Initial teacher training providers have been hit by a “nightmare” failure of the Department for Education’s new IT system for tracking trainee teachers, Tes can reveal.
The ‘trainee teacher portal’ has been down for hours on end, providers have battled to upload information and communication from the DfE has been lacking, Tes has been told.
One teacher training expert said that the “vitally important” system was partly used to trigger bursaries, raising concerns that if the problems are not resolved trainees might not receive the correct payments.
The portal is a new version of a DfE system which is used to track individuals through their teacher training.
After an ITT provider has recruited an individual through Ucas, they are required to upload their details onto the portal, which allows the DfE to keep tabs on the progress of individuals through their training, including when they receive QTS and what grade they are awarded.
Emma Hollis, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, told Tes that the portal was a “vitally important” system.
“It’s the communication between each provider and the DfE to say what’s happening on that teacher’s journey through ITT,” she said.
However, the new system has gone down repeatedly, sometimes for hours at a time. The IT failures have resulted in the DfE extending its deadline for providers to submit data from the 26th October to the 2nd November.
With many providers struggling to use the system, the DfE service desk had been inundated with incidents, Ms Hollis said.
“I think what’s happened is that the team trying to deal with the technical issues has just been overwhelmed,” she said.
“It’s spiralled into one of those nightmare situations where they’ve just been struggling to keep on top of everything.”
She said providers had “panicked” that they might not be able to meet the DfE’s deadline for uploading data.
Ms Hollis said the system was particularly important because it was used to process bursary payments.
“Part of the worry is that the data that goes into the system triggers accurate bursary payments, so there’s a financial implication to that stuff not being in place on time, for bursaries to be paid to the trainees.
“Potentially they might not have the right amount of money being issued.”
Providers have also criticised the DfE’s lack of communication.
One provider, who preferred not to be named, said: “The common factor for us has been the lack of communication with providers to alert them to the issues and notify them when solutions have been actioned.
“Their only real response to date has been to keep extending the deadline, but this does not recompense providers for the additional time we have all had to invest to try to make these new systems work.”
James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, told Tes that his members had also experienced “teething troubles” with the system.
“It’s not the sort of thing you want when you’ve got recruitment problems anyway,” he said.
A DfE spokeswoman said: “We have recently experienced some technical issues while changing over to our new trainee teacher portal.
"Every effort was made to quickly inform users of these issues and the majority of reported issues have now been resolved and we will be looking to implement fixes to those that remain as quickly as possible to minimise disruption to our users.
"These issues will have no effect on bursary funding and providers have already received two payments, made last month and earlier this month .”