Stuff like this is really sad to see

Matt Burnage wrote a somewhat devastating thread about ITT on Twitter recently. You can read it here and he’s also written more about the use of the Teachers’ Standards in ITT .

I completely understand where he’s coming from and I thought I’d get my thoughts down on each of the points he’s made and some reasons why it might seem like ITT Providers, and/or schools, are dragging their feet. These are just my own thoughts. At my place there is a good element of collaborative decision making but my role is more like a HoD than SLT.

I can’t do the thread justice in one go, so I’m going to try to take the points one by one, but I’m going to make two general points first.

ITT Providers get a fair bit of stick about being out of touch with schools by either pushing trainee teachers in unhelpful directions due to progressive agendas (minimal teacher talk for instance), or ignorance (of CLT, or retrieval practice effects, maybe), or inertia (grading lessons), or our own lack of competence (behaviour). All I would say is that preparing and supporting trainee teachers to thrive across a wide range of schools in our partnership is not the same thing as producing a teacher that fits well in one setting. For example, our partnership includes a school moderately well-known nationally for it’s very tight, centrally-managed behaviour policy and another that uses restorative conversations. Both are very effective with low SES cohorts and have massive P8 scores. I’m slowly and carefully feeling my way into more practice of behaviour scripts but I think a lot of the heavy-lifting needs to be done in a school setting. Similarly, there are things I push (like the evidence in support of explicit instruction) where I know there will be some push back in some placements. It’s no help to a trainee teacher if I say that trying to reduce teacher talk is wrong, if that’s exactly what they get told in school. So, I have no problem making sure trainee teachers are aware of the evidence of retrieval practice, for example, but I tend to be a bit circumspect about being prescriptive about classroom practice. I’ll certainly say what I would do, and make recommendations, but I’m not about to put trainees into immediate conflict with school-based mentors. Sometimes it’s not even wrong. If you’ve ever watched a trainee teacher waffle on for ages, gradually making the children more and more confused, I hope you were pretty quick to tell them that shortening their explanation or instructions would have been an improvement. If that came out as “less teacher talk” then don’t worry, I’ve got your back all the way.

Secondly, FOO (Fear Of Ofsted) is an issue in our education system. Confident teachers in confident schools sometimes are less exposed to this, and one of the (sometimes) good things to come from the Free Schools programme is an opportunity for experimentation without baggage. However, for most schools it is still an issue. Now, imagine if the consequence of an RI was that your school closed and everyone was made redundant. That’s not quite black and white for ITT Providers but it’s not far off. FOO is a real issue.

Matt’s First Point

1) Stop grading trainees’ lessons. We’ve started to recognise this is nonsense as part of performance management, why haven’t we called this practice into question in teacher training?

@SotonEd we have stopped grading them. But only recently. The reason it took us so long to stop was that Ofsted are (quite rightly) very keen that trainees needing additional support on placement are picked up very quickly. That ought to be a collaborative effort between subject and professional mentors in schools, and the relevant provider personnel; it should happen naturally as part of the conversations in schools about trainees, but sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe inexperienced subject mentors are being kind or protective, or lack confidence in their own judgement, or are feeling over-run by workload and don’t manage the communication. Sometimes professional mentors are being pulled a hundred ways as SLT and aren’t actively checking. When Ofsted pulled us up on this a couple of cycles ago, it seemed to lead to a reluctance to let go of a very bald weekly update – nothing says there’s an issue needing immediate intervention like a string of 4s.

Is this change to ungraded lesson observations an improvement? Yes, I’m sure it is because it removes a barrier to effective feedback.

Are there some downsides to the change? Again, yes. We asked the trainee teachers every year, over several years, what they thought of grading lessons and about half said they liked them because it gave them a good idea of whether they were getting better, and how near or far they were from the standard required for QTS. Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps, but it’s the same response seen with comment-only marking. People do like to know where they are at, particularly when they know there is a summative assessment coming. I’ll pick this up again in relation to Matt’s second point.




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