The Headteachers’ Roundtable welcomes the Government’s consultation document, “Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status and improving career progression for teachers” and some of the ideas within. However, a two year qualified teacher programme if not connected to what comes immediately before and after is unlikely to make the significant difference required. More wholesale reform is required.
The case for the level of change required is undermined by assertions made in the consultation document. For example, it states, “We are fortunate to be able to build on a strong and internationally respected base. We have a system of Initial Teacher Training that is rigorous and valued here and around the world.” This is not borne out in many people’s experiences or in some of the evidence available to the Department for Education.
“The Teachers’ Standards (Department for Education (DfE), 2011) set a common expectation across the system about the knowledge, understanding and skills new teachers should have. However, we have found considerable variability in ITT content across the system. We have identified what appear to be potentially significant gaps in a range of courses in areas such as subject knowledge development, subject-specific pedagogy, behaviour management, assessment and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We believe there may be a case for a better shared understanding of what the essential elements of good ITT content look like.”
Rather than thinking of our Initial Teacher Training (ITT) as a system valued around the World, we would suggest that it is hugely variable. The most variable element is arguably the school based aspect. This should raise concerns and provide many lessons to learn for much of what is proposed in the two year qualified teacher programme. The proposed elements of early career content framework is taken directly from the Carter Review (2015) quoted above. Given the concerns expressed in the Carter Report about the “potentially significant gaps in a range of courses”; the need to review current arrangements for ITT is equally as great as the need to rethink Qualified Teacher Status.
The very large number of ITT providers mitigates against quality assurance; training bursaries are either too high or non-existent and not linked to actually entering the profession; school placements are too varied in terms of quality; the variety of routes into the profession and equivalences mitigates against a more standardised QTS period and the potential for strong (teaching) schools to cream off the best trainees to work in their own schools/trusts needs to be addressed.
The provision of frameworks, standards and mentoring has the potential to support teachers during their early years; the concern has to be the quality of implementation across the system. There is a danger that experiences during the qualified teacher stage become a lottery. In short, “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it and that’s what gets results.” (Bananarama, 1982).
Mentoring and coaching should be a critical part of early career development. The challenges of scaling up this approach nationally are: ensuring the quality of mentors and coaches and that sufficient time is available for them to fulfil their role. The need for training and release time carries significant financial costs and will need to be met through additional funding. Without this the proposed scheme will become nothing more than an aspiration. This additional funding will prove good value for money if it substantially improves retention in teaching. The additional 10% release time for teachers in their second year prior to qualified teacher status is to be commended and must be funded. It would be sensible when considering the additional funding to consider a 10% release time for mentors; as stated previously these costs are not inconsiderable and cannot be met from already stretched school budgets.
Rather than more burdensome expensive accountability and external verification schemes, quality controls should be built in at the beginning of these processes and funding used to directly support 10% release time.
Suggestions in the document concerning continuing professional development and sabbaticals are still embryonic. The specialist routes mentioned are unlikely to gain significant traction if there isn’t an associated career structure that permits teachers to progress, including financially, whilst remaining predominantly in the classroom. The consultation too quickly mentions and seemingly rejects Masters Qualifications. Our view is these should form part of a five year, coherent and connected early career programme. If the current multiple routes into the classroom, including the use of unqualified teachers persist, the sound thinking about early career development will be undermined as the two year QTS is seen as another unnecessary burden rather than a key part of becoming a great teacher. It could perversely lead to even fewer people training to become teachers.
Developing good habits and security around evidence based practices should be established early in a teacher’s career. This evidence based practice should be intertwined through the content based framework; it is a practical wisdom that teachers require.
The Chartered College of Teaching is increasingly well placed to take a lead in many of these areas.
Stephen Tierney is CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, Blackpool and the Chair of the HTRT.
He is on twitter as @LeadingLearner