The government should "consider the place for virtual learning" on teacher training courses in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, experts have said.
As "teachers of the future" are likely to need "additional skills" in a post-pandemic world, it may be necessary to adapt the Teachers' Standards to reflect this "new reality", according to universities and school-based teacher trainers.
A policy briefing by the MillionPlus Deans of Education Network and National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), and backed by the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), is calling on the government to convene a "cross-sector advisory group" to formulate a national plan for teacher training, addressing issues created or amplified by the coronavirus outbreak.
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The response plan, drawn up by the Department for Education (DfE) along with key players in the teacher training sector, should outline "an overarching set of principles focused on short-term and long-term issues on three key core areas of ITE [initial teacher education]: safety, high-quality placements and recruitment and retention", the report states.
As part of this, the organisations say the advisory group "should consider the place for virtual learning within an ITE curriculum", as "teachers of the future will need additional skills" in the wake of the pandemic.
"It is likely that there will be wider discussions in the education sector regarding virtual and blended learning, recognising the challenges faced and seeking to use all resources at our disposal," the report states.
"The advisory group should consider the place for virtual learning within an ITE curriculum, including whether any adaptations to the Teachers' Standards are required to reflect this new reality.
"This in no way suggests a relaxation of standards; rather, it acknowledges that the teachers of the future will need additional skills.
"Having a concerted plan that tries to build a better system for the future, while also responding to the immediate crisis, could mean that some benefits emerge from an otherwise challenging and tragic period."
The report also warns that ensuring trainees have access to a sufficient number of quality training placements is the "single biggest issue" facing the sector, both in the next academic year and beyond.
It adds that "a 'perfect storm' of strong recruitment may be met with a significant shortage of schools willing and able to place trainees", and a failure to address this will "critically undermine the supply of new entrants into the profession".
In order to encourage more schools to engage with teacher training, the organisations suggest that the advisory group discuss whether Ofsted should assess "active participation in ITE" in future.
The policy briefing sets out four key recommendations for the DfE, including:
- Convene a cross-sector advisory group to formulate a National ITE Response Plan, outlining an overarching set of principles focused on short-term and long-term issues on three key core areas of ITE: safety, high-quality placements and recruitment and retention.
- Work with the sector to encourage more schools to play an active part in ITE.
- Work with the sector to ensure mechanisms are in place to support trainees and NQTs (newly qualified teachers) at this challenging time, with further bespoke support in place to aid the retention of teachers including the review of bursaries, subject knowledge enhancement courses and a bespoke NQT settlement.
- Harness and resource the expertise and capacity of ITT providers to boost the availability of crucial high-quality mentoring work.
It also recommends that ITE stakeholders work together to "develop best practice guidance on maintaining a high-quality educational experience for applicants and trainee teachers during the recovery from the pandemic".
The report concludes: "The scale of the challenges facing ITE may be daunting, arising from a situation where uncertainty is widespread. However, with a co-ordinated response, based on a shared belief in the importance and value of high-quality ITE, it will be possible to overcome these obstacles and ensure that no trainee teacher or pupil will be disadvantaged."
A DfE spokesperson said: "We are already working extremely closely with the sector to help us understand the training needs for trainee and newly qualified teachers.
"Our engagement with the sector has increased since Covid-19 so we understand the challenges they may face. We will explore the recommendations made in the report with the sector in due course."