The latest education White Paper to emerge from the Government has, perhaps predictably, caused controversy in the profession, with its policy of academisation for all and major reworking of QTS accreditation to name just two. In setting out its plans for the next five years, the Department for Education seems to have generated many more questions than answers.
Described as “excruciatingly bad”, Educational Excellence Everywhere makes a curious read. Several of its key features are at odds with previous Conservative policy. For example, it stresses the need for “strong educational leaders” and yet the National College for School Leadership only exists now as part of the Department for Education. Similarly, the Paper’s commitment to recruitment at this time of shortage is surprising given the demise of the Training and Development Agency for Schools and its successful recruitment campaigns. I could go on…
It is the paragraphs concerning Initial Teacher Education (ITE – still referred to as Initial Teacher Training – ITT – by the Government) that have caused concern for many. Few would argue with the need for reform, but anything that undermines the role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in ITE needs to be extremely carefully considered.
Proposals for the effective strengthening of ITE will always be welcomed. After all, that’s what anyone directly involved in ITE typically strives to do. But there needs to be an understanding of the learning that can happen outside the school classroom and the learning that can happen in the classroom on the job (albeit as a trainee). As someone who teaches in an HEI on teacher education courses, I tell my students that the combination of subject knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of how children (all children – students are taught about inclusivity) learn is the foundation of great teaching. Far from being ground-breaking, much of what the White Paper says about the content of ITE is already happening in my experience.
However, proposals around the accreditation of new teachers seem to be among the most concerning aspects of the White Paper. It states that: “We will replace the current ‘Qualified Teacher Status’ (QTS) with a stronger, more challenging accreditation based on a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, as judged by great schools.” Putting aside the fact that teacher effectiveness is already a major part of QTS, (not to mention the implication picked up by many teachers on social media that those currently with QTS now have a sub-standard qualification) is it necessarily a bad thing for heads to have the scope to employ an expert from outside teaching (for example a musician, coder, actor, athlete and so on) and “put them on a path to full accreditation, where skills can be recognised”?
Naturally, the devil will be in the detail. The way in which the accreditation of teachers is carried out in future must surely guard against the erosion of consistency across the country. A little flexibility in the system may well be a good thing but not if individuality trumps widely accepted standards. Some have feared that a new system of accreditation as outlined in the White Paper may lead to a downgrading of the profession. It’s a concern that needs attention if we are to have faith in the ability of the system to provide the very best standard of education, free of charge, for everyone.
What do you think? Have your say…