Government must halt reforms or risk ‘damage’ to teacher supply, unions warn

The Government launched a consultation, which closes in the summer break.

A primary school teacher marking a pupil’s English homework (PA)
A primary school teacher marking a pupil’s English homework (PA)

The Government must halt its plans to overhaul teacher training as it could cause “irreparable damage” to the supply of high-quality teachers to schools, education unions and organisations have said.

A joint letter to schools minister Nick Gibb accuses the Government of attempting to “railroad through a huge change” to teacher training with “minimal opportunity for scrutiny and meaningful feedback”.

The Government launched a consultation, which closes in the summer break, on recommendations from a review of the initial teacher training (ITT) market.

All ITT providers would need to be re-accredited in order to continue recruiting trainees from August 2022 under the Department for Education proposals, which has prompted concerns that many well-respected universities could withdraw from teacher training as a consequence.

The letter, from six education organisations representing teachers and school leaders, calls on the DfE to urgently halt the consultation, which closes on August 22, because of the “clear danger that it will cause fundamental and irreparable damage to the supply of high-quality teachers” to schools.

A teacher supervising an exam (David Jones/PA)
A teacher supervising an exam (David Jones/PA)

It warns: “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 letter adds: “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 review proposes that ITT providers should apply for re-accreditation by the end of March 2022, with successful providers being announced before the end of the 2021/22 academic year.

Providers would then have a further year to recruit trainees and prepare for first teaching of the new ITT courses in September 2023.

The DfE hopes the recommendations will strengthen quality standards for ITT courses, including a new accreditation process, new intensive school placements and high-quality mentoring for trainees.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of NAHT school leaders’ union, said: “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.”

Leaders of the Association of School and College Leaders, the NAHT, the National Education Union, the NASUWT teaching union, Voice Community and the Chartered College of Teaching all signed the letter.

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