Universities could launch legal action over teacher training axe

Twelve universities understood to have been unsuccessful in applications under controversial new regime

September 29, 2022
Axe left in wood
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The organisation that represents UK universities involved in teacher training has said that it will support members that choose to launch legal action after a number were unsuccessful in their attempts to be reaccredited.

The Department for Education published on 29 September a list of 179 providers that had been accredited to deliver initial teacher training (ITT) courses in England from 2024-25 onwards, following a second round of applications under a revised – and controversial – set of criteria.

Sector leaders said that more than 80 per cent of higher education institutions that have traditionally provided teacher training had been successful in their applications, but it is understood that 12 universities were unsuccessful.

The total number of providers that have been reaccredited stands at 179, down some 20 per cent on the historic total of about 240.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said he was “extremely concerned that a number of high-quality, long-established and tried and tested ITE [initial teacher education] providers have not been successful”.

UCET has warned that the cuts will make it harder for students to find teacher training courses near to them, and with applications for some programmes already struggling, the organisation is warning that the DfE will miss its target for the number of trainee secondary school teachers it wants to recruit by more than 30 per cent.

“DfE are assuming that any gaps in teacher supply resulting from this exercise will be met through the accreditation of new providers and the expansion of existing suppliers, ignoring the fact that new providers are untested and that significant barriers will prevent others from growing their provision to any meaningful extent,” Mr Noble-Rogers said.

“Neither is there any guarantee that student teachers who would have gone to providers that have lost their accreditation will be willing to train elsewhere, or that the schools that work with those providers will be willing to join new partnerships.

“UCET will support any actions taken by its members in response to the accreditation results, including those who plan to diversify away from [qualified teacher status] provision, engage in legal challenge or adjust their provision in the light of the new markets.”

Universities have long been critical of the Westminster government’s new accreditation system, warning that it will impose stricter controls on their freedom to shape their own course content, reducing the quality of provision.

Institutions including the universities of Oxford and Cambridge have warned that they might pull out of teacher training in response, but these institutions are among those that have secured reaccreditation.

Rama Thirunamachandran, vice-chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University and chair of the MillionPlus association of modern universities, including several involved in teacher training, said it was “concerning to see that a number of well-established and trusted university ITT providers have not been successful in applying for re-accreditation despite being judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted”.

The university sector “does not oppose genuine quality assurance and the goal of maintaining high standards, but we continue to question the necessity and design of the accreditation process, which means [providers] are left in an uncertain position”, Professor Thirunamachandran said.

“It is unclear whether the ramifications of today’s announcements have been fully considered, given the risk to teacher supply, which is already under significant strain, and the risk of extending regional ‘cold spots’ in teacher training, impacting schools in these areas. The DfE’s own statistics, released earlier this week, suggest an 18 per cent and 40 per cent shortfall in their recruitment targets for primary and secondary ITT trainees.

“Schools and universities have been under incredible pressure over the past two years, and as MillionPlus has argued previously, a period of greater stability would be the recipe for the successful implementation of the government’s ambitions in this space.

“We will continue to work with the government and our member universities to ensure that providers, accredited or not, can take the next steps in this process with confidence.”


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