Some early reflections on the Carter review…

 Carter review

On 1st May when Michael Gove was still Secretary of State for Education he announced the review of initial teacher education with the remit to:

  • define effective ITT practice
  • assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT
  • recommend where and how improvements could be made
  • recommend ways to improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods

Given that at the same time Michael Gove also said “there is no doubt that the current generation of young teachers is the best ever” it seemed nonsensical to be reviewing a sector that has consistently performed well on all government key measures?

Equally the timing of the review, taking place after four years of rapid government reforms, was slightly bizarre as if anything the review should have been carried out prior to these changes?

Eight months on and in the absence of Michael Gove, sacked three months into the review, the Carter Review was published. Given that Michael Gove had initiated the review one does wonder what might have been had he stayed. Regardless what did the review reveal?

Well there was no mention of the Marxist Blob or enemies of promise ‘revering jargon and fighting excellence’. Instead it was reported “the level of engagement has been truly impressive, with everyone displaying that tremendous sense of moral purpose that is a distinguishing characteristic of this noble profession”. You can imagine the conversation – ‘okay so you didn’t find the ‘reds under the beds’ but presumably you have proved that we were right to dismantle the existing provision’? ‘Well not actually’…

The report confirmed, “it is difficult to draw conclusions about whether one route into teaching is any more effective than another. We have found strengths across all routes”. This is despite the DfE/ NCTL having made the decision in 2010, based on little evidence, for “a larger proportion of trainees to learn on the job by improving and expanding the best of current school-based routes into teaching”….

I have previously written that aspects of School Direct show real signs of promise and when it is good it can be very, very good. However the way it was introduced, based on little evidence, was clumsy and deliberately antagonistic. Perhaps now we can have a genuine informed debate knowing that all routes have different strengths and that the key is recognizing and valuing the diversity of routes as each offers something different?

Perhaps most surprisingly and most significantly the report appears to be an indictment of the last five years of government reforms particularly in relation to establishing an evidence informed profession (recommendation 1, 6, 7 and 9). The failure to include reference to research in the current Standards for teachers, the closure of the TTRB, the movement away from the promotion of an all Masters profession and the removal of funding of the MTL programme all occurred under the current government – yet each of these areas was very much about promoting an evidence informed profession.

Equally it also appears ironic that the review is calling for a more evidenced based profession yet is also suggesting that the PGCE, an academic award that should have a strong emphasis on evidence informed practice, becomes an optional academic qualification (which it already is)?

Overall in many ways the report, despite being much anticipated, was balanced, benign and bland with few if any surprises. Perhaps this is why it has received such little media attention? However given the turbulence of the last five years balanced, bland and benign are actually welcome and positive characteristics! Despite the sometimes narrowness of the report and the limited depth there is little that I would disagree with (apart from rec14) in terms of the recommendations – except to say that many of the recommendations are/ should already be happening in many places.

Finally, the response to the report shouldn’t be about ‘quick political wins’ but should be about informed discussion to move the sector on in a mature way. If nothing else, the report reaffirms that Initial Teacher Education (yes education) is all about multi-layered partnerships. This means rather than polarizing the discussion about who is leading the way it is about drawing on each partner’s strength in a positive and mutually supportive manner for the benefit of all student teachers and ultimately the profession.

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