Teacher trainees are being taught how to "maximise Progress 8 scores" at the expense of developing subject knowledge, according to new Ofsted research.
A minority of teacher training providers are encouraging trainees to plan their lessons "working backwards" from Year 11 in order to boost exam scores, according to Ofsted.
The inspectorate visited a variety of teacher training providers and identified factors lowering the quality of the curriculum among some of them. These included a focus on improving Progress 8 scores over subject knowledge.
Background: Ofsted to focus on teacher training curriculum
"In a minority of partnerships, inspectors found poor practice that had an impact on trainees’ knowledge, understanding and practical application of teaching skills," the report says.
"In a few secondary partnerships, for instance, teacher education was focused more on how to maximise Progress 8 scores rather than on subject knowledge pedagogy."
The report expands on the issue, saying: "Weaker SCITT [school-centred initial teaching training] provision was characterised by weaknesses in the delivery of subject-specific pedagogy because the expertise was not always available.
Ofsted teacher training fears
"In secondary programmes, this led to trainees not developing an in-depth understanding of their subject. In the weakest examples, it led to an ITE [initial teacher education] curriculum geared towards educating trainees on how to maximise Progress 8 scores.
"...For example, in two secondary SCITT partnerships, it became clear that trainees were being taught to plan their curriculum working backwards from what was required for Year 11 in order to maximise Progress 8 scores."
The report adds: "Some partnerships we visited were concerned about the amount of time to cover every aspect of teaching in enough depth. This had consequences for programme design, particularly when providers tried to fit too much in rather than consider their curriculum priorities.
"Curriculum imbalance, when a major aspect of teaching became the focus of the programme over other equally important areas, was also a concern in some providers.
"Offering only a surface-level coverage of important areas of teaching is unlikely to meet trainees’ needs. This was particularly an issue with subject knowledge in the foundation subjects of primary teacher education."
The report forms part of the research Ofsted announced last year into how it can best inspect curriculum quality in teacher training providers.
The research was carried out in two phases, with findings from the latter published today. The first phase attempted to define important components of a quality teacher training curriculum, which could be used to build a testable research model.
Today's report concludes: "Overall, this study gives us confidence that we can assess important factors aligned with curriculum quality in ITE. The findings and evidence are being used to inform the development of the new inspection methodology and shaping of the inspection handbook."
It says the research provides "greater certainty" on what factors underpin the quality of an ITE curriculum - including communication and building relationships within the partnership; high-quality and focused mentor training; and strong curriculum planning across partnership thresholds.
The research involved visits to 46 ITE partnerships, including 24 SCITTs, 20 higher education institutions and two Teach First partnerships.