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Initial Teacher Training – What the ITT annual report 2021 means for primary schools

How will the latest ITT Market Review realistically impact primary schools?

  • Initial Teacher Training – What the ITT annual report 2021 means for primary schools

The publication of the Department for Education’s Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Market Review Report in July 2021 has caused much discussion as to the real-world role of initial teacher training.

Indeed, the 2021 report starts to use the word ‘review’ interchangeably with the word ‘reform’. By page four, the panel ‘concluded that significant reform in the ITT market is essential’.

Much of the rest of the report, and the almost shockingly short accompanying consultation, focused on the idea that reform is needed in ITT.

I could dwell on the lack of evidence presented to support this particular view, but the decision has already been made at government level.

To facilitate this, the report provides 14 recommendations, with five broad themes including course design, mentoring, assessment, accreditation and quality assurance. But what might this mean for ITT partnerships in the primary sector? 

Course design

Course design refers in particular to curriculum, structure and professional placements. School partners may have noticed changes to longstanding programme structures and content already that reflect this, along with more explicit instruction to trainees to identify and critique evidence-based practice in schools.

The review also recommends that every ITT course should include an intensive placement experience for groups of trainees within an extended programme that mirrors as closely as possible the entire school year. 

For schools, this means: 

  • Having students earlier in the year, and for longer periods.
  • Developing greater awareness of the curriculum content of local providers to support stage-appropriate evaluation and reflection on classroom practice.
  • Finding classroom and mentor capacity to provide classroom experiences sharply focused on the development of particular aspects of the role through specific and targeted feedback.

While there is no question these are positive measures for trainees, there may be concerns for smaller primary settings around capacity to support.

There are also settings that offer placements but do not involve themselves in the holistic details of the training programme, often because they work with more than one provider, and this would become untenable in an effective partnership.

Mentoring

The review also calls for a much more structured approach to identifying and training mentors linked to NPQs.

For schools, this means:

  • Identifying and releasing staff members for the purpose of providing mentor support which may have financial and staff-student ratio implications.
  • Ensuring that staff members at all levels engage with national and local mentor training and adhere to agreed principles.

Where principles have not been agreed between provider and partner, schools may need to have an additional conversation to ensure consistency and sufficiency of support.

While national standards for mentoring have been developed, there may be variation between providers’ approach and that will affect schools working with more than one.

Assessment

The recent changes to the ITT Core Content Framework and the Ofsted Inspection Framework for ITT have consolidated a move away from using the Teachers’ Standards as part of the formative assessment of practice, with more emphasis on assessment against the providers’ ITT curriculum.

For schools, this means:

  • Using the greater awareness of local providers’ curriculums to make judgements on trainees’ progress appropriate to the stage of their course.

Schools may find the changes to processes in this area challenging, as so many current teachers trained using the standards as part of an assessment framework.

Liaising closely with local providers and fully engaging with mentor training will alleviate initial confusion or difficulties.

Accreditation and quality assurance

It is proposed that existing providers seek reaccreditation against as yet unknown criteria, although rigorous quality assurance is recommended as a condition. 

For schools, this means:

  • Longstanding partnerships may dissolve if provider institutions decide not to reaccredit their ITT provision.
  • Systems and processes for quality assurance in schools may change as part of the drive to increase rigour.

In addition, the review indicates a desire to make involvement in ITT part of the education inspection framework and expansion plans for MATs.

It also heavily encourages the development of networks centred on teaching school hubs and the as yet undeveloped Institute of Teaching. 

When all is said and done, the ITT Market Review does not actually contain many surprises, but it does strongly indicate reforms that are already happening.

However, primary schools in the UK are used to change, now more than ever. As a result, I am ultimately positive about the future.

Review or reform: whatever change the ITT Market Review brings, we will adapt in partnership with our schools, providers and settings working together. That is our strength as a sector.


Dr Branwen Bingle is the head of primary ITE at Newman University, Birmingham. Follow Branwen on Twitter at @BranwenBingle.

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