University heads have welcomed a decision – apparently caused by a split in the coalition government – not to go ahead with a recommendation in a review of initial teacher training that appeared to downgrade the value of postgraduate qualifications.
Sir Andrew Carter’s report – published on 19 January – stated that it wanted students to understand that qualified teacher status (QTS) was “the essential component of ITT and that a PGCE [postgraduate certificate of education] is an optional academic qualification”.
However, in its written response to the report, the Department for Education said that it could not take this forward because “the two coalition parties have different positions on this recommendation”.
Sir Andrew’s comment incensed some areas of the higher education sector and it is thought that it was the Liberal Democrats that blocked the Conservatives from acting on it.
A source close to Lib Dem schools minister David Laws said that the party “believes passionately that teaching is a high status profession, and must remain so in the future”.
“We are not prepared to see the status of teaching undermined, which is why David Laws has stopped this recommendation from happening. Liberal Democrats will ensure that higher education continues to play a central role in teacher training.”
John Cater, vice-chancellor of Edge Hill University, said that there was “much to commend” in Sir Andrew’s report, which emphasised the importance of universities in teacher training even though they have lost student places in recent years in favour of a system where schools recruit trainees.
But Dr Cater added that “top-quality teacher education programmes should test trainees’ intellectual development and their practice skills, and this is recognised in the award at postgraduate level”.
Michael Gunn, vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University and chair of the Million+ group, agreed that the blocking of the recommendation was a “result” for universities.
“Teacher education can’t stand still, and in order for it to move forward it requires research and scholarship, which the universities are best placed [to provide],” he said.