Gove and Wilshaw attacked over ITT comments

Recent comments about initial teacher training made by education secretary Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, constitute a “concerted political attack” on universities that has “no basis” in evidence.

March 28, 2013

That is the charge made in an open letter to Mr Gove from James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, who says he is “concerned and disappointed” about the minister stating on two occasions his desire to move initial teacher training (ITT) away from universities and towards schools.

He adds that the timing of the statements appeared “to coincide” with the row sparked by 100 academics signing a letter to two national newspapers last week criticising Mr Gove’s plans for the national curriculum.

“Any link would be unfair, given that the letter…was not issued in the context of ITT and many of the signatories have no direct involvement in the delivery of ITT programmes,” he writes.

He says that universities and schools have been working “tirelessly” since 2010 to ensure that the coalition’s proposals to boost school-led provision of teacher training were a success and that “hostile and unsupportive statements from government” make this difficult to sustain.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said that schools were “a brilliant breeding-ground for our future teachers – recent Ofsted inspection figures of initial teacher training underline that”.

She added that while “some of the best teacher training” was provided by partnerships between schools and universities, “we want schools to lead those partnerships”.

In a separate letter to Sir Michael, Mr Noble-Rogers says an Ofsted press release on 22 March that claimed school-led providers were leading the way in improving the quality of initial teacher training was “misleading”, “biased against university involvement” and “inaccurate and inappropriately political”.

“It compares HEI [higher education institution] provision unfavourably with that provided by SCITTs [school-centred initial teacher training] despite the fact the small number of inspections carried out so far have not been representative of the whole sector,” the letter says.

“It does not refer to the fact that the results of the HE inspections have in almost all cases been positive…and was also factually inaccurate in that one of the ‘outstanding’ reports relates to employment-based provision run by the University of Cumbria.”

Ofsted said it was “happy to acknowledge” that Cumbria’s employment-based provision had achieved an “outstanding” grade but rejected the letter’s central claims.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “We fully stand by the central conclusion in the press notice that school-led partnerships have been leading the way in providing outstanding teacher training provision…This is based on the evidence from inspections carried out so far under the new framework.”

Last week, Sir Michael entered the argument between Mr Gove and the group of academics telling them to get out of their “ivory towers” in an interview with The Times.

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