Matt Burnage wrote a somewhat devastating thread about ITT on Twitter recently.
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.
Matt’s 4th Point
It certainly is!
There are now so many routes into teaching that there is actually disagreement about the number. I’ve seen estimates from 27 right up to 40. You can get a brief flavour from UCAS but that doesn’t cover everything. The most thorough recent analysis was carried out by a team based at Bath Spa University. They found 8292 different course options. Of course, no-one is looking at training courses in both maths and English but it does give you an idea of the difficulty of identifying “which courses are best” because, although you would expect a provider to bring some consistency across subject and phases, there will also be considerable variation. After all, there are plenty of schools with a fabulous English department but not such strong maths (and vice versa, of course).
You can find people saying that school-led training is better than university-led. (That was certainly the DfE line until they realised that SCITT* and SD* were both recruiting below targets and if HEIs* got squeezed any more the Secretary of State might be having to stand up in parliament to explain why children were being taught in school halls in groups of 60.) This, however, is bollocks. It’s no more credible than saying that grammar schools are better than comprehensives because they get better results.
Another simplistic view is that university-led courses involve stacks of theory and much less classroom time. This is also wrong. All main routes are based around about 60 days of training and 120 days in the classroom. It is true that some school-based routes continue beyond the typical end date in late June, with teaching until the end of the summer term. It is also true that many school-based routes involve teaching heavier timetables whilst training. I think Southampton is fairly typical for university-led in requiring 7 hours of teaching in the first placement and 11 hours (sometimes a bit more, later on) in second placement. School-based routes may be similar but often get up to the 11 hours (50%) timetables quite quickly, and may go as high as 80% sooner or later in the training year. I’d argue that quality is more important than quantity when training but there are other opinions available.
A group including UCET, NASBTT, CCT and TSC have suggested a simplified way of describing the options by just distinguishing between undergraduate, post-graduate fee-paying, and employment-based, and I think that’s sensible as a starting point for potential trainees. Once you’ve made that decision, though, it doesn’t help decide which flavour or individual provider is going to be best for you.
You see, the main finding of the Bath Spa group was that differences within training routes are just as big as differences between training routes. There is no simply way of saying choose X if you want to get in the classroom quickly, or choose Y if you want lots of subject-specific input, or whatever.
The other problem is there really is no way to tell quality from anything other than anecdotal accounts. There’s little point looking at Ofsted reports since everyone is either 1 or 2 (or shut – it’s a harsh world) and since the grade is heavily driven by the outcomes for trainees, it’s inevitably heavily driven by the inputs of trainees: back to grammars, again, or the thankless task of trying to answer a keen 6th former who asks “Which universities are best for physics?”
The best known economic theory that applies when trying to choose in a market with limited information on quality is The Market for Lemons. Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims have written a terrific book about teacher training, development, and retention, which refers to it. The good news is that, despite some strenuous efforts by successive governments, the public sector doesn’t operate like the second-hand car market. So there are (almost) no cut-price training routes, and almost no providers offering something cheap or nasty. Pick the wrong one and you could still have a break-down, though.
So what’s the plan?
If I were looking to train these are the questions I’d ask:
Where will I be training?
If based in one school for most of the year (SD* and all employment-based routes), everything depends on the school and department/team you’re in. Personally I wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole if I didn’t know which school and hadn’t visited and met everyone, but there you go.
If it’s two more equal placements, led more directly by the provider (UL* or SCITT* usually) I’d ask how they choose placements for trainees, what happens if a placement isn’t working very well (it does happen), and what the typical, and longest (in time) commute is.
If secondary, how much of my training will be subject-specific and who will deliver that training? Any decent provider will do some good generic training on how children learn and planning and behaviour and SEND and EAL and so on, but learning to teach science is different from learning to teach history so you need that too (probably more?). I’d accept that this might be done in the department but then I’d ask who will deliver it and how is that prioritised (cover, reduced timetable, additional payments).
How are mentors chosen (usually it’s by the school, not the provider) and how does the provider ensures the quality of mentoring is good? If you get an answer about mentor training, I’d ask whether they can guarantee that the mentor(s) you work with will have definitely attended the training.
What timetable will I be expected to teach? I’d be wary of anything over 50% before Easter unless you genuinely know from direct experience or someone very close, what that will actually mean.
For any employment-based route I’d ask whether I would have sole responsibility for any classes, when that will start and, crucially, what will happen if I am really struggling with a class under these circumstances. You might get rejected for asking this but that’s a sign they don’t look after their trainees. I don’t think there can be a worse training experience than a class gradually becoming more and more out of control with no solution other than helpful (and almost certainly useless) advice.
That’s about it, I think. You could always just come to Southampton. Feel free to give me a ring if you want to ask me anything. My number’s 07731 892 242.
*HEI = Higher Education Institution = University recruits and is responsible for training and award of QTS. Trainee teachers complete two placements in schools of about 120 days total.
*UL = University-led = *HEI (see above).
*SD = School Direct. The school recruits and employs (SD Salaried) or offers the main placement (SD Training) but an HEI or SCITT is the accredited provider and has ultimate responsibility for the training and award of QTS. The schools provide all, most, some, or none of the training, depending on the arrangement.
*SD (Training) = Trainee teachers pay fees and may receive a bursary. They would normally be supernumary but not always.
*SD (Salaried) = Trainee teachers are paid an unqualified teacher salary and often have sole responsibility for some classes but not always.
*SCITT = School-Centered Initial Teacher Training. Like an HEI but formed by a school or group of schools rather than a university. They may recruit directly, or be the accredited provider for SD places, or both. Confusing, isn’t it?