The “quality and effectiveness” of teacher training courses is to be reviewed, Michael Gove has announced, in what has been branded a further attack on university education departments.
The education secretary said the review, which was launched today, will seek to “define effective ITT [initial teacher training] practice”, while recommending ways to improve teacher training overall.
But the announcement was greeted with concern by university representatives, who warned that it would be little more than a “smokescreen”, allowing the government to focus on creating more teaching schools and strengthening its own teacher training programme, School Direct.
Since coming to power, Mr Gove has made little secret of his scepticism of university training courses, and made the creation of teaching schools, where trainees learn on the job, one of his first reforms.
Back in 2012, the Cabinet member signalled his intention for more than half of all teacher training places to be delivered in school. He also stated that any providers that were handed two “requires improvement” judgements by Ofsted would be “swiftly de-accredited”.
Announcing today’s review, Mr Gove said there was never a better time to be a teacher, with 9,000 more teachers in the classroom.
“While we have already taken steps to improve teacher training, including through the popular School Direct route, it is right that we look at how we can ensure all courses are providing the best possible training,” he added.
But the decision was met with anxiety from university think tank Million+.
“Mr Gove continues to think that university education departments are the problem rather than a solution to ensuring that schools throughout the country have highly qualified teachers in the classroom,” Pam Tatlow, its chief executive, said.
“When schools are reporting increasing difficulties in recruiting teachers and ministers have said that there is already the best generation of teachers working in classrooms today, there has to be a concern that this review is a smokescreen.”
She added: “Universities will want assurances that the review will take a balanced approach.
"But they will also need to be convinced that this is not just designed to divert attention away from the government’s ambition to create 600 teaching schools by 2016 and divert more teaching training numbers away from higher education.”
The review will be conducted by Andrew Carter, headteacher of South Farnham School, who will be expected to report his findings by the end of the year.
The decision to examine teacher training provision was welcomed by heads' leaders. The Association of School and College Leaders said it was important for trainees to be given the best possible preparation.
“There have been extensive changes to initial teacher training in recent years with the introduction of Schools Direct, and we know there have been issues with shortages in some key subjects,” general secretary Brian Lightman said.
“Therefore it is the right time to look at quality and effectiveness, and see what is working well and what can be improved.”