In 2010 the then Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove issued a White Paper setting out changes to Initial Teacher Training (ITT). It explained these were designed to change ITT from being "university-led" to "school-led". It was announced that Schools Direct would offer a new recruitment route into teacher training with the implication that schools would have more say over the training and that it would attract high end career changers approach failed to recognise that universities did already work in partnership with schools in many different ways.
These partnerships had many benefits. They allowed students to work within a university environment to further develop their skills, it supported partner schools with future recruitment and it gave universities a key mechanism through which they could engage with their local communities.
What happened in practice due to the change in focus was simply that ITT places were removed from universities and handed directly to schools which led to reduced take up in the majority of cases.
In 2012 ministers set out to address teacher shortages but rather than review the 'supply chains' and role universities could play in rebuilding teacher numbers the response was to remove the requirement for teachers in academy schools to be qualified.
The latest proposals now seek to remove qualified teacher status at the end of the training year and allow individual head teachers to decide on whether the teacher is qualified. But despite reducing the professional requirement for teaching, the government's reforms have still failed to address teacher shortages.
According to Ofsted, between 2014 and 2105 over 10% of the qualified teachers left the profession and, according to the Guardian, the numbers of applicants continues to fall. At the same time over 120,000 additional pupils need teaching and the difficulty in finding teachers is further exacerbated in shortage areas such as Science and Technology or languages.
The upshot of all this is that we have too few teachers, government initiatives to recruit overseas, growing numbers of unqualified teachers, and growing numbers of pupils struggling to find school places.
But despite these challenges, the Schools Direct programme, which varies widely between providers, has never been evaluated - something highlighted and criticised by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.
Since 2011, the role of expert teacher educators has been increasingly devalued. Most ITT is now brief and would-be teachers no longer have an entitlement to a minimum length of training. However, universities play a vital role working with schools to deliver academic and professional qualifications and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and the value of this role should be recognised and protected.
At London South Bank University we have continued to support what I see as a vital area of education and have even moved to open our own family of schools as well as trying to strengthen links with local schools and provide access to the CPD support that is becoming increasingly required in this new environment.
But we are now being presented with further changes. This autumn, a handful of providers of Initial Teacher Training will apparently be designated Centres of Excellence with all the financial and reputational benefits that such designation is likely to bring. However, there has still been no formal consultation nor has there been published any clear purpose, criteria or process for designation. Far from promoting high quality teacher education these changes have the potential to further undermine the work universities are still seeking to deliver with their school partners across England and could further concentrate work in fewer geographical locations.
I believe it would be timely for some review of changes to ITT and their current and likely future impact - possibly via the Education Select Committee - to help identify those changes being introduced that can help build standing of the profession and support for our children's access to high quality education whilst also challenging changes that appear to undermine these objectives.
I would also suggest in the current environment, with changing qualification requirements and increased diversity of teacher training environments that there is consideration given to more central support for high quality, locally available CPD to ensure our teachers are well trained and supported. We should all demand that our teachers have the opportunity to avail themselves of professional training which ensures their teaching is current and of the highest standards. Sadly, there are currently no proposals to help create a coherent framework for CPD support.
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