This article by Helen Ward exclusively in the TES 31st January 2018

Official government checks are being carried out on teacher training providers after fears that the numbers of teachers qualifying through the assessment-only route has “dramatically increased”, Tes has learned. Notices of visits from National College for Teaching and Leadership representatives have been sent out to providers offering assessment-only qualifed teacher status (QTS) last week.

The assessment-only route designed to offer experienced, but unqualified, teachers a quick route to QTS – it involves an accredited provider assessing teachers’ skills against the required standards. Training is not necessary.
But there are growing concerns that organisations may be exploiting a loophole and offering unregulated initial teacher training courses that mimic initial teacher training, but offer qualification through the assessment-only (AO) route.
“The assessment-only route is a fine and legitimate route,“ James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, told Tes. “It is designed to assess people against the teacher standards who already have experience of teaching. Our concern is unregulated training routes which are potentially providing a form of training and then putting people who have done this training through the assessment-only route. That is not something that assessment only was intended for.”
Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) and the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), wrote to former education secretary Justine Greening last term to express their concern.

In the letter, they wrote: “We are writing to express the concerns of HEIs, SCITTs and many School Direct partners about the apparent expansion in initial teacher training that is unregulated and not subject to any independent quality assurance. This is often organised by supply agencies seeking to profit from current teacher supply difficulties by exploiting loopholes in existing regulatory procedures.
“It seems as if people being put forward for AO after having training that might not have met your own requirements for ITT and will not have been subject of Ofsted inspection or, for that matter, other form of independent quality assurance.”
They say that the absence of published information on candidates qualifying through AO makes it hard to find out the extent of the situation. But they add: “The degree to which such routes are being intensively marketed suggests that it has either increased dramatically or may be about to do so.
In her reply, Justine Greening said that the published criteria stated that a candidate with fewer than two years of teaching experience in schools as an unqualified teacher would be unsuitable for the assessment-only route. Now providers are being visited by the Department for Education to check they are not taking on inexperienced trainees.
Emma Hollis, executive director of NASBTT, said she suspected the visits reflected “growing concerns” over the number of unregulated agencies purporting to provide training programmes and then putting people forward for assessment-only. “It is imperative that all providers currently offering AO check for compliance, including rules relating to who is accepted for AO,” she said.
Most trainee teachers will take a course leading to QTS with an accredited provider of initial teacher training.
A DfE spokesperson said: “The assessment only route is designed to help those who already have teaching experience gain QTS.
“We are clear that providers offering this route should ensure all applicants have that necessary hands-on teaching experience. To ensure this is the case, the National College for Teaching and Leadership associates are carrying out checks with accredited Initial Teacher Training providers approved to offer the assessment-only route and offering additional support to them where necessary.”

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