Trainers cast into perilous popularity contest

Teaching colleges will fold if schools don't rate them, says Gove

Kerra Maddern

Teacher training colleges will be allowed to "go out of business" if they are not popular with schools, Michael Gove has said. The "weakest" providers will no longer be able to operate once radical reforms to the system for preparing new teachers are fully up and running, the education secretary claimed.

Courses rated "satisfactory" or "requires improvement" by Ofsted will no longer be allocated places by the Department for Education. Instead, the providers' only means of survival will be persuading schools to buy their services.

"If schools don't rate their provision, they will go out of business," Mr Gove told headteachers at the National College for School Leadership annual conference last week.

The changes, designed to improve the quality of initial teacher training, will allow outstanding providers to receive guaranteed allocations of places for two years at a time - double the notice they currently enjoy. Good providers will be allocated places on a yearly basis, as they are now. Those rated "satisfactory", "requires improvement" or worse will see their funding for places withdrawn by 2014-15, and the number of places allocated to them for 2013-14 will be significantly reduced.

To make matters worse for these institutions, if inspectors twice decide that a course requires improvement, the college will be stripped of its accreditation as a training provider by the DfE.

"If an initial teacher training provider isn't delivering the sort of high-quality, highly respected training that each new teacher deserves and needs, then they have no place delivering training at all," Mr Gove said. "The weakest providers will no longer be in business. They will have been de-accredited following Ofsted inspections or unable to persuade schools to commission...them."

James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said that the change could lead to providers "pulling out" of teacher training.

"If most universities have to scratch around bidding for places each year, some will say they are not going to bother with that," he said. "This will be destabilising."

Martin Thompson, chair of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, said: "This will bring in a lot more instability that providers have not had before.

"The impact of the loss of a stable market is difficult to predict at the moment. But if providers want to stay open they will have to have strong relationships with individual schools."

Between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2011, a total of 33 teacher training providers were rated "satisfactory" by Ofsted. Two were judged to be inadequate.

Mr Gove said that the "cumulative impact of these changes on initial teacher training will be revolutionary". He wants half of all student teachers to be trained in schools by 2015, many through Teach First and the new employment-based School Direct course. Other student teachers will study for PGCEs on courses rated "outstanding".

"We will no longer guarantee places to institutions rated 'good' or lower. They will compete for training places through School Direct, designing courses in collaboration with schools. If schools don't rate their provision, they will go out of business," Mr Gove said. "This represents a huge opportunity for school leaders: to take control of teacher training; to create programmes that reflect their school's ethos; to recruit better trainees."

However, teacher training expert Professor John Howson said the reforms may "not make much difference" because of the small numbers of providers that receive poor ratings from Ofsted.

Making the grade

Outcome of all initial teacher training provider inspections between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2011:

106 Outstanding

197 Good

33 Satisfactory

2 Inadequate.

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Kerra Maddern

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