Letter to MPs Dear Future of teacher education and high quality

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Letter to MPs
Dear
Future of teacher education and high quality teacher supply
I am writing to draw your attention to the University’s concerns about the impact of Department of
Education policy in respect of teacher education and the potential knock-on effect on teacher
supply. You will be aware of the University’s involvement in teacher education particularly in respect
of XXX. The University has partnerships with XXX and delivers YYY. Our input as a University is not
restricted to initial teacher training but extends to working with schools and colleges to deliver
improvements, continuous professional development for teachers, research and international
activities.
The DfE has made clear that it wishes to shift the emphasis of teacher education to school-led
provision via a programme referred to as School Direct. In principle the University is supportive of
the DfE’s objectives and in fact has always worked in partnership with schools. However, the
methods and strategy adopted by DfE and the Teaching Agency (now incorporated into the
Department) to promote school-led provision and the School Direct programme are a cause of
increasing concern in universities. The overall number of places allocated to HE-providers has been
top-sliced and there is no guarantee that core initial teacher education numbers will be allocated to
universities in the future. This makes strategic planning in respect of both staff and infrastructure
extremely difficult and the process of admissions to teacher education courses is increasingly
complex.
However, it also raises wider issues about the sustainability of high quality teacher supply if the
viability of university-led teacher education provision is undermined. School Direct relies on school
projections of future teacher employment needs but a school involved in training a science teacher
in one year may need different specialisms the following year or may decide that it does not wish to
be involved in leading teacher education at all. It is also difficult to see how primary school teacher
supply could be maintained on the School Direct model bearing in mind national projections about
the need to expand primary school places and provision.
In countries which are well-regarded for high quality teacher supply, universities are at the heart of
teacher education systems and the University has concerns that the evidence base about the role of
universities in teacher education is being subject to partial interpretation of the evidence base both
by Ofsted and the Department.
For example, on 22 March the Ofsted Chief Inspector, Michael Wilshaw, issued a press statement in
which he concluded 'that the Government is right to put greater emphasis on new teachers being
trained in schools where they can best develop the practical skills they will need as teachers – rather
than in higher education institutions, which have traditionally trained the majority of trainees’. This
statement was based on the outcome of 21 inspections of teacher education providers conducted by
Ofsted since September 2012. However only about a third of these inspections were of HE providers.
Of the latter some offer only FE provision i.e. there is no like-for-like comparison with school-led
initial teacher education provision. It is also likely that the majority, if not all, of the school providers
offered qualifications validated by a university.
On the previous day (21 March) the Secretary of State announced that a further £10m was being
awarded to promote School Direct. During his speech the DfE tweeted that ‘we need to move away
from HEIs determining what should be happening in teacher training’. Again this does not accurately
reflect the partnership relationship between universities and schools involved in teacher education.
The School Direct programme was supposed to be subject to review and an evaluation. To date no
organisation has been appointed to undertake an independent review and no evaluation has been
published. Separately you will be aware that Ministers have removed the requirement that teachers
should have a professional qualification. This again sets England apart from other countries. Perhaps
what is less well-known is that trainees who only gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) rather than a
PGCE do not have a portable qualification and will not be employed as teachers in Scotland or in
Wales (or in other countries).
Our concern is that the role that universities play in the delivery of teacher education is being
inappropriately devalued and misrepresented. Moreover without any commitment by DfE or TA to
allocate ITT numbers to universities in the short and long term, the viability of university-led teacher
provision and the partnerships which currently deliver the majority of teacher education in England
will be undermined. The Government would then be left with school-led provision that is highly
unlikely to deliver sustainable, high quality teacher supply across all subject disciplines and for
primary and secondary provision, in urban and rural areas, on the national and regional scale
required.
I should be grateful if you would consider and advise how you might raise these concerns with
Ministers and in Parliament.
Yours sincerely
Vice-Chancellor
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