Welcome back to a new term and a new year. In our Christmas message, I expressed a hope that 2021 would be a ‘less interesting’ year. Just four days into the year and already it seems that this wish is unlikely to be realised with many unanswered questions still taxing our sector.

Despite all of this, I very much hope that our members managed to take some much-needed downtime over the past couple of weeks.

As we enter the first week of an uncertain term, we hope that the following may be of some help in your planning.

Key Worker Status

We remind members that trainee teachers (both salaried and tuition fee) have been designated as critical workers. This means that their children are able to attend school, where provision is being made for the children of critical workers, and that they are entitled to (and should follow) any established protocols for staff testing and attendance in their placement schools.

Core Training Arrangements

Given the severity of restrictions in the majority of areas and the understandable concerns from many headteachers about ensuring safe environments in their schools, we anticipate that the majority of providers will offer core training via online and distance learning to minimise contact outside of school communities and reduce exposure for trainees and centre-based staff. Where providers are planning to offer face-to-face training, our working assumption is that the guidance given to universities around mass testing prior to face-to-face lectures would apply. However, at this point in time, we are not aware of any plans to provide SCITTs with mass-testing facilities. We are, therefore, actively investigating how SCITT trainees might access rapid testing outside of their placement schools and will update members once we have further information.

Return to Placements

This guidance lists ITT as one of the ‘practical courses’ which are expected to return between today (4th January) and 18th January 2021.

Ongoing Absence

Where trainees are unable to attend school placements due to self-isolation, school closures, shielding, etc., they should continue to be offered opportunities to support placement schools with online teaching opportunities, pupil support, resource preparation, marking, assessment, moderation, etc. They should also be offered distance learning and online development opportunities in line with your central training plans. We continue to work with the DfE on contingency arrangements for assessments should the next few months prove to be continually interrupted.

Union Advice

We are aware that some trainees are being advised by their unions not to attend school placements. Trainees enjoy the same rights as all staff to follow their union advice if they wish to do so. Where they choose not to attend a placement, online and distance teaching and learning opportunities should be offered (see guidance for ongoing absence above). It will remain the responsibility of the provider to fairly and equally assess all trainees for the award of QTS at the end of the programme, in line with any assessment advice that may be published at that time.

Institute of Teaching and Market Review

Many of you will have seen the announcements released on Saturday regarding plans for a new Institute of Teaching and the recommencement of the ITT Market Review. Our full response to these announcements will be released later today. We will strive to work closely with the DfE and the expert advisory group to represent the interests of our members and will keep you informed as the work progresses.

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