Burning Question: What is happening to initial teacher training (ITT)?

Asked by: Jeremy Coninx, managing director of Hibernia College UK (HCUK)

I predict that recruitment to initial teacher training is going to struggle badly - the result of Michael Gove’s uncoordinated and clumsy reforms of the teacher training landscape. The previous system for supplying and recruiting newly qualified teachers wasn’t perfect. Like any system it needed tweaks and continuing improvement. But it also wasn’t broken.

Michael Gove has approached reform with a zeal for change completely unrelated to that necessary to bring about improvements efficiently and effectively. He has sought to break up the university ITT hegemony and to divide initial teacher training into tiny parcels. The latest DfE figures show just under 18,000 ITT places are being allocated to schools compared to 6,600 for 2011/12 – a trebling of places have been allocated out in tiny parcels to almost 1,000 schools.

A cottage ITT industry has been created with hundreds of schools reinventing ITT for themselves. Instead of training up a flexible, nationally qualified teacher workforce, we are creating thousands of individual teachers that are highly competent but only in a localised setting. While school based teacher training has enormous benefits, at its worse it can be parochial and low quality, serving the short-term needs of a particular school rather than the medium to longer term needs of schools in general.

But the real fall-out from all this is recruitment. Initial teacher training has become hugely complicated with more than a thousand schools and providers and myriad funding options. All of this leads to confusion which, ultimately, puts potential applicants off.

Reallocating ITT places in thousands of penny packets will do nothing to address this growing recruitment crisis. Nor does it do anything to address the fundamental problem that for some subjects there are simply too few potential teachers. This is a major issue that has been ignored for too long and is refusing to go away.