The Ofsted-rated Outstanding and award-winning Devon Primary SCITT (DPSCITT), formed in 2000, is a committed partnership of 50 primary and special schools across Devon. The SCITT offers a one-year Primary PGCE, which is awarded through the University of Plymouth.
Around 630 trainees have gone through the course in the past 20 years, the majority of whom remain in schools to this day, reflecting a high (90%+) five-year retention rate. Indeed a high proportion of trainees have gone on to senior leadership roles, and five are current headteachers of DPSCITT’s partnership schools. Its impact has been recognised by Ofsted, which judged the SCITT as Outstanding in all four inspections (2003, 2006, 2009 and 2016), and in 2019 when DPSCITT was named SCITT or School Direct Lead School of the Year by NASBTT, with the judging panel specifically highlighting the success criteria of quality, distinctiveness and contribution to the wider ITT sector.
Led by a core team of three staff, the SCITT’s mission is to inspire and develop reflective, creative and resilient teachers. “Our focus is on supporting 35-40 trainees every year to develop firm foundations for fulfilling, successful and sustainable careers,” explained DPSCITT Director Kate Reeves. “This is achieved through a curriculum designed to ensure that our graduates have the knowledge, skills and understanding to become outstanding teachers. Central to this, we believe, is the development of their own core values, philosophies and teaching identities. Our course is constantly updated in consultation with heads and school-based tutors to ensure it is, as Ofsted themselves described it in their 2016 inspection, ‘inspirational, creative, innovative and transformational.”
With Ofsted also identifying strong relationships, coaching and learning conversations as being the heart of the training programme, Kate pinpointed the collaboration underpinning this success. She said: “Our schools are spread throughout Devon within rural and urban contexts, but the strength of the partnership means that strong relationships have been built, especially between headteachers and school-based tutors across our network. This has resulted in very effective networking and collaboration, which often goes beyond teacher training and supports school improvement. As our ‘governors’, the heads of our partner schools are fully invested in ensuring that trainees develop the skills, knowledge and attributes to meet their employment needs (50-60% are employed by partnership schools). Having personally been involved from the start, I know the schools and their staff very well, which allows us to draw on specific expertise and ensure that placements are effective.”
With impressive employment and retention figures behind the SCITT, Kate revealed how trainees (including DPSCITT Deputy Director Jon Coe, who also subsequently went on to become a headteacher) are prepared for life in the classroom. “Our emphasis on reflection and coaching supports our trainees to become reflective practitioners who are committed to ongoing professional development,” she said. “Trainees become immersed in school life, and their experience of the wider teaching role gained through participation in all aspects of school life, including establishing class routines at the start of the school year, supporting parent teacher meetings, extra-curricular provision and whole school events means they are very well prepared. In terms of preparing trainees to be confident, creative and effective teachers, the nature and quality of the central training cannot be over-emphasised. This is led by experienced, nationally and locally recognised practitioners who share their expertise and passion for their subjects, teaching and learning.”
She continued: “A key strength is the seamless integration of the central and school-based training, with specific school-based tasks being set and followed up at each central training session. Critically, as well as being trained and supported by their class teachers, trainees meet with a school-based tutor each week, who personalises their training and ensures they have access to the full range of expertise and experiences in the school. Our regular reinforcement of key messages and practical strategies to support trainees’ workload, mental health and wellbeing ensures that these become embedded in their practice, leading to
greater resilience and more sustainable careers.”
DPSCITT’s track record spanning two decades means that whilst physical or virtual open evenings, with the latter opening up interest from prospective trainees from much further afield, facilitate recruitment, word-of-mouth (local reputation and former trainees) is the most effective strategy. “The personal support and personalised training we provide is consistently cited as our key strength by our former trainees, and the reason given by prospective trainees for wanting to train with us,” Kate revealed. “Trainees are known individually by central and school-based staff, who build on their individual skills, interests and strengths. Our ‘class size’ supports the building of dynamic, trusting and supportive cohorts, with trainees continuing to network and support each other throughout their careers. Our size, and the relationships we have with our schools, means we can ensure very high levels of consistency and quality in terms of training and support, through comprehensive training and robust quality assurance processes, with Jon or I visiting each school each term.”
Kate concluded: “We are very clear that it is the relationships and commitment of the partnership that secure the quality and cohesiveness of our training. The staff of our partnership schools are proud to be part of DPSCITT. This level of commitment rests on a genuine sense of ownership, made possible by our size and original set-up. Never was this better illustrated than in response to Covid-19. The partnership’s continued support for trainees during the partial school closures was amazing. Throughout last summer and the first two terms of the 2020-21 academic year, all trainees were supported by their school-based tutors who continued to lead weekly seminar meetings (in person or remotely). The trainees participated in the remote learning of their classes and most took advantage of the opportunities offered to teach the children of key workers.”
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