The future for school-led teacher training

The future for school-led teacher training

What might the future hold for the development of teacher trainees, as well as the educators that ‘train the trainees’? Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), investigates

Those of us who undertake school-led teacher training, or represent providers which do, are being increasingly consulted by politicians, policy-makers and civil servants on solutions to issues around teacher recruitment and retention.

The nub of the challenge is how can we ensure that we have a sustained, and quality, teacher workforce that meet the needs of schools and our children? Our members, primarily School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) providers, School Direct Lead Schools and Teaching Schools, are critical to making sure we have those teachers available and in turn supporting excellent provision.

In the 2017 Good Teacher Training Guide, eight of the top ten providers of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in the country are SCITTs, and we must build on that success.
There is, of course, a bigger picture and ITT providers alone cannot completely solve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis – yes, it remains a “crisis” – stemming from plummeting morale, pay and budgetary restraints, stress and challenging working conditions.

Figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) over the summer showed that teacher vacancies have risen sharply by 26 per cent in the past year, with 920 vacancies for full‑time permanent teachers in state‑funded schools, up from 730 the year before. The fact that Justine Greening has recently committed £30 million to getting teachers into schools that “struggle the most” with recruitment and retention is another indication of action being taken, but much more needs to be done to reduce the downward trend.

What we, as school-led teacher training providers can be encouraged by, is that ITT allocations for the 2018-19 academic year will allow accredited providers the freedom to recruit according to local need and not place caps on recruitment which do not take account of regional variation. Latest figures also show more than half of postgraduate trainees take school-led routes into the profession.

A higher proportion of final‑year trainees on school-led routes achieved Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), 93 per cent, compared with 90 per cent on higher education-led routes. They were also more likely to get a job than their university‑trained peers, with 96 per cent of those awarded QTS in a teaching post within six months. For trainees who had gained QTS from an HEI-led route, it was 93 per cent.

Going back to the Good Teacher Training Guide, what came through strongly is that school-based training attracts a wider cross‑section of society, with more from ethnic minorities, more aged 25 and over and more men to primary teaching. It documents the fact that trainees undertaking a school‑based programme of ITT are more likely to take up a teaching post at the end of their training year.

We believe this results from the close relationships which SCITT providers have with their partner schools and the consequent involvement of front-line staff in the selection of trainees and the design and delivery of training. In almost all school-led provision, the recruitment of trainees is supported by practising headteachers and senior leaders who are excellently placed to identify the knowledge, skills and personal characteristics which make really good teachers. It is, therefore, unsurprising that a greater proportion of these trainees are likely to go on to take up posts within those schools.

However, whilst we are keen to present the success of school-led teacher training provision, we do not wish to downplay the importance of universities in ITT.

A brief skim through the history books of teacher training shows that the preference for university‑led versus school-led provision has swung back and forth like a pendulum, but artificial and unhelpful distinctions between different kinds of training provision should be forgotten – the reality is that SCITTs, HEIs, Teach First and School Direct providers have long worked together.

They are not as distinct as some have them appear. NASBTT is supportive of a simplification of the system and continues to encourage greater partnership working. Any plans for strengthened QTS, for example, should include scope for close collaboration between schools, SCITTs and universities in planning and delivering the early career professional development to build on the excellent foundations being achieved.
So what might the future hold for the development of teacher trainees, and also those educators who ‘train the trainees’, look like?

We have set out our ideal for a revised three‑year postgraduate teacher training route, fostering partnerships between schools, SCITTs and HEIs. In year one, we would have school-based practice focussing on pedagogy and relationship building to help teacher trainees become ready to ‘hit the ground running’ in their NQT year, which is what heads need from their staff. We would look at the realities of the classroom, practical advice on class management, curriculum planning, time management, marking and feedback and subject knowledge for teaching. As is already the case, QTS would be awarded at the end of this year.

In year two, during the NQT year, time would be set aside for academic study with a focus on reflection. At this point, they have some ‘practice’ to reflect on and can assimilate the theory behind many of the practical techniques they will already be aware of. NQTs will be exposed to ways of thinking that might differ from those they have been exposed to in school and will widen perspectives from a place of practical knowledge.

In year three, teachers will have a sense of what interests them, what type of teacher they are or would like to become. They would use this year to focus on a research area which either meets their personal interests or a need within their school. Funded time would be given to write a dissertation exploring this area of interest, finalise their journey to master’s qualification and thus feed back into the system research carried out by a practising teacher based on real-life examples which support their hypotheses.

This would mean that NQTs are ultimately better prepared to face the realities of life as a teacher and give schools what they need from their staff, improving retention with this clearly mapped out early-career development, and opening up pathways for career development which are not purely focused on senior leadership.

Enhanced professional development for teacher educators is also a necessary direction of travel. The qualifications we are developing are targeted at front-line school-based staff involved in the day‑to‑day training and mentoring of trainee and early-career teachers, those responsible for the design and implementation of ITT programmes, and at a higher level those responsible for the management and accountability of programmes.

The courses respond to the gaps that we are hearing exist on the ground. The Level 1 “effective coaching and mentoring”, Level 2 “advanced coaching and mentoring”, Level 3 “delivering inspiring CPD” and “training excellent mentors, coaches and facilitators”, and Level 4 “effective SCITT/School Direct management” and “finance for SCITT/School Direct managers” modules will all be rolled out over the next 12 months.

Training will be delivered by us, or licensed providers trained by NASBTT and who are entitled to offer this programme. Delegates who successfully complete the Level 3 and both Level 4 modules will be given the NASBTT Award in Leading School-Based ITT Provision.

This is a really difficult time for schools, but to make life easier what we need to do is help the government achieve stability and clarity in the ITT system.

We could, and should, be instrumental in ensuring that current ITT routes remain rigorous and train excellent practitioners for the future. We will play an important role in guiding schools along the most effective route to doing so in line with our vision.

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