‘Tight control’ feared in new teacher training curriculum

1st July 2016 at 00:00
Ministerial influence criticised as sources suggest ITT will highlight phonics and maths mastery

Maths mastery and phonics are expected to be emphasised in the forthcoming core curriculum for initial teacher training, TES can reveal.

A “high-level” document, due to be published in the next few weeks, is expected to steer clear of prescribing exact content. But it is understood from sources who have seen drafts that some specific areas have been included.

The mention of maths mastery techniques, which reduce the amount of differentiated teaching, and the emphasis on phonics – first introduced into the qualified teacher status standards in 2012 – will reignite debate over the balance of educational theory and practical techniques in teacher training.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, expressed concern.

“The Department for Education has to take into account ministerial views,” Dr Bousted said. “We know the current schools minister, Nick Gibb, has very clear views about phonics and against chunking in mathematics.

“This should be a high-level document about ensuring that teachers have got good subject knowledge relating to the school curriculum, a sensible statement to ensure they are trained in the teaching of key concepts and knowledge of the national curriculum.

“But it’s not left at that. It becomes very precise and detailed. What the government should be doing is broad policy direction. But leave the rest to the profession, whether it is teacher trainers or teachers, and then hold them to account. That is the mantra they preach, but they practice tight control.”

TES understands that within the expert group that drew up the curriculum, there were “heated debates” and “tricky” conversations about what should be included and the language used in the document.

Room for interpretation

One source of contention for the group was the degree of freedom that training providers should be given to teach particular theories of pedagogy. But sources insist that all of the disputes were resolved.

“The final document leaves space for people to interpret what excellent pedagogy is, so if you believe it, then you have space to do it,” one source said.

The review of the initial teacher training (ITT) curriculum was led by Stephen Munday, chief executive of Comberton Academy Trust, and was due to report in the spring 2016. The findings are currently with ministers and are expected to be released soon.

It was set up after a review of teacher training led by Sir Andrew Carter found “variability in ITT content” and recommended that a framework of core content was developed.

Sir Andrew, executive headteacher of South Farnham School in Surrey, told a Westminster Education Forum event last week that the new core content would expect teacher trainers to look at behaviour issues and to have a good research base.

“There are issues around subject knowledge, particularly in primary schools,” he added.

Sir Andrew argued that rather than being mandatory, the new curriculum should be something that Ofsted would take notice of during inspections. This would mean that instead of being “ticked off”, the inspectorate would look at whether it could be improved.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has confirmed that autism training will be included in the new core content for ITT. But until now other details have been scarce.

Special educational needs and disability (SEND) was highlighted as a particular concern in the Carter review, which recommended that trainees should have placements in special schools, or specialist provision in mainstream schools, wherever possible.

The review process has been taking place during a time of extreme uncertainty in ITT, amid attempts to rapidly increase the number of trainees in school-led provision. Despite this, the School Direct route has consistently filled a lower proportion of its allocated places than universities, and the government said in its recent schools White Paper that there would continue to be “an important place for high-quality universities in ITT”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The report is being considered by ministers and will be published in due course.”


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