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Initial Teacher Training Market Review

Volume 811: debated on Wednesday 14 April 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consultation they have undertaken with providers about the market review of initial teacher training.

My Lords, the initial teacher training market review is focused on how the sector can provide consistently high-quality training in a more effective and efficient market. An expert advisory group has been appointed to make recommendations to the Government. Ian Bauckham is the review chair and has held early discussions with ITT network chairs and others. We have committed to wider sector engagement in late spring, and your Lordships are the first to be told that we are now going to conduct a public consultation on final proposals before they are implemented.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and welcome the latter part of it in particular. I also remind the House of my education interests in the register. I hope that this review is truly independent, unlike the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. So far, it appears to have alienated virtually every provider of teacher training in the country, with the likes of our top universities now questioning whether they will continue with initial teacher training because of the potential infringement on their academic freedoms and issues of financial viability. Can the Minister assure the House, in the context of that consultation, that the evidence and principles upon which the review might proceed will be properly consulted on so that, as a sector, we can properly debate how the service of teacher training might be revised in future?

My Lords, the review chair Ian Bauckham is a man of great integrity who has conducted a number of tasks for the department, so we have every confidence that he will engage widely with and receive views from across the sector. The core content framework is a structure, so the curriculum is developed by universities and therefore academic freedom is retained.

The Government have, rightly, long identified service leavers as being ideal candidates for teacher training. With predicted end of service dates being based on age and length of service, many start retraining up to three years before leaving. My concern, though, is that much of the support is not available until after they leave. Will my noble friend consider making that support as flexible as possible so that they can access it before they leave?

My Lords, the expertise of former members of the Armed Forces is an important supply for teacher training, and many initial teacher training providers do offer their courses part-time so current personnel can make that transition. In shortage subjects, such as chemistry, bursaries are available of £24,000.

My Lords, although the initial teacher training market review group has been meeting since the autumn, its deliberations have been shrouded in secrecy. What has leaked out is the suggestion that the Government will introduce a new system of short-term contracts following the review, which has led, as my noble friend Lord Knight has said, to many universities warning that they may withdraw their teacher training provision as a result. I welcome the Minister’s announcement just now of consultation later this year. Can she explain why the so-called expert advisory group undertaking it does not contain a representative from a university, despite that sector currently producing around one-third of newly qualified teachers?

My Lords, it is important that we conduct this review to ensure that the market provides for the 25% increase this year of those applying for initial teacher training. Professor Samantha Twiselton is actually on the staff of Sheffield Hallam University, and I can assure noble Lords that, as universities are involved in providing, I think, 47% of initial teacher training, they will of course be key in the review’s progress.

My Lords, the Minister is clearly impressed with initial teacher training in this country, judging by her detailed reply to my Written Question on this subject, for which I thank her. As the Minister’s department is publishing an international strategy for exporting English initial teacher training as the gold standard, does she now think that there is a quality problem, or not?

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s comments about the Written Answer, which is also informed by the right honourable Nick Gibb, the Minister whose portfolio area this is. In relation to quality, we want to ensure that every person who goes to initial teacher training has that joined-up experience gained from the academic path and being in the classroom. We want to build on the good quality and have asked that the review look at the sufficiency of teacher supply, which is an issue in some parts of the country.

My Lords, over four years ago, at the Government’s request 15 universities developed a modern languages pathway to qualified teacher status, alongside the languages degree. In the light of the current shortage in this subject, are these programmes part of the market review, and is their future, along with school-centred MFL training, to be safeguarded and continued?

My Lords, this review covers the full breadth of the initial teacher training market, so that we can build on the quality that we have. The institutions that the noble Baroness refers to will be able to make their views clear during the public consultation on any recommendations from the review, and there will be stakeholder engagement during the spring. I will take back the noble Baroness’s comments about those institutions and write to her on whether they are part of that process.

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their aim of ensuring more standardisation in initial teacher training programmes so that we have consistent standards of basic training for all our teachers. Does my noble friend agree that good quality teaching has been at the core of trying to help so many children through a difficult year, and that our teachers have risen to an exceptionally difficult challenge over the past year?

My Lords, good quality teaching is not the only, but the single most important, determining factor in the quality of education, particularly for disadvantaged students. At a time when not only are we reviewing initial teacher training but, as of September, £130 million will be invested annually to provide two years of professional development after initial teacher training, it is key to put teachers’ professional development on a parity of esteem with that of accountants and lawyers, for example.

My Lords, there are concerns that the market review will recommend a less diverse, highly centralised provision of initial teacher training. What assurances can the Minister give that specific and diverse local needs will be addressed and respected in any future ITT provision?

My Lords, maintaining a good quality and efficient market for initial teacher training is a key part of the review. Some 240 organisations are accredited by the department at the moment; we are aware that in all, some 1,000 organisations deliver programmes. We have therefore asked that the review look at these aspects, and in particular teacher sufficiency across England.

My Lords, I draw attention to my interests as recorded in the register. I understand the Government’s desire for an efficient and effective market. That, however, does not guarantee that regional inequalities are addressed. I urge the Minister to make a risk assessment of the quality, supply and regional needs of initial teacher training and to publish the outcome.

My Lords, the recommendations will be published and consulted on, and, as I have outlined, teacher sufficiency across England is a key part of the review. As to the early introduction of the early career framework, 1,900 teachers were part of the first rollout in the north-east, Greater Manchester, Bradford and Doncaster, so we are particularly aware of the need to ensure the best quality of teaching across England.

Will the Government put in place a system to ensure that students interested in entering ITT have a clear view of the quality and reputation of the provider as perceived by schools that have employed their graduates?

Ofsted will be reintroducing its inspections following the introduction of a new framework for initial teacher training, which is the main quality mark for people considering initial teacher training. School-centred initial teacher training is now a vibrant part of the market. Teachers are trained by multi-academy trusts and others, and we are in an age where it is much easier to find out about the reputation of the institution, people’s experiences of it and other peer-to-peer comparisons through LinkedIn and other platforms.