On Thursday 18 November the House of Lords will debate the following motion:

Baroness Donaghy (Labour) to move that this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s policy on Initial Teacher Training, including (1) the recruitment of new teachers, and (2) the role of universities and other bodies, in ensuring the supply and education of new teachers.

What is initial teacher training?

To become a qualified teacher in England people typically complete an initial teacher training (ITT) programme. It provides them with training, mentoring, and teaching practice in schools. Successful trainees are awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) on completion of the course.

Initial teacher training routes and providers

There are several ITT pathways available, including an undergraduate route and a postgraduate route. They are either ‘school centred’ or ‘higher education-centred’. Programmes can be fee-funded or salaried.

There are two types of undergraduate courses available for people to train and be recommended for QTS on completion:

  • University degree with QTS: students complete a Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
  • University degree with opt-in QTS: students on selected undergraduate degrees can incorporate teacher training partway through the degree course.

For both options, a fee is payable. Bursaries are available to eligible trainees. The courses generally last 3–4 years.

There are several postgraduate routes, where QTS is awarded on successful completion. These include:

  • Postgraduate teacher training: courses are delivered by a higher-education institution (HEI). They lead to QTS and a postgraduate qualification, usually a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). The courses last for one year. Trainees spend a minimum of 24 weeks in placement schools. Courses are fee-funded and bursaries are available to eligible trainees.
  • School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT): courses are designed and delivered by groups of schools that have been accredited by the Department for Education (DfE) to run their own ITT. They are similar to the School Direct (fee-funded) route. Students are usually based in the ‘lead school’ while completing teaching practices at other schools within the group. Courses generally last for one academic year full-time. They result in QTS. Training in some SCITT consortia can also lead to the award of a PGCE from a HEI. Courses are fee-funded and bursaries are available to eligible trainees.
  • School Direct (fee-funded): courses are designed by schools in partnership with an ITT provider, which is able to certify successful trainees. Bursaries and scholarships are available.
  • School Direct (salaried): trainees are employed as an unqualified teacher and are paid a salary while they train. They are not eligible for bursaries.
  • Teaching apprenticeships: schools partnerships work with an ITT provider that is on the register of apprenticeship training providers. The apprentice is employed by the school partnership. Training places are held by the lead school. The trainee is employed for the duration of the course, which includes an additional apprenticeship end-point assessment following the award of QTS. The course is a minimum of 12 months.

Content of initial teacher training

All ITT courses must incorporate the Core Content Framework (CCF), published by DfE in November 2019. The CCF established the “minimum entitlement of all trainee teachers”: it sets out the content ITT providers and their partnerships must draw upon when designing and delivering their programmes. For instance, the curricula must be appropriate for the subject, phase and age range that the trainee will be teaching. Trainees must have access to “clear and consistent mentoring and support” from mentors and other expert colleagues. All ITT providers must ensure that each trainee teacher has taught in at least two schools.

The Teachers’ Standards define the minimum level of practice expected of teachers from the point of being awarded QTS. ITT providers must use the standards to assess trainees working towards QTS. Ofsted is responsible for inspecting all providers of ITT programmes.

From September 2021, the Early Career Framework (ECF) was rolled out nationally. It is a two-year statutory induction period for early career teachers after ITT, following which they are assessed against the Teachers’ Standards. The QTS is still awarded at the end of the initial training. The ECF entitles all early career teachers to a funded two-year package of structured training, mentoring and support. The Government states it expects most schools to use a DfE-funded training provider who will design and deliver a “comprehensive programme of face-to-face and online training”. Lead providers will be inspected by Ofsted.

The Government expects the new Institute of Teaching to become England’s “flagship lead provider”, demonstrating “exemplary delivery of the CCF and ECF”. It is intended that the institute will build evidence around the most effective approaches to training and developing teachers. The institute will be launched in September 2022, and training will be delivered through at least four regional campuses.

How many people are recruited for initial teacher training?

The DfE is responsible for regulating the number of trainee teachers in England where training leads to QTS. The department aims to:

Support recruitment for all initial teacher training courses in order to meet teacher demand from schools in England, efficiently using public funds and minimising an oversupply of teachers.

The DfE uses the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) to estimate the number of teacher trainees required in England in each subject and phase for one year in advance, to provide sufficient numbers of qualified teachers in the future. The DfE uses these estimates to allocate training places to ITT providers and Schools Direct lead schools. All ITT providers must ensure they have taken adequate steps to ensure they are ready to recruit trainees.

Allocations for 2021/22 academic year

ITT courses leading to QTS for the 2021 to 2022 academic year fall under two recruitment categories:

  • Allocated: where providers are given a limited number of trainees they can recruit.
  • Unlimited: where providers are not limited in the number of trainees they can recruit.

For the 2021 to 2022 academic year, allocations were assigned to undergraduate courses leading to QTS and postgraduate physical education (PE) (fee-funded) courses leading to QTS. Recruitment is unlimited for all other postgraduate courses.

To recruit trainees for courses in the unlimited category, accredited providers are allowed to recruit an indefinite number of trainees. However, they are advised to consider the capacity of school placements, and the need for teachers in their region. If there is an “undesirable” oversupply, the DfE can stop recruitment and ask ITT providers and lead schools to close courses to new entrants.

This methodology for recruitment will be subject to review for the 2022 to 2023 academic year.

Supply of trainee teachers in 2020–21

In the 2019 to 2020 and the 2020 to 2021 academic years, ITT providers had fixed allocations for recruitment to undergraduate and fee-funded postgraduate PE ITT courses. There were no recruitment controls for other postgraduate courses.

In total, there were 41,472 new entrants to ITT in 2020–21, compared to 33,799 in 2019–20.

  • Of these, 35,467 were new entrants starting or expecting to start postgraduate ITT in
    2020–21, an increase of 23% on 2019–20.
  • There were also 6,005 new entrants to undergraduate ITT, an increase of 23% on 2019–20.
  • The percentage of the TSM postgraduate target achieved for all subjects, secondary and primary, was 115%. This was an increase of 28 percentage points, up from 87% in 2019–20. The increase was “driven by both an increase (of 6,550) in the number of postgraduate new entrants and a decrease (of 2,138) in the TSM target compared to the previous year”.
  • In primary, 130% of the TSM target was achieved.
  • In secondary, 106% of the TSM target was achieved. However, targets were not met in maths, physics, chemistry, modern languages and design and technology.

Figures on routes into training in 2020–21 showed:

  • There was a total of 18,494 new postgraduate entrants on school-led routes, making up 53% of the total postgraduate new entrants into ITT. This was down from 56% in 2019–20.
  • Of the total postgraduate new entrants into ITT, 47% were on HEI-led routes. This was up from 44% of the total postgraduate new entrants in 2019–20.
  • There was a total of 6,005 new entrants starting an undergraduate ITT programme in 2020–21, an increase of 23% compared to 2019–20.

What changes are planned for the teacher training providers market?

Review of the initial teacher training market

The DfE published a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy in January 2019, which outlined the Government’s plans to “overcome” key barriers to improving teacher recruitment and retention.

The strategy’s central reform was the introduction of the Early Career Framework. To align the framework with teacher training, it published the new Core Content Framework in 2019 (both are described above).

The strategy also made a commitment to review the ITT provider market to support it to work effectively and efficiently. Ian Bauckham chief executive of the Tenax Schools Trust, was appointed to chair the review in 2020. The review aimed to make “evidence-based recommendations” on how to make sure:

  • All trainees receive high-quality training.
  • The ITT market maintains the capacity to deliver enough trainees and is accessible to candidates.
  • The ITT system benefits all schools.

The review reported in July 2021. It made recommendations on curriculum content, course structure, delivery, and mentoring. The central recommendation was that all ITT providers implement a new set of quality requirements, and that a “robust accreditation process should take place. The purpose of the accreditation process would be to ensure that all providers meet the requirements in full, both at the point of accreditation and on a continuing basis. The quality requirements cover:

  • The design of the training curriculum, fully incorporating all aspects of the CCF. Providers should develop an “evidence-based training curriculum as a condition of accreditation”.
  • The identification of placement schools, with a strong emphasis on ensuring that trainees’ experiences on placement are fully aligned with the training curriculum.
  • The identification and training of mentors, with new minimum training expectations for mentors.
  • The design and use of a detailed assessment framework.
  • More frequent inspection by Ofsted of the quality of ITT provision and a requirement for inspectors to test the robustness of providers’ quality assurance arrangements.
  • Accredited providers should be accountable for the quality of training at all times and in all contexts in their partnerships.

Under the proposals, providers would have to design and deliver an “intensive placement experience” of at least 20 days for single-year courses, and 30 days for undergraduate courses. Placements should be organised as group activities. While they must include substantial practical classroom experience, they should be designed to practice other techniques; for example, by focusing on a specific element of classroom practice in an environment which imitates a classroom situation. The review recommended that single-year ITT courses should be required to be 38 weeks long, with at least 28 weeks spent in schools.

The report recognised that the new quality requirements and accreditation process could lead to a reconfiguration of the ITT provider market. It stated:

Considering the demands of the quality requirements, the accreditation process should be used as an opportunity for providers to consider their role in the new market to ensure that newly-accredited providers have the capacity to deliver the quality requirements […] Providers will have to consider very carefully how they are going to successfully deliver these requirements, and we anticipate that significant market reconfiguration and the development of new capacity will be necessary.

The review stated that additional funding may be required for the extra work needed to meet the new quality requirements.

Between 5 July and 22 August 2021, the Government ran a consultation on the review. In the consultation document, the Government stated that it aimed to run the accreditation process in “early 2022”, with successful providers announced “before the end of the 2021–22 academic year”. Providers would then prepare for the new ITT courses to begin in September 2023.

The document proposed that the Government would formally notify current accredited providers that have failed to meet the new standards. It would “mandate support, or in some cases, broker mergers, between providers to ensure improvement”. The review recommended that if the provider was “unable or unwilling”, the Government should assist the “transfer of trainees to another provider”.

The Government is expected to respond to the report in autumn 2021, after reviewing the consultation responses.

Reaction to the proposals

While many in the sector welcomed the aims of the review, they have also criticised the “widespread and potentially disruptive” changes to the ITT market, the timescale for implementation, and the potential impact on provision. For instance, Cambridge University supported the review’s “objective of promoting consistently high quality” training, but it argued that the “single model of training proposed” would risk its ability to deliver high standards. The university stated there was no “single right way” to train teachers. It said that it may withdraw from providing ITT if the reforms went ahead. However, Stuart Lock, CEO at Advantage Schools, argued that the quality of ITT teaching was often “ too low”, and the recommendations in the report were “sensible and practical responses to some of the perennial weaknesses in the system”.

Others in the industry have raised concerns about the affect the reforms would have on partnerships between schools and ITT providers. Oxford University said the reforms “threatened” its current model of “collaborative partnership” with schools. The university stated that the proposed structure would make it difficult for “established local partnerships” to operate. Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of universities, agreed that the proposals could “disrupt” current partnerships between providers and schools, and “pose a risk” to university involvement, with “consequences for the pipeline” of new teachers in England.

Emma Hollis from the National Association of School-based Teacher Trainers also expressed concern over effects on the recruitment of trainee teachers. She said that the reaccreditation process would be “expensive and disruptive” and posed a “huge risk to teacher supply”.

The Labour party has also expressed opposition to the proposed changes to the ITT market. Shadow Secretary of State for Education Kate Green has called for the reforms to be halted, citing concern about the “huge burden” on schools and providers. She called for the Government to fully engage with the sector to “deliver proper support, not half-baked ideas”.

However, School Standards Minister Nick Gibb argued that the proposed changes would create a “golden thread” of training, support, and professional development, “informed by high quality evidence, which will run through each phase of a teacher’s career”. The chair of the review, Ian Bauckham, stated the report reflected the importance of giving teachers evidence-based initial training. He said that with the reforms, the teacher training experience would be given “greater coherence”. In addition, Sam Twiselton, member of the market review and director of the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, said the priority given in the report to mentors, and time and training to support them, was “fundamentally important” to high-quality ITT provision.

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Cover image by NEOSiAM 2021 from Pexels.