Future of teacher training under threat

Anglia Ruskin latest to drop out as policy continues to favour school-led system

October 23, 2014

The “viability” of more university teacher training departments is likely to be under threat after the number of places allocated to higher education providers was cut yet again, a vice-chancellor has said.

John Cater, head of Edge Hill University and chair of the joint Universities UK and GuildHE Teacher Education Advisory Group, issued the warning as Anglia Ruskin University became the latest institution to confirm that it was closing its initial teacher training courses, stating that the “difficult decision” was taken in the light of “significant decline in demand for university provision”.

The institution follows the University of Bath and The Open University, which both announced the closure of their postgraduate teacher training courses last year.

Last week, the overall share of teacher training places at other universities fell by 5 per cent from 2014-15 as the latest allocations from the government’s National College for Teaching and Leadership were announced. The figures showed that the government was expanding its School Direct policy – which allows schools to select and recruit their own trainees.

The University of Leeds received no places for either core provision or through providing training for School Direct trainees, having received 103 provider-led places in the 2014-15 provisional allocations. The university confirmed that it is not currently offering places on PGCE programmes for 2015-16, “following an Ofsted inspection which judged that the course required improvement”, and hoped to secure an improved grade before resuming courses.

Loughborough University’s provider-led allocations dropped by 38.6 per cent, a reduction of 44 places, while there was a 32.9 per cent decrease in core numbers at Oxford Brookes University, amounting to 135 places overall.

Dr Cater, whose institution did not suffer as much as others, said Edge Hill would “hang on in there”, but voiced concern for other institutions’ future in teacher training if policy continued towards a school-led system at the expense of universities.

“There is a danger that allocations leave universities providing for the shortage subjects, with the easy-to-fill courses going mainly to School Direct and SCITTs (school-centred ITT programmes),” he said. “That could be a threat to the viability of some.”

He added that many universities were waiting to see what direction policy would take over the next 12 months but “if…[it] continues in the way in which it has done for the past four to five years, then I think you will see universities exiting from teacher education, where they’re able to do so”.

The potential consequence of losing these institutions, he warned, is that there could be fewer subject specialists teaching the shortage subjects, which include science and maths.

However, not all universities suffered in the allocations. Provider-led places at the University of East London and Liverpool Hope University increased by 1 and 109, a 40.7 and 33.5 per cent increase, respectively.

Liverpool Hope’s results came after losing all its primary postgraduate core places last year, largely because of a “requires improvement” rating by Ofsted. It has now achieved an improved “good” rating with “outstanding” features.

Jane Moore, head of the School of Teacher Education at Liverpool Hope, said the sector was “still making a good case for the role of HEIs in the mix”. “What we’re hearing from most schools that we work with [is that they] still really value what the universities can bring to the whole picture,” she said.

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

Decline: change in provider-led places 2014-15 to 2015-16

Institution+/-
Source: NCTL
*Closing its teacher training provision
Oxford Brookes University-135
Anglia Ruskin University*-124
University of Leeds-103
University of Worcester-86
University of Cumbria-79
Bishop Grosseteste University (Lincoln)-78
Canterbury Christ Church University-78
Northumbria University-78
Manchester Metropolitan University-76
Keele University-62

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