Back in September, Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers received notification from the Department for Education that they will have to assess and offer assurance for the fundamental English and mathematics proficiencies of trainee teachers starting programmes of ITT after 1st April 2020.

Under this new approach – and with recruitment well under way for September – ITT providers are expected to make an assessment of the English and mathematics knowledge of a trainee before Qualified Teacher Status or Early Years Teacher Status is awarded. ITT providers must, as an accreditation requirement, assure that trainees have these skills either during the selection process, or later during the training programme.

Any work to address shortfalls in English and mathematics must be undertaken by the trainee teacher in addition to other aspects of their training. It is the trainee’s responsibility to secure these fundamental skills, whereas responsibility for assurance lies with the ITT provider.

These requirements come after the government decided to scrap the professional skills test last July – something we had called for over a number of years. What was not outlined, however, was exactly how providers are expected to support or assess trainees, with the email stating that: “Fundamental English and mathematics may be implemented, supported and assured in different ways by different ITT providers.”

So, following that correspondence from the Department for Education in September, what happened next, and how have we responded to it?

We have worked with ITT providers to quickly implement a new system of guidance on the fundamental English and mathematics proficiencies all teachers need. These have included a number of well-attended member workshops during which we confirmed the requirements for ITT providers, shared a new tool to support providers with the assurance of maths proficiencies, and explored ways of assuring fundamental English and maths proficiencies within existing recruitment processes and ITT provision.

SCITT and School Direct Lead School representatives walked into our workshops seeking answers to a number of questions: Does this mean we have to write our own tests? Do I have to completely re-write our application process? Do I now need to include taught sessions on English and mathematics for all programmes? Is there a ‘correct’ way to do this? Can I accept an applicant who has gaps in their knowledge? So how do we ensure comparability?

We have sought to provide some answers. We have recommended that providers review their application process and core programmes in light of these changes – but that we do not expect large-scale changes will be required. We have promoted greater support for members with assurance of mathematics through NASBTT EMM (Elevate My Maths) in partnership with Vretta – https://www.nasbtt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/EMM-Information-Page.pdf. We have also stressed the importance of holistic decision-making.

Going forward, Ofsted inspectors are likely to ask ITT providers how they identify any gaps in prospective trainees’ fundamental English and mathematics skills, which will not be covered in the course content; support trainees admitted to the training programme(s) who have identified gaps; and ensure that any identified gaps are filled before course completion.

Through our work we have collated a number of examples of how providers will assure fundamental English and mathematics – and for any institutions still finalising their own approaches this could provide important learnings. Our FAQs, written to support providers in understanding the new arrangements for fundamental proficiencies, can be found here: https://www.nasbtt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Fundamental-English-and-Mathematics-Proficiencies-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf.

Emma Hollis is Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)



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