is not the right time to be messing about with the teacher training system. Schools are reliant on the strong and varied network of training providers across the country, to ensure sufficient supply of teachers in the subjects and communities where they are needed most. More people than ever are looking to join the profession, yet these proposals take a sledgehammer to the existing model of teacher training and will only serve to significantly reduce the supply of teachers for years to come.
“These radical, controversial and complex proposals require the full engagement of all stakeholders, which cannot be achieved during the last few days of term. Schools are rightly focused on education recovery post-pandemic and are currently dealing with significant disruption as a result of a rapid increase in Covid cases amongst pupils. This is the worst possible time to embark on an unnecessary shake-up of teacher training. We call on government to pause its consultation, to take a breath and fully re-engage with the school and teacher training sectors during the autumn.”
NAHT co-signed the letter with ASCL, The Chartered College of Teaching, NASUWT, NEU, and Voice Community.
The initial teacher training market review consultation was opened recently by the Department for Education and is due to close on 22 August.
The letter says: “We know you share with us the conviction that the quality of teaching is the single most important element in raising attainment and closing the disadvantage gap.
“It is therefore extraordinary that a consultation which itself recognises it will lead to ‘far-reaching changes’ to the provision of teacher training in England is launched at the tail-end of a summer term disrupted by the ongoing ravages of the pandemic with a deadline for responses which falls during the summer holidays when schools and colleges will be dealing with the outcome of results days.
“This feels very much like an attempt to railroad through a huge change to the model of teacher training provision with minimal opportunity for scrutiny and meaningful feedback.”
The full text of the letter:
15 July 2021
The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP
Minister of State for School Standards
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street
We are writing to call for an immediate halt to your consultation on the review of the teacher training market because of the clear danger that it will cause fundamental and irreparable damage to the supply of high-quality teachers to our schools. We know you share with us the conviction that the quality of teaching is the single most important element in raising attainment and closing the disadvantage gap. It is therefore extraordinary that a consultation which itself recognises it will lead to ‘far-reaching changes’ to the provision of teacher training in England is launched at the tail-end of a summer term disrupted by the ongoing ravages of the pandemic with a deadline for responses which falls during the summer holidays when schools and colleges will be dealing with the outcome of results days. This feels very much like an attempt to railroad through a huge change to the model of teacher training provision with minimal opportunity for scrutiny and meaningful feedback.
We note that a member of the review’s advisory group, Professor Sam Twiselton, is quoted in the press saying that the very short timescale proposed for implementing the changes presents risks to teacher supply and quality. Furthermore, the National Association of School-Based Initial Teacher Trainers has warned that the proposals represent an immediate and catastrophic risk to the teacher supply chain, and that several leading university education departments have also warned the changes may make their courses unviable, including both Oxford and Cambridge. Professor Twiselton observes that with an extra year many of the issues could be properly worked through and sensible solutions found. In the light of the above, this seems to us to be a very sensible suggestion, and we think that schools and pupils would be best served by you taking this consultation off the table at this time so that there is an opportunity for proper discussion.
The proposals in the review are indeed far-reaching and involve all existing providers of teacher training having to go through a reaccreditation process on the basis of a new set of quality requirements for their provision. There has been no opportunity to examine and understand these requirements and there is clearly a serious danger that existing providers will withdraw from teacher training and that other providers may put themselves forward without fully appreciating the scale of the challenge. There is a significant risk of creating gaps in provision and you are well aware that the teacher supply chain simply cannot be disrupted in this way without it consequently impacting very seriously on schools and pupils. There is no rationale provided in the report for why such far-reaching changes need to be delivered in such a rush particularly as the report recognises that there is a “strong local presence of ITT providers across England.”
We are not suggesting that there is no merit in the proposals put forward in the review, and we recognise that there is a need for robust quality assurance of teacher training providers. However, any changes to the current system need to be made in a more considered and less rushed way in order to ensure that there is sector-wide support for any new system. We urge you to pause this process, and engage with teacher-training providers and education leaders to ensure that any reforms provide the best possible way forward for our schools and the children they serve. While we generally write to you privately, on this occasion this matter is of such pressing importance and there is so much already in the public domain, that we are making this an open letter.
Geoff Barton – General Secretary ASCL; Nick Brook – Deputy General Secretary NAHT; Patrick Roach – General Secretary NASUWT; Mary Bousted & Kevin Courtney – General Secretaries NEU; Alison Peacock – CEO Chartered College; Deborah Lawson – Assistant General Secretary Voice Community
First published 17 July 2021