About a quarter of the teachers eligible for the ICT training from the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) have so far taken up the offer. The Teacher Training Agency (TTA) is hoping that 4 per cent will have signed up by December. The consequence is that this year there will be a rush that could trouble some of the providers. It also means that the majority of schools and teachers are still looking for advice about which provider to choose. Their task is not easy. There are many providers to choose from and there is no more information at the beginning of this school year than last year, not because it does not exist but because it has not been released to the press or, more importantly, to schools.
The TTA has been engaged in the Quality Assurance process since the beginning of this year. People who have been involved are happy that it is both rigorous and fair. When a provider is examined, the quality of their work is affirmed or they are told that there are some matters requiring attention. If there are matters requiring attention then they are given a period to remedy the situation. If they cannot or will not do that, the TTA will recommend to the NOF that the provider should be removed from the approved list. If the NOF accepts that recommendation, the decision will immediately be made public. There is an appeals procedure.
It is all reminiscent of the OFSTED process in schools but with some important differences. The main one is that the TTA process is done covertly. Ralph Tabberer, the chief executive of the TTA, argues that like OFSTED the results are not published until the process is complete. However, those training providers who have already been re-approved are not published. Earlier this year we reported that the Technology Colleges' Trust had been put on to the TTA version of special measures. Now we hear that The Learning Schools Programme (LSP) has been asked to change some of its materials. LSP acknowledges that and is happy to comply. Both organisations acknowledge that they are in a new situation and are happy to learn. But the TTA resolutely refuses to open the process and the results of that process to scrutiny.
There may well be other providers who re causing concern but we will not hear of those from the TTA. Frankie Sulke, head of teacher training at the TTA, argues that schools need not be concerned as all the providers that are on the list circulated from NOF are approved and will remain so until a decision is taken to remove one and then schools will be informed. She also adds that she would not like to do that.
That is a benevolent, supportive view. Schools on special measures from OFSTED would probably be happy to accept this kind of regime. The fact is that schools in a similar position, whose reputations are just as important as any training provider, would be immediately publicly named and shamed as a prelude to being closed.
One headteacher, who doesn't want to be named due to the secrecy of the scheme, makes the point: "We cannot have too much information. What we have been given so far is probably now out of date and does not contain enough detail. Schools should be able to request from a central source detailed information on any of the providers and that might include case studies that have been written to a TTA or NOF brief, not sales talk. The first information circulated to schools was written 18 months ago, before the training. Quite a great deal must have been learnt in the first year or so. Why then do schools have to choose in the dark?"
Ralph Tabberer chief executive of the TTA says: "We agree that schools need as much information as possible about the style and format of training to make these decisions. We are working closely with NOF, LEAs and providers on a range of activities to help on this front, including organising taster events for schools and publishing case studies of teachers who have been through different types of training."
One provider supporting the case for more information says: "Judging by all the queries we have had from schools, it seems that there is a strong case for the TTA to say which providers have successfully gone through the Quality Assurance process. Most schools are poised to decide and do not have the essential information."
With 75 per cent of schools still to go through the process the case for some very hard information is clear.