DfE: ITT shake-up moving quickly to maintain 'momentum'

Official points to 'interrelationship between speed and quality' when it comes to radically reshaping teacher training sector

Amy Gibbons

Teacher training

The government has said it has proposed an "ambitious timescale" for reforming the teacher training market so ministers can push changes through with a "sense of momentum".

The Department for Education admitted there is an "interrelationship between speed and quality" when it comes to implementing reforms, meaning it must "balance" the need to move forward "as quickly as possible" with "carefully considering the implications" for the sector.

Speaking at an event held by the Chartered College of Teaching, DfE official Ruth Talbot was asked about the proposed timeline for both consulting on and implementing changes to the market borne out of the controversial initial teacher training (ITT) review.

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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".

Speaking at the Chartered College event, Ms Talbot said the DfE wanted to build on a "sense of momentum" for ITT reform.

"The timetable that has been tested for the review is ambitious because we want to deliver any improvements that ministers do decide to take forward as quickly as possible", she said.

"So it's a balance between moving ahead with that sense of momentum, but also carefully considering the implications at each stage."

She added: "The review is looking to build on the momentum that's been started by the CCF [Core Content Framework] and the ECF [Early Career Framework].

"But as I said earlier it's about getting that balance right and ensuring that actually we maintain the pace but while also recognising the pressures on the sector."

Challenged on this by Cat Scutt, director of education and research at the Chartered College, who argued that "you can have something fast, you can have it cheap, or you can have it done well, but you can't have all of those things", Ms Talbot said she "completely" agreed there would be "trade-offs".

"I think there's an interrelationship between speed and quality," she said.

"What the review is asking people is, 'here is a vision of how to ensure consistent high quality across the entire sector, and here is a timeline within which we're testing you to see if it's reasonable to expect you to be able to evidence your ability to deliver that high quality'. 

"And what people might come back and say is, 'well, actually yes that's fine', but they might also come back and say, 'actually no, that's not fine, because this is how long it will take us to make the changes needed in order to deliver that higher quality, and then it is after that we have to be able to evidence that to you'.

"So I completely agree with you about the trade-offs there."

On the timescale for the consultation itself, the bulk of which is scheduled to take place over the summer break, Ms Talbot said: "It's not designed to limit the amount of engagement, it's not designed to limit the response.

"As I said earlier, I do recognise that running the consultation over the summer holiday is challenging, but I would push back very slightly: would running it over the beginning of the autumn term be any less challenging?"

But Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College, told Tes that if officials go ahead with the current timescale, "they go ahead without a mandate from the profession".

"To try and do this without taking the profession with you is absolutely foolhardy," she said.

Asked by Ms Scutt why "it seems to be such a rush to bring in this reform", Ms Talbot said: "It is an ambitious timescale. And the view is that it is right to test an ambitious timescale and just see what is possible, because if we can ensure that every single ITT trainee receives a high-quality experience, then why wouldn't you want to do that as quickly as possible?"

But Dame Alison also pushed back against this suggestion.

She told Tes: "I think that the sector has consistently been judged to be good or outstanding in the past, I think they are trying to embed a new system, they're trying to work with partnership schools, it will take a little bit of bedding down, and that is not about sacrificing quality.

"In fact they're more likely to sacrifice quality as they distract the providers from what they're doing to try and get them more ready to be reaccredited. There's only so many hours in the day.

"So I completely would refute that as an argument and just say, 'well, surely this is just about fitting into the next political cycle so that you can get your changes in before government changes'."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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