Exclusive: Ofsted accused of 'adversarial' ITT 'agenda'

Recent teacher training downgrades by the inspectorate reflects concerns the government has about the sector, Tes understands

Amy Gibbons

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Ofsted has been accused of taking a "much more adversarial approach" to teacher training inspections and "pushing a particular agenda" as the government considers a proposal to put all providers through a "rigorous" reaccreditation process.

The first wave of initial teacher training (ITT) inspections under the new Ofsted framework – which have seen one provider downgraded from "outstanding" to "inadequate", and several others' ratings slip – include examples of concerns that government has about the sector, Tes understands.

The recent damning Ofsted reports have stirred unrest among providers, who are facing a raft of reforms proposed by the expert advisory group behind the DfE's ITT review.

Related: Ofsted rates ITT providers 'inadequate' in new checks

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And they have sparked a fierce backlash from the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) – which told Tes it had heard "inspectors are taking a much more adversarial approach than they have in the past, almost as if they have been tasked with finding ITE [initial teacher education] providers at fault".

James Noble-Rogers, UCET's executive director, said: "It is as if Ofsted's previous inspection frameworks, and the judgements of their own inspectors over many years, have suddenly found to be flawed."

Until last week, when the first reports under the new framework were released, all initial teacher training providers in the country had been judged to be "good" or "outstanding" by the watchdog at their most recent previous inspection. 

However, almost half of the 11 new reports published on 14 July identified some failings in the training on offer.

And there have since been two more providers downgraded following their most recent inspections.

Liverpool Hope University went from "good" to "requires improvement" across both its primary and secondary phases, and received a new judgement of "inadequate" for its further education offer.

Meanwhile, Consilium SCITT in Salford had its overall rating knocked down from "outstanding" to "inadequate".

UCET told Tes it had submitted a freedom of information request to Ofsted asking how the ITT review report's findings are "mapped against the feedback given to individual ITE providers at the time of the visits".

Responding to the consultation on the proposals, Mr Noble-Rogers said: "Our position has remained clear and unwavering since the formation of the department's expert advisory group: this overhaul of the teacher training sector is not only poorly timed, but represents an existential threat to the very future of the teaching profession and its subsequent ability to provide a high-quality education."

He warned that UCET had already received reports that course leaders were "suffering mental and physical ill health as a direct result of recent demoralising Ofsted inspections", which he claimed "do appear to being undertaken with flagrant disregard for providers in order to push a particular agenda".

"Through its inability to listen to key stakeholders, or take their concerns seriously, the DfE has achieved quite the feat in managing to alienate and unite a diverse range of bodies and organisations working across the sector, including those representing school leaders, teacher unions, professional associations and representative bodies. This alone should make the government think again," Mr Noble-Rogers said.

"If the department continues to stick its head in the sand and forge ahead with the review as it currently exists, it can no longer expect to count on the good faith and expertise of the sector to engage any further with these destabilising and hollow proposals."

The DfE and Ofsted have been approached for comment.

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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