The vast majority of us involved in school-led/school-based Initial Teacher Training (ITT) are wedded to the philosophy of continuous improvement to ensure training is of the highest possible quality. That is not to say we believe the current system is performing poorly, or that systematic and widespread change is needed, simply there is always room for improvement in any system, no matter how well performing.
Broadly speaking, we support much of what is being proposed in terms of the quality requirements in the ITT market review. The ambition is, quite rightly, very high and there are some practical, logistical and financial barriers to implementation. If careful planning, testing, modelling and piloting is undertaken, we can see that many of these barriers can be overcome.
However, to achieve the high quality set out in these recommendations, concerted time and support will need to be given to the sector, and the timescales currently proposed make this impossible to achieve well. The danger is that the quality requirements will be rushed and under-funded, which will potentially lead to something which is less robust and of a lesser quality than the system which came before it.
The simplest and least disruptive way to address most of these challenges is to update the ITT criteria to reflect the quality requirements that the responses to this consultation deem to be most effective and give the sector sufficient time, support and resource to be able to meet those requirements (once adequately costed, tested and refined to reflect the evidence gained from a ‘test and learn’ approach). Our experience of working with our members is that many have already developed or are developing quality assurance arrangements which meet these requirements, and we continue to work with all our members on refining and developing these over time in an iterative, evidence informed way.
We already have extremely robust systems of quality assurance in place to measure how well providers are able to meet these requirements and, over successive iterations of ITT requirements, it has been proved that the sector is able to rise to whatever is asked of them quickly and effectively. Where pockets of weaker practice exist, these will quickly be identified through an inspection process and developmental support and guidance can be provided to ensure that rapid improvements are made.
We strongly believe that the sector is able and willing to meet the high bar set out in the report. In the vast majority of cases, they are already making progress towards these at a pace, in response to the requirements of the Core Content Framework and the new Ofsted inspection framework. Given that this has been achieved against the backdrop of a pandemic, with all the disruption this brought to the system, we believe this is evidence of the exceptional fortitude and expertise which already exists within our system. With sufficient time, support and guidance, we have no doubt that the sector, as it currently exists, will confidently and expertly meet the expectations laid out in the report.
We also only envisage clear solutions which will achieve outcomes around the subject and phase specific recommendations whilst retaining the vital, local role that small providers play within the system. As we move forward, we will facilitate our members working in this way, with subject-specific expertise and support procured centrally but provided locally for local trainees in local schools.
We have already seen the power of collaborative practice in recent months, with members coming together in multiple innovative ways to solve the crises they were faced with as a result of the pandemic. As an organisation representing 96% of the sector, NASBTT has been able to facilitate this collegiate working, bringing together the benefits of scale whilst retaining the local, contextual, school-centred autonomy that is such an internationally recognised and celebrated facet of our ITT provision.
We also fully support the involvement of Teaching School Hubs as partners within high-quality ITT partnerships. Some Teaching School Hubs already have a key role within local ITT provision and others are exploring ways to support existing provision within their regions. We would encourage the sector to continue to work in this collaborative, collegiate way; recognising where expertise, experience, credibility and capacity already exists and working within existing structures and partnerships.
Careful consideration will need to be given to the capacity of Teaching School Hubs, particularly in their first few years of operation as they become established, so that the strategic roles assigned to them are not burdensome and do not detract from their other key priorities. It will, however, be important to work closely with existing providers, acknowledging that there is extensive expertise and ITT experience that exists across a number of different configurations of organisations and partnerships.
Emma Hollis is Executive Director of The National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)