Teacher training reforms to cut loose universities operating in isolation

Universities that do not demonstrate “extensive school involvement” in their initial teacher training provision may cease to be able to offer such courses.

November 8, 2011

Under reforms unveiled today by the Department for Education, the allocation of initial teacher training places will prioritise providers “where schools are closely involved in the selection of trainees and the design and delivery of training”.

The department’s report, Training Our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers, goes on to say that only universities that can provide both high quality training and evidence of partnerships with schools will “continue to have a role” in teacher training.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, said that there was “clear consensus” that schools and universities could work together to improve on current training schemes.

The report hints that initial teacher training allocations may be considered separately to wider reforms to the overall allocation of student places.

The government has said that “where necessary”, the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which oversees universities, would consider “a different approach specifically for ITT [initial teacher training]”.

Other reforms affecting the higher education sector include the announcement of “University Training Schools”, which, the document says, will serve the three functions of “teaching children, training teachers and undertaking research”.

Full plans for the schools, including which universities will be running them, are expected soon.

New bursaries and schemes have also been put in place to attract more students to subjects that are currently underserved.

This includes “school direct”, under which schools will be able to advertise for and recruit students who will then be trained at an accredited initial teacher training provider.

The students recruited through the scheme will not impact on the places allocated by the Training Development Agency.

In addition, more funding has been announced to attract specialist science teachers.

The government plans to end bursaries for those studying under the specialty of general science from 2012 onwards.

In its place, bursaries of up to £20,000 will be available for students studying on specialist biology, chemistry and physics courses.

This includes a new Institute of Physics teacher training scholarship for physics.

Peter Main, director of education and science at the IoP, said of the scholarships: “We are saying to people with a love of physics and a good academic record – ‘choose teaching: it is a job that will reward you and exploit your abilities to the full’.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Universities have demonstrated their commitment to responding flexibly to changes in teacher training and will continue to do so. Both schools and trainees value the high quality of what universities have to offer, so we still expect to be heavily engaged in supporting school-led teacher training where this develops.”

However Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, denounced as “crazy” the reforms, which she said would result in students spending less time at university studying and cost the sector “hundreds” of jobs.

“We risk decimating the professionalism of teaching if ministers pursue a policy on ideological grounds, rather than studying the evidence,” she said.

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com

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