Hope over Experience: ITE and The Schools White Paper 2016

I find it very difficult to forgive Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan, and ministers for the almost continuous barrage of reforms that inevitably add to teacher workload, often deflect attention away from the kind of deep praxis that could genuinely and permanently affect children’s learning, and frequently turn out to be about as evidence-based as a celebrity diet. My last post was a bit of a rant about exactly this reaction to one part of the recent Schools White Paper, where the most unconvincing of evidence was used to support a continuation of the move away from university-led ITE.

However, the thing that really saddens me is that there is a lot of worthwhile thinking and plenty of good ideas throughout not only this White Paper but also the 2010 effort, and many of the other things proposed since then. I always thought Gove’s heart was in the right place (although he was tremendously restricted by an unswerving belief that what worked for him was right for millions of other low SES children, and an ability to consider everyone in disagreement as ignorant). GCSE structures and particularly ‘equivalent’ qualifications did need an overhaul; Progress 8 is better than 5A*-CEM; assessment based on fine levels and vague generic statements did need to go; the pupil premium funding shift has taken a small step to address the inequalities in our education system (thanks to the Lib dems); teachers who find that a traditional approach works for them mostly no longer have to pretend otherwise whenever anyone is watching; there have been some welcome opportunities for interesting experiments within the system; in some ways schools have been freer to make their own decisions based on their individual contexts; and quality of teaching has very clearly and correctly been at the heart, at least of the rhetoric. The sad part is that ministers have repeatedly proven unable to implement reform other than through the creative destruction that (according to David Laws) led to Cameron labelling Gove as a Maoist. Trying to change the whole of the National Curriculum, GCSEs and A-Levels all at the same time is a bit like deciding to perform a major house renovation and then trying to lay expensive new floors and decorate at the same time as re-wiring, changing the plumbing, and knocking a couple of walls down. And living in the bloody thing! Inevitably it has been horrendously disruptive and there are a lot of botched jobs that will take years to sort out. The embarrassing errors in the Science GCSE Core Content, the delay in accrediting GCSEs that are already being taught, the total mess over KS2 assessment guidance, and the debacle over KS1 baseline assessments are some examples that show that even the DfE can’t keep up with their own ministers’ pace, never mind teachers and schools. The introduction of free schools has allowed some tremendous innovation but where a few dozen carefully chosen flowers would have been a lovely addition to the education garden, a thousand of them has been an awfully expensive exercise in random digging and embarrassing weeding.

Attempting to rip up university-led ITE before properly piloting the replacement, just as a population bulge was entering the school system, wasn’t overly clever either. So what of the major proposals for ITE this time around?

There are several ideas in this White Paper that could be really positive developments. I started this post intending to avoid DfE-bashing and the first three paragraphs have been a dismal failure on my part so let’s park that for the moment and try harder.

The White Paper essentially makes five proposals: a clear framework for ITT core content; new quality criteria; guaranteed longer-term allocation of places for the best providers; creation of centres of excellence; replacement of QTS with a new accreditation controlled by Teaching Schools. I’m going to try to look on the bright side, put hope before exprience, and try to imagine the world-leading ITE provision we might be moving towards if these ideas are implemented well. Here are five posts that build of the vision in the White Paper:

  1. What Might (Really) Work? A clear framework for ITT core content
  2. Solving the Puzzle by Finding the Pieces: New quality criteria for ITE
  3. Stability at last: Guaranteed longer-term allocation of places for the best providers
  4. Teaching Hospitals, Professional Development Schools and the Current Fragmented System: Creation of centres of excellence
  5. In for the Long Haul: Replacement of QTS with a new accreditation controlled by Teaching Schools










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