Promoting Quality in Teacher Education

Letter from Alan Boyd (DENI) on school placements for AY2020/21

21 January 2021

FAO All School Principals

21 January 2021

Dear Principal,


I would like to begin by wishing you and your school colleagues a happy and peaceful new year.

I wrote to you on 21 August 2020 to outline the plans that the four Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) / ITE providers had in place for school placements for their BEd and PGCE students in the 2020/21 academic year, taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I am writing to you again to provide you with an update on how these placements have progressed during the autumn school term, and how the HEIs envisage their plans will be implemented for the rest of this academic year.

I should like to remind you that the Department set up a Working Group in July 2020, involving colleagues in the education sector (including the HEIs, CCMS, EA, ETI, GTCNI, UCETNI, CnaG and practitioners) to monitor the roll-out of school placements and produce contingency plans, in the event that placements were interrupted by the Pandemic.

Since then the ITE providers have, where it has been needed, adjusted the design and delivery of their undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to ensure that student teachers have been able to develop their teacher competences during ever changing circumstances and to ensure that, as far as possible, there has been equity for the students in terms of outcomes and quality of experiences.
I am also pleased to report that the Working Group, which has continued to meet on a monthly basis since July, has provided a platform for the HEIs to discuss and agree common approaches on many areas relating to ITE provision, including engagement with schools on placements, assessing student teachers and programme content.

Regretfully, the impact of COVID-19 on the school environment has continued on into 2021, with (as you well know) schools moving from face-to-face to remote learning until at least mid-February. It is still hoped that this will have, at most, only a limited impact on the
ITE programmes, and as I highlighted in my previous letter, this year’s student teachers have already acquired additional skills in terms of distance and on-line learning, so it is expected that these skills will continue to provide significant benefits to schools, should they be required.

The HEIs wish to provide reassurance that they will continue to work with those schools who are hosting student teachers in the months ahead, and will ensure that the placements will be arranged for the coming months in such a way that they will not add any further unnecessary disruption which has already been, or will continue to be, caused by the Pandemic. I therefore trust you will continue to facilitate the full range of student placements, where you have been asked to do so, in what is an essential element of the ITE programme.

Once again, I am more than happy to discuss any issue on this matter further. If you wish to do so, please contact me at I wish you well with the rest of this academic year.

Yours sincerely,

Head of Teacher Education Team