Ofsted to fail ITT providers over non-phonics reading

Draft new inspection handbook shows it will not be enough for trainee teachers to be taught phonics

Teaching phonics to an early years group

Teacher trainers who do not exclusively teach a specific form of phonics to their students will be failed by Ofsted, according to the draft details of new inspections.

Ofsted's new inspection handbook, currently out for consultation, states that primary initial teacher training (ITT) providers will be rated "inadequate" for "quality of education and training" if they teach any reading methods other than systematic synthetic phonics.


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It states that: “The quality of education and training is inadequate if any one of the following applies: … Primary training does not ensure that trainees only learn to teach early reading using systematic synthetic phonics.”

If a provider is rated "inadequate" for "the quality of education and training" judgement, it will fail the inspection overall.

The handbook also states that primary trainees should "learn to teach early reading using systematic synthetic phonics as outlined in the ITT core content framework" and should not be taught to "use competing approaches to early reading that are not supported by the most up-to-date evidence".

Previously, providers would be rated "inadequate" for "quality of training across the partnership" if inspectors found that "primary trainees are insufficiently prepared to teach systematic synthetic phonics and/or primary mathematics".

Up until now, there has been no mention of exclusively teaching the specific reading method.

Last year, school standards minister Nick Gibb declared victory in the "phonics wars" by saying that the "debate is over" about the best way to teach reading.

But recent analysis of the evidence by a university lecturer directly contradicted Mr Gibb's claims.

A 10-week consultation on the proposed changes to teacher training inspection will finish on 3 April.  

Ofsted will then begin inspecting teacher training providers from January 2021. 

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: "Ofsted’s ITE framework consultation is currently open until 3 April 2020. We would encourage anybody who has thoughts about the proposal to engage wholeheartedly with the consultation process."

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