An ‘inflexible’ curriculum for initial teacher training from the DfE could ‘destroy’ recruitment, universities warn.

There is “evidence” that the Department for Education is planning to impose a “strict and inflexible” curriculum for initial teacher training (ITT), which would “destroy the teacher supply base”, university teacher trainers are warning.

The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) says the government’s controversial review of teacher training is “shrouded in secrecy” but suspects it will result in “prescribed” ITT that would damage academic freedom.

Earlier this month it was reported that the DfE was about to resume its review of the ITT market, following a pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The review, led by Ian Bauckham, chief executive of the Tenax Schools Trust, acting chair of Ofqual and chair of Oak National Academy, was set to focus on “how the ITT sector can provide consistently high-quality training in line with the core content framework (CCF) in a more efficient and effective market”, the DfE said.

Warning over DfE changes to initial teacher training

But to date “not a single ITE [initial teacher education] provider has been consulted” on the review, the UCET said today.

“It is almost as if the findings of the review are pre-determined, and based on unfounded assumptions, prejudice and dogma rather than on actual evidence,” according to James Noble-Rogers, UCET’s executive director.

In a statement released today, the UCET said: “Although the review group has been meeting since the autumn, much of its work has been shrouded in secrecy. To date, not a single ITE provider has been consulted, although contact has been made with UCET and NASBTT [National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers].

“There is evidence that the DfE is planning to impose a strict and inflexible ITE curriculum. However, DfE appears to be confusing ‘consistency’ with ‘uniformity’. This would undermine the academic freedom of universities and would prevent all ITE providers from tailoring their programmes to meet the needs of different schools and local communities.

“This would go far beyond – and would, in fact, contradict – what was envisaged in the core content framework for ITE, and in Ofsted’s new inspection framework where the importance of contextualising ITE to meet particular needs is recognised. DfE appears to be assuming that the new inspection frameworks will fail to achieve their objectives even though they have only just been introduced.”

Mr Noble-Rogers told Tes that the evidence for the department’s plans to impose a “strict and inflexible” curriculum lay with “references from DfE about more ‘consistency’ in ITE delivery, use of the best available evidence, and references in the Institute of Teaching documentation that are enough to conclude that there is a realistic possibility of ITE content being prescribed”.

Concluding the UCET’s statement, Mr Noble-Rogers wrote: “This is likely to trigger a number of unforeseen consequences. HEIs [higher education institutions] are currently involved in the delivery of more than 80 per cent of ITE, and often recruit student teachers directly from their own undergraduate cohorts.

“Contracting models of the kind envisaged will be financially unsustainable. The imposition of prescribed curricula would undermine the very reason why many universities are involved in teacher education in the first place.

“It is extremely unlikely that many HEIs would be interested in being junior partners in the delivery of ITE programmes that are developed by someone else and would prevent them from providing intellectually robust and research-informed programmes that will equip teachers to be thinking, questioning and reflective practitioners.

“This approach would destroy the teacher supply base, damage the quality of teacher education and would make England one of the few countries in the world without HE [higher education] involvement in the way new teachers are educated and trained. That would do huge damage to the prestige of the teaching profession.”

The DfE has been approached for comment.

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