'We need different routes to attract the best trainees into the classroom'
As an employer I’m always keen to take on newly qualified teachers (NQTs).
NQTs arrive in school with fresh insights, energy, enthusiasm and an optimistic view. But nowadays, NQTs can come to teaching through a broad spectrum of training options, and this often leaves me wondering which teacher-training programme best prepares our future educators for the classroom. I need my teachers to hit the ground running, so they can deliver outstanding results.
For the past two years we have been running a School Direct programme for primary trainees – but in January 2015 we won accreditation as a School-Centre for Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) and our first 31 trainees under this route began earlier this month.
Being a SCITT puts us more in control of pedagogical practice. We are able to choose the people doing the training and we know exactly the quality of those teacher mentors.
With School Direct, trainees get 40 days of out-of-class training a year. This was split into 20 days in school and 20 days at the university, in our case the University of Southampton. With the SCITT they still get 40 days of training, but these are all school-based days, so it maximises the amount of time we have to train the students in what we think is important.
The university route is by no means the wrong one, but it has two weaknesses: a number of years ago the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) would leave trainees relatively skilled in teaching maths, English and science but was a bit thin in the other areas of the curriculum. Also the quality of mentors on teaching practice was difficult to ensure.
Now we run our own programme with additional elements of history, art, geography and other subjects, and we know that every tutor we are working with meets our standards. They are good or outstanding practitioners in good or outstanding schools. We have taken on that responsibility.
We have worked with the University of Southampton and the University of Winchester on School Direct and both have been excellent.
We will be working with the University of Winchester on the SCITT and are very happy with the deal. It has a strong academic background in teacher training, will provide the academic research support and facilitate the academic elements of the assignments.
The teaching profession needs university education departments to keep up with research. They need good links with practitioners to do research. And we do not want to remove academic rigour from the development of teachers – I think that is important. Everything we do is linked to master's credits and, I believe, we need to move towards a master's qualified profession.
But we do need teachers who can deliver outstanding results after a year of training. If they have already trained for a whole year in school and been immersed in learning how to prepare and plan lessons over time, rather than just when they are on a six-week or 10-week placement, that helps them. We need to make sure that public money is being used in a cost-effective way and we have people training our trainees in the best possible practice.
I believe we offer high-quality training for people in our local area, but it is not for everyone. Some trainees would rather do traditional postgraduate study than follow the route we are offering and with the country needing to increase teacher supply, we need different routes in order to get the best candidates into the profession.
If the university training route was removed we would lose a section of potential teachers of the future, so it is a fine balancing act.