Sam Twiselton

“We need to look through a relationships and flexibility lens from September onwards – and trainees can be part of the solution”

There has been a lot of talk that we should delay the new ITT Core Content Framework. As I have been living and breathing (and therefore thinking deeply about why it matters) for over a year now, I strongly suggest that we should not – however, we do need to see it through a different lens, and as part of a transition year.

It was the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy which gave birth to the Early Career Framework (ECF), and in turn the ITT Core Content Framework. That dates back a couple of years in terms of the Department for Education (DfE) recognising that we have a big problem with retention, which in itself is causing a problem with the need to recruit more teachers.

This is a problem that is getting worse – and has nothing to do with Covid-19. We are losing more teachers every year and losing them earlier in the profession. The recruitment and retention strategy is a response to that, and lots of different moving parts which all work together, but it is the ECF and ITT Core Content Framework that are uppermost in my mind.

When the two are up and running and working together, we have something that could make a huge difference – a core entitlement for all trainees, regardless of where they train or where they get their first job in the country, and this ‘Velcroed-together’ set of frameworks which provides consistency in the evidence-based training that new teachers receive across the ITT year and the first two years after they have qualified. This is designed to support more trainees to successfully enter and remain in the profession.

We need that now more than ever, not just because of Covid-19. One of the reasons teachers are leaving is because they have not had that support.

The lens I believe we need to look through from September onwards is one of relationships and responsive flexibility. The ITT Core Content Framework can help, but within it we need to emphasise relationships with children, staff and parents. The fact we have all been dealing with trauma, bereavement and economic trauma which will be present well into the next academic year, should be our focus. For example, as Deputy Chair of the Doncaster Opportunity Area, I know we are already seeing the massive impact of people losing their jobs on lives, communities and, of course, children.

How we develop relationships, and how we support trainees to also nurture those relationships, is probably the most important thing. But actually, if this is the number one thing we are all focusing on – as a collaboration – this is a really strong identity-forming way to come into the profession. Without those relationships, and without understanding of the different factors that impact on children’s ability to learn, we cannot overcome all the barriers that come with them. The fact that trainees will be entering at a point when this is front and centre of people’s minds can only be a really positive thing.

As ITT providers, and as school partners, what school is going to look like from September – and probably through much if not all of next year – will be quite different. What I would really caution against is schools thinking of putting off getting trainees into school. Whilst I understand the temptation because there are so many logistical challenges and other priorities that schools will feel they are grappling with, I think that would be the wrong thing to do.

Trainees can be part of the solution in terms of extra staff, small group work, remote follow-up, focused intervention and more. More pairs of hands, people who care and want to get involved, and spend time in school on a ‘day in, day out’ or ‘week in, week out’ model and then continue to follow up with those children remotely, is a fantastic opportunity for trainees and extra resource for schools when they most need it.

Getting trainees into school – even if it is for less time and in a more hybrid way where there is remote follow-up – is a great way of actually addressing the wider challenges we have.

Professor Sam Twiselton is Director of Sheffield Institute of Education, Vice-President of the Chartered College of Teaching, and Chair of Advisory Group for the Department for Education ITT Core Content Framework. She was a panellist on NASBTT’s ITT September and Beyond webinar on 9th June 2020:

Watch again here.

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