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Promoting Quality in Teacher Education

UCET 2021 Easter Newsletter

23 March 2021


It barely seems possible, but the last spring newsletter was issued just after the first Covid lockdown hit. So much has happened since then. Most notably, from a UCET perspective, is the heroic response of the ITE sector to meeting the needs of student teachers, schools and local communities, something JNR highlighted in his Westminster Education Forum speech on 23 February, the text of which can be found at: https://www.ucet.ac.uk/12761/a-slap-in-the-face-the-english-governments-plans-for-initial-teacher-education The country, as we have said before, owes you all a debt of gratitude.

The latest Covid guidance for ITE providers in England was published on 12 February, and reflects discussions between DfE, UCET, NASBTT and others and can be found at: https://www.ucet.ac.uk/12672/dfe-covid-19-february-2021-updates

ITE providers can (subject to parliamentary approval) make recommendations for QTS in 2020/21 based on the progress student teachers have made towards demonstrating that they meet the teachers standards where ITE has been disrupted because of the pandemic. This flexibility should only be used where necessary and appropriate. We are in continuing discussions about the provision of support for student teachers who, through no fault of their own, can’t be recommended for QTS this year. Regular discussions have also been taking place with the Welsh Government about its Covid 19 response. This resulted in updated guidance which can be found at: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-additional-temporary-guidance-initial-teacher-education-ite-partnerships

Discussions are also taking place in Wales about provision of support for NQTs during their induction year. In Northern Ireland, JNR and representatives of each of the four ITE HEIs have been meeting with the Department of Education, GTCNI, Education Authority, ETI and school colleagues as part of a task force to consider the impact of the pandemic on placements. This has led to the development of robust plans, and back up plans, to ensure that student teachers get the experiences and support they need and are robustly assessed. In Scotland, Jackie Moses has been attending meetings of the Scottish Deans of Education where similar issues have been covered. The Council of Deans and Scottish Government have met regularly throughout the pandemic and have developed a Framework for Initial Teacher Education which provides clear guidance in the current climate. The collegiate approach between government’s statutory agencies and the sector about Covid 19 across all parts of the UK is a testament to what can be achieved if we all work together in an open and transparent way.

Unfortunately, in England, that collegiate approach does not seem to extend to the development of policy in relation to the Market Review of ITE and the establishment of the new Institute of Teaching, details of which were both announced during the early hours of Saturday 2 January, some months after the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group to advise ministers about the market review. Although UCET and NASBTT were involved in some discussions, other sector representatives were not involved until UCET issued a press statement, following on from earlier statements, at the end of January. Copies of these statements can be found at: https://www.ucet.ac.uk/12787/press-notice-ite-market-review-february-2020

and https://www.ucet.ac.uk/12789/blog-market-review-of-ite-january-2021

Although DfE has been at pains to say that they are working with a ‘blank sheet of paper’ and have no preconceived ideas about the outcome of the review, it seems unlikely that after several months of deliberation they have still not developed any preferred models for discussion. This apparent secrecy does nothing to assuage suspicions that the genuine fears we have expressed about the possible outcome of the review will not be realised. Neither do references to the Institute of Teaching being part of an ‘ambitious’ reform of ITE.

UCET does not object to an in-depth review of ITE. While all objective and impartial indicators show that the quality of ITE in England is extremely good, there will always be room for further development, for example in terms of the length of programmes, placement issues and lessons to be learned from the pandemic. But the review should be conducted to a reasonable timescale, with evidence invited from and discussed with a range of different stakeholders, and properly and openly interrogated. Time should be allowed for schools and ITE providers to adjust to life after the pandemic and consider what has been learned during lockdown about how the structure, content and delivery of ITE might be reformed. And, crucially, time should be allowed for evidence about the implementation of the Core Content Framework to be gained from inspections to be carried out under the new OfSTED inspection framework, which are likely to begin from April and will probably include both face-to-face and remote components. The DfE appears, without any evidence, to be assuming that the CCF will not be properly implemented. We are concerned that already half-informed (or half-baked!) proposals will be issued with little or no public consultation and then imposed on an unwilling and unprepared sector. That is not how good governance or policy implementation works.

UCET has, on behalf of our members, taken a number of actions in response to the Market Review. We are continuing to be in involved discussions with people working on the review, during which we will of course always respect confidences. We have met with people from a range of organisations, including: UUK; Guild HE; the Cathedrals Group; The Alliance Group; NAHT, the APPG and with people from within member institutions up to Vice Chancellor level to express our concerns and agree ways forward. We have met with politicians, parliamentarians, shadow ministers, as have colleagues from individual universities. We have been working closely in partnership with NASBTT, who share many of our concerns. We have also invested a proportion of UCET reserves to engage the services of public relations’ experts, PLMR, to help us demonstrate the strengths of ITE in this country and to argue our case. A website including examples of good practice and the logos of supportive organisations has been created and can be found at https://www.teachbest.education/. We are grateful to all colleagues who have submitted case studies for the website and we would welcome more.

Applications to QTS programmes are, because of the Covid/recession effect, are buoyant, with a 42% increase reported in January https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/teacher-training-applications-up-by-42-percent/

although difficulties continue in some key subject areas. However, the welcome increase in applications cannot disguise the fact that the structural reasons why we are faced with periodic teacher supply problems will remain. Another reason why DfE should nurture rather than undermine the country’s highly effective teacher supply base.

The new 87 Teaching School Hubs https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teaching-school-hubs

were announced by DfE on 10 February. The precise role of the new hubs, and how they relate to the market review and the Institute of Teaching, is not yet clear. We hope that the existing sector will be able to work with them in an open, transparent and genuine collegiate way.

Meetings of UCET forums and committees have been continuing through the pandemic, with attendance higher than when we used to meet face-to-face. The use of new technology has also allowed us to hold additional meetings, including interim meetings on our Covid responses of the primary & early years, secondary and management forums. At its March meeting the UCET Executive agreed that for meetings for the rest of this calendar year would continue to take place on line.

The 2021 UCET conference will take place on-line (with the possibility of a live component) on 2-3 November and a number of keynotes and workshop & symposia have already been agreed. We would welcome more. Please could anyone who is interested in presenting, or who has suggestions for presenters, contact James at j.noble-rogers@ucet.ac.uk.

Colleagues involved in ITE for the post-compulsory sector have been as affected as everyone else by the pandemic, and members of the Post 16 committee were pleased to welcome again colleagues from the DfE and ETF to its meeting to discuss relaxations to the DET programme requirements (e.g. in regard to observed teaching hours) and other non-Covid related issues, notably the implications of the January FE and Skills White paper, details of which can be found at: