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IOE responds to the ITT Market Review Consultation

18 August 2021

Today the IOE has submitted its response to the Initial Teacher Training Market Review Consultation exercise.

UCL Institute of Education building in the sun. Mary Hinkley © UCL Digital Media

As an established, ‘Ofsted Outstanding’ provider of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) over many decades, and one of the largest nationally, the IOE seeks to work constructively with the DfE and other stakeholders in the ongoing review and improvement of ITE and the operation of the ITE system.

In our response to the consultation we question the premise of the Review report, that the system is somehow broken and in need of substantial reform and highlight the considerable evidence to the contrary, from Ofsted inspection through to the resilience of the system in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. We outline our strong concerns about the technicist model for ITE that the Review puts forward, the disregard it shows towards the existing infrastructure for ITE, and the limited evidence base for its proposals.

We understand ITE as an intellectual and ambitious professional endeavour that reaches beyond a skills-based or technical approach to teaching, as reflected in the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers’ statement about the intellectual basis for teacher education. By contrast, the Review presents teaching as general, easily replicated sequences of activities, based in a limited and set evidence base. This is undermining of teaching as an expert profession. The proposals also misunderstand and misrepresent the process of professional learning, as standardised and linear rather than unique to each student teacher. We are disappointed that the Review essentially positions (student) teachers as passive consumers of a narrow set of research findings as well as atomised chunks of knowledge.

Our response also highlights the depth and strength of existing partnerships between ITE providers and schools and their central importance to the functioning of the ITE system. In contrast with such arrangements, the Review proposes a hierarchical structure based on contractual relationships and the imposition rather than co-construction of programmes. It is vital to the success of any reforms that they take account of the history of existing relationships and the trust and mutual understanding built up across them over many years. The Review’s failure to see the value in this existing infrastructure is, again, disappointing and we hope the Government will recognise the inadvisability of dismantling it at a stroke.

We flag concerns, including on logistical grounds, regarding the proposed blanket re-accreditation process for providers and schools to complete in order to offer ITE, as well as the Review’s proposals for large group intensive school placements for student teachers.

While we agree with the Review that more could be done to improve the supply of high-quality school placements and mentoring for student teachers, we do not believe the proposed reforms will achieve those goals.  We advise reforms that bring adequate resourcing and support responsiveness to local needs, rather than reliance on managerial structures.

In their current form, the proposals risk extensive and damaging disruption to the ITE system, putting the quality and supply of provision at risk and eroding capacity for improvement. At the very least, reform should proceed at a realistic pace, based on piloting before system-wide reform. In particular, the case for a costly restructuring and re-accreditation process has simply not been made, especially in the current context. We are keen to work with the Government and the wider sector on reforms that better recognise teaching as an intellectual exercise, the value of provider-school partnership, and the value of universities’ contribution to ITE, which has provided a vital underpinning for both quality and innovation within the system over a number of decades.