Exclusive: Teacher training shake-up timings may ‘move’

Government might ‘budge’ on timescale for shake-up if it means it can ‘win on the main argument’, says Chartered College leader
30th July 2021, 5:00am


Exclusive: Teacher training shake-up timings may ‘move’

Alison Peacock

Government officials have suggested they are “willing to move” on their proposed timescale for radically reforming the teacher training sector, the head of the Chartered College of Teaching has said.

Speaking to Tes about the ongoing initial teacher training (ITT) market review, Dame Alison Peacock said she understood that Department for Education officials might “budge” on the time allowed for implementing reforms if it means they can “win on the main argument” at hand, regarding what the changes will actually involve.

The news comes shortly after Tes reported that the government proposed an “ambitious timescale” for reshaping the teacher training market so ministers could push changes through with a “sense of momentum”.

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The reforms suggested by the expert group behind the review, which include putting all providers through a reaccreditation process, are currently out for consultation - with responses due during the summer holidays, on 22 August.

When it launched the consultation on 5 July, the DfE suggested reaccreditation could be completed by the end of the next academic year, with successful providers ready to recruit under the new system from September 2022.

But many have suggested this is unrealistic - with Sam Twiselton, a member of the DfE’s own expert group advising on the plans, warning that the “very short timescale” proposed for implementing the changes presents “risks to teacher supply and quality”.

Now Dame Alison has said she understands officials are “willing to budge” on the implementation timescale if by doing so they can “win on the main argument” concerning the actual contents of the review - including mass reaccreditation.

She said if the DfE were to implement a delay, it “would have to be an academic year” to fit in with the ITT recruitment cycle.

“What I’m hearing from civil servants is that the timescale is something that they’re willing to move on,” she said. 

“Because, I mean it is just ridiculous - they can’t possibly do all of this at a breakneck speed.”

She added: “I think they’re willing to budge on that if they feel that they can sort of lose on that and then win on the main argument, and the main argument actually is the fundamental one, which is the accreditation, the control, everything else.

“The unions, we are pushing for them to extend the timescale because if they extend the timescale there’s a greater chance that we can actually win some of the argument about what does this actually look like?

“But I think they’re prepared to sort of concede on that when they’ve not had to concede on some of the other things.”

Dame Alison said it was “quite likely” the government would allow more time to implement the proposals, should they be approved.

And while she said she doesn’t expect the DfE to formally extend the consultation period, as it does not want to “lose face”, she believes “unofficial meetings” will continue beyond 22 August.

“I don’t think it’s likely that they will extend the timescale of the consultation,” she said.

“But having said that, informally they are, because informally they’re talking about having roundtables and events in September and so on.

“So I think they can’t afford to lose face and they don’t want to lose face and say, ‘oh, we’ll go beyond 22 August’, because the unions have asked for that and they can’t do anything the unions have asked them to, because that’ll look like they’re losing face.

“But I think that they’re willing to extend the time of implementation of the policy, and that also gives the civil servants time to risk assess what are the consequences of this policy...

“So I think if they can maintain the consultation date officially, but then have some unofficial meetings and so on...we’ve said we’re not doing anything; we won’t have any roundtables or anything until September. I mean they wanted us to but we’ve just said no.”

Dame Alison also suggested that schools minister Nick Gibb was concerned about reports prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge could pull out of ITT provision if the reforms go ahead.

“Gibb does not want to lose Oxbridge from teacher training,” she said.

“It’s clear that he doesn’t want to be the minister that actually removes the most prestigious universities from teacher training. He doesn’t want that to happen.”

Earlier this month, shortly after the consultation launched, the University of Cambridge released a statement warning that it was “deeply concerned” by the proposals.

“We recognise that these are only recommendations. Were they to be implemented, however, then with great regret we would see little option but to review the viability of initial teacher education at the University of Cambridge,” it said.

“We have therefore asked the government to adjust the proposals to accommodate the continued delivery of university-based PGCE courses.

“Programmes such as ours are already providing new teachers with the very best education, training and development opportunities and, through them, shaping the education of countless children for the better.

“We very much hope that the government will take the necessary steps to allow us to continue to do so.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Supporting our teachers with the highest quality training and professional development is the best way in which we can improve pupil outcomes and is central to the government’s levelling up agenda.

“We want this country to be the best place to become a great teacher and that starts with high-quality initial teacher training.

“The proposed changes would build upon the ambitious reforms the government has implemented to create a golden thread of training, support and professional development, informed by high quality evidence, which will run through each phase of a teacher’s career.”

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