This is Part 2 of a little series on recruitment to post-graduate initial teacher training.
- Part 1: Bear or bull? is a broad view of the implications of this year’s radical changes.
In my last post I worried that the radical changes to ITT allocations could drive down quality and be hard to control. In this one I want to highlight one small loss along the way.
One of the strengths of the SD route is the really excellent integration of trainee teachers into the professional life of the school and department within which they are working and training. Unlike HEI trainee teachers they start in school on the first day of the Autumn term and often stay until the last day of the Summer term. To children, they are generally seen as just another teacher, and there are distinct advantages to this. On the other hand, if a school or alliance makes a poor recruitment decision then the flexibility that an HEI (or large SCITT) has to move the trainee teacher to a more appropriate placement is missing. This makes the recruitment process critical.
Now, I don’t want to dwell on the difficulties of getting this right. Although we have had some experience of schools in our partnership making bad decisions and offering to applicants that we have advised against, and also have seen applicants rejected who would have almost certainly been just fine had they applied for university-led, we have a really productive relationship with our partnership schools and alliances, work closely together to get recruitment right, and the vast majority of SD trainee teachers are excellent. So this post is about the particularly thorough approach one SD alliance takes to recruitment, and the difficulty of maintaining this in the face of changes to allocations.
Within this alliance there is a two-stage interview and selection process. The first interview is conducted in one of the alliance schools and includes a pupil panel and a fairly typical recruitment interview, which includes a representative of the university and one or more professional mentors from schools in the alliance. There is nothing unusual in this; it’s the next stage that makes the process so strong. Having made first round decisions, school preferences are discussed with the successful applicants and they are then asked to spend a day in the school they are potentially going to train in. This usually happens within a week or so of the first interview round. During that day, they spend a lot of time with the relevant subject department, do some work with children in class, and carry out a short teaching session. If the fit with the department is good then they are offered a place; if not, then they might be asked to do the same thing in another school within the alliance, or be rejected. Equally, of course, the applicant might not be impressed, in which case they are likely to go with one of the other two providers they’ve applied to.
Under the new system there is a major problem in popular subjects. The NCTL have been clear that when they close a subject, any offers made will be honoured. The have been rather vaguer on what happens to those applicants who are in the process of being interviewed when a subject closes; I think if they are interviewed and the offer is then made on the same day that the subject closes, this will be okay. However, at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any way to protect applicants between two interview stages so the model described above risks a subject closure before the second selection stage.
This takes me back to my concern that the new system may drive down quality. Although it is lengthy and expensive in terms of staff time, the two stage model has delivered excellent matching of schools and trainee teachers. It’s not the end of the world; other alliances in our partnership have managed very well with single stage interviews in the training school. But it’s a good model and it will be a shame if it’s no longer viable.
Beyond this small loss, I’ve always thought that university-led and SD selection could be more integrated, with benefits for all, perhaps drawing to some extent on the model described above. I’ll explore this in my next post.