Schoolzone blog: Teacher training under threat

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10 Nov 2014

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Universities which train teachers are feeling the pinch as School Direct is drawing teachers away to be trained in schools. In three years the places allocated to universities has fallen by almost a quarter. They have two main concerns about this:

  • If university ITT departments become unsustainable they won't be able to support schools who still need them - and they're finding it more diffcult to place students in schools
  • They won't be big enough to support the shortage STEM subjects either - and since Schools Direct isn't doing well at this either, the teacher shortage could be exaggerated.

According to the latest report from Universities UK, "data shows that the new School Direct training route recruited only two-thirds of its allocation in 2013–14, while university (and other core) recruitment exceeded 90% of its allocation. Whereas School Direct has been more successful in recruiting trainees into subjects such as English and history, it has been less so in STEM subjects. This has contributed to a shortfall in the number of trainee teachers recruited into several subject areas, such as mathematics and physics."

Schools taking part in School Direct have generally welcomed the initiative, and most teachers feel that it's the school experience that teaches them the most useful skills, rather than the time in college.

However, leaving aside the impact on shortage subjects, which could be incredibly damaging in its own right, we surely don’t want to risk undermining university departments, where so much useful work goes on in researching, developing, testing and evaluating educational initiatives and projects as well as in supporting schools through CPD and subject networks. Plus, if all ITT is delivered in schools, the profession risks losing some of its ideals and professionalism. It’s fine at the moment, because the staff in schools doing the training were themselves trained in universities, by and large. But over time this will be less and less the case and we could eventually find ourselves working as a trade, with teachers entering the trade as apprentices.

This should all be seen in the context of other changes affecting teacher recruitment, such as performance management and pension changes, academies having greater flexibility in recruitment, tougher curriculum and ITT courses being more difficult to pass. There has been a dip of around 2,500 applications for education courses this year as a result of a combination of these and other factors.

Universities have accepted and worked alongside the School Direct initiative and they continue to work alongside schools in ITT, but they feel the rate of the switch from their education departments to schools has been too rapid and the numbers year on year are now fluctuating too much to be able to plan ahead effectively, undermining their sustainability.

Meanwhile, School Direct schools are doing well from the programme, enjoying the greater control, the benefits to the school community, the extra cash... and universities are in general happy to join in and provide whatever support is necessary. But we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we denude the universities, schools will certainly suffer as a result.

 

 

 

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