Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence. ~Lin Yutang
This is the third in a hopeful series of posts about things I can possibly envisage happening in ITE following on from the Schools White Paper 2016. All depends on the quality of implementation and the DfE don’t have a great track record so this may represent a triumph of hope over experience but you never know…
2.28 We will seek to recognise both the best university and school-led ITT through guaranteed, longer-term allocation of training places, allowing providers to plan their provision into the future.
Guaranteed, longer-term allocation of training places, allowing providers to plan their provision into the future is an enormously welcome proposal. Everyone delivering ITE – HEIs and schools – has been facing the same problem of inability to commit to long-term development because of the level of uncertainty around allocations and therefore income. At Southampton we had a year with a PE PGCE running for one trainee teacher, RE numbers went down to 0 and then back up to 10, Chemistry dropped to 3 and then went so high we couldn’t fill it, and one of the best local SD alliances had their allocation cut in core subjects because they refused to put quantity over quality the previous year. However, the DfE need to be very careful not to think this is about protecting Cambridge rather than, say, Southampton. Although Cambridge History had a major fright this year, they had previously been protected for several years as a Grade 1 HEI whereas our allocations have been all over the place since the inception of SD. The problem of planning and development is probably most acute for providers like us and right now is not the time to be imagining that it might be possible to sort Grade 1 wheat (plenty of whom haven’t been inspected under the new, tougher Ofsted framework) from Grade 2 chaff.
I’ve been reading a bit recently about Professional Development Schools in the USA. There is a fine potential model (and some bitter experience) there for the Centres of Excellence for ITE proposed in the White Paper. Third hand murmuring suggests that the NCTL and DfE haven’t got much of a clue what these Centres of Excellence might look like: whether they would be pretty ubiquitous with most existing providers involved, or rare and exclusive; whether there would be strict criteria based on Ofsted reports, academic credentials, ITE Performance Profiles, etc. or some kind of ‘making the case’ bidding process; whether there would be a regional aspect to the allocation, or ten in London and none in the north-east, say.
It is clear to me that ITE in this country is currently too fragmented. As the number of both routes, and providers, has multiplied by several times, it has left large numbers of small organisations (including the relatively small education schools at many universities) struggling to cope with the adminstrative and organisational burden of running teacher training. All these small organisations are operating in parallel and endlessly duplicating work. There is a clear case for consolidation into more formal and semi-permanent partnerships, not only schools with an HEI or SCITT but actually between several HEI/SCITTs and the schools across their combined partnerships. Ideologically this may go against the grain of fierce local competition allegedly driving up standards but the economies of scale could provide the capacity to really develop the quality in a way that is difficult at the moment. Quite rightly, partnership quality has tended to be at the heart of evaluation of ITE provision and there is evidence from PDSs in the USA, and various programmes here (not least Teach First) to suggest that the Centres of Excellence policy could be a really important driver towards this better state of play. It needs a bit of time to develop ideas, to get some initial models up and running and learn lessons from these, but an end goal of large, strong, local but world-leading partnerships, in which school leadership and coal-face expertise combine with high quality academic research and experience of supporting trainee teachers, is worth taking the time to do properly. As long as we don’t have a ridiculously rushed bidding process, set up before anyone actually knows what they’re looking for, this could be something to celebrate. DfE, don’t let us down!