Covid sparks remote learning 'upsurge' in ITT courses

Exclusive: Four in five training providers now say programmes teach trainees to deliver distance lessons, survey shows

Amy Gibbons

Coronavirus: The number of teacher training providers covering remote learning has increased massively, a poll shows

The Covid-19 crisis has driven an "upsurge" in the inclusion of remote learning in teacher training courses, a new survey shows.

Last month, Tes revealed that trainee teachers were being taught how to lead distance learning with their pupils as schools adapted amid the pandemic.

Experts have since told MPs that "urgent action" is needed to train new teachers in remote learning skills.


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Now a new survey from the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) has shed light on the extent to which Covid-19 has driven a rise in distance learning training for teachers.

The news comes on the day that a legal obligation on schools to provide immediate access to remote education for pupils if they are absent due to Covid-19 comes into force.

The NASBTT survey of 141 school-based providers shows that, prior to the pandemic, 129 (91 per cent) did not feature remote teaching on their programmes.

Teacher training now includes remote learning

Ten providers said they referred to it in a "small way", while just two providers said it was a "significant feature" of their courses. 

But in response to the Covid-19 crisis, 113 providers (80 per cent) said their planned ITT programmes for 2020-21 now included modules, sessions, tasks or assignments that "explicitly teach trainees how to teach pupils online/remotely".

This represents a more than eightfold increase in the number of providers touching on remote teaching in either a "small" or "significant" way.

And the trend looks set to continue. Of those surveyed, 120 providers (85 per cent) said "thinking to a time in the future, after the pandemic has passed", they were planning to deliver distance learning training to some extent.

The Covid-19 crisis has also driven a significant change in the way new teachers access their training.

Prior to the pandemic, 112 providers (79 per cent) said "none" of their core training took place online or remotely, and 23 (16 per cent) said "very little" did.

But asked how much training has been held remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, or will be in the immediate future, the momentum reversed completely.

Of the 141 providers surveyed by NASBTT, 50 (35 per cent) said "all" of their training was now held remotely, while 48 (34 per cent) said "the majority" was delivered at a distance.

A further 35 (25 per cent) said "some" training was conducted remotely, seven (5 per cent) said "very little", and just one provider said "none".

And while none of the providers surveyed said "all" of their core training would take place remotely "after the pandemic has passed", 81 (57 per cent) said "some" would continue to be delivered at a distance.

NASBTT said some examples of "innovative practice" from providers included:

  • Training on technical aspects of online platforms.
  • Modelling to trainees by teaching them remotely.
  • Immersing trainees in placement schools' responses to online learning for their pupils.
  • Offering trainees opportunities to teach one another or small groups of children remotely to practise their skills.
  • Taught sessions on specifics such as engaging pupils online, assessing online, safeguarding implications of online learning, engaging with parents online, etc.
  • Asking trainees to "dual plan" some lessons – eg, "what would this look like online compared to in person?"
  • Engaging trainees with research/best practice examples/best available evidence (eg, Education Endowment Foundation) resources and developing thinking around the changing nature of education.
  • Exposing trainees to online, asynchronous learning modules either for their own personal development (eg, self-directed study through NASBTT Learn) or for the pupils (eg, Oak National Academy).
  • Trainees developing their own asynchronous materials (films, screencasts, resources) to support learning – either for pupils or for other/future trainees.

The survey also reveals that the vast majority of trainees have managed to secure school placements, despite fears that there could be a shortage in 2020-21.

In June, 81 per cent of school-based providers said they were more concerned about securing sufficient school placements for 2020-21 than in previous years.

But the latest survey shows that 92 per cent of providers have already placed trainees in schools, with 7 per cent delaying placements until later in the autumn term, and only one provider holding on until after Christmas.

Emma Hollis, NASBTT executive director, said: "We are continuing to work with the Department for Education on several approaches to give providers the confidence to continue to recruit despite the obvious uncertainties.

"Our focus has been on supporting ITT providers to develop flexible programmes and thus manage the threat of fewer school placements; for example, through paired/rolling/shared placements or by front-loading distance learning programmes and delaying placements until later in the year.

"It is pleasing to see the 'swing' from concern to relative comfort on placements for school-based providers, although the importance of developing mentor capacity – and concerns about the availability of this – was highlighted.

"Similarly, we have undertaken a lot of work to support ITT providers in developing their trainees' skills in remote teaching and learning, including via our own NASBTT Learn platform, so the trends on offering core training online and virtual learning teaching are also very welcome."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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