ITE Reports: Just Like Busses?

I have a problem with the Carter review – if you know me you will have noticed – however whenever anyone mentions the ‘Carter review’ as some form of justification to do something I tend to simply just glaze over. From that point on I can’t take the point being made on board as to use ‘Carter’ merely illustrates they may not fully understand the true nature of the report. Whilst all the people on the Carter review are probably very nice people (one is even a colleague) the report was doomed to insignificance before it even started given its timing and lack of independence. Indeed the ATL union captured the Carter review nicely with:

It’s very worrying that direct engagement with the profession and stakeholders has been so limited. Starting a 5-week consultation during the end of the summer holidays and start of the new academic/school year betrays a lack of independence and a lack of willingness to listen to and engage with views (ATL, September 2014).

Ultimately the review was the equivalent of locking the stable door long after the horse was made in to dog food. It was a full stop on the end of Gove’s sentence of attempting to dismantle HEIs grip on teacher education. The review was neither systematic, critical, informed nor independent. Perhaps the best evidence of this were the predictable recommendations which were neither ambitious or aspirational and which resulted in the three latest reports – which in case you missed them were:

Like many I had been waiting for a long time for the three reports to surface. Sadly however when they did arrive I simply found them hugely disappointing. Perhaps unfairly I tweeted “ Government ITT reports are like busses. You wait ages for one to come along – three arrive at once and all mostly empty! Opportunity missed!”

 

corgi-busses

Now I say ‘perhaps unfairly’ as there probably is something in each of the reports of some value. Nonetheless at a time of increased fragmentation and diversification of routes in teacher education there has to be something to elevate the variability of expectations within ITE.

My main concern is that the three reports are low on ambition and also skew teacher education towards an overly simplistic form of training (this may have been the aim) rather than encourage a critically reflexive approach to teacher education.

Ironically one of the recommendations in the framework of content (page 16 (even though the report doesn’t appear to have page numbers?)) is about emphasising the increased use of evidence yet none of the reports seemed to be particularly informed through systematic enquiry drawing upon a breadth of evidence? Did any of the report teams care to cast an eye to international evidence and research? Perhaps even having a look at Scotland (Donaldson review) or Wales (Furlong review) would have elevated the quality and ambition of the reports.

Conceivably if the three reports can be referenced as a minimum baseline for the increasing number of new providers then perhaps they will have some value. Equally perhaps the emergence of some shared language will also prove useful over time. However whether this was a lack of ambition on behalf of the authors or the result of DfE machinations these benign reports represent a lost opportunity.

 

 

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Teacher Education: What are Universities good for – PERHAPS the government now knows?

Often it can seem that the government adopts a pantomime villain view of Universities in relation to teacher education:

Mathematics and Sciences departments in universities are good (hooray!)

Social Sciences, education departments are bad (boo!)

Take these comments:

Michael Gove: “The Blob – the network of educational gurus in and around our universities who praised each others’ research, sat on committees that drafted politically correct curricula, drew gifted young teachers away from their vocation and instead directed them towards ideologically driven theory.”

Alternatively:

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary said it was hoped that more “world-class institutions” would open their own maths schools in the future. “This is a ground-breaking institution with the potential to push the boundaries of maths teaching and provide a route to top universities for the UK’s brightest young maths stars,” he said.

Now whist Michael Gove has left the building there remains evidence of his legacy within the DfE. So how can these institutions be perceived so differently when in fact they are often the same? At what point along a spectrum does ground breaking institution turn into the ‘Blob’?

The reason for the question is that the recent White Paper: Educational Excellence Everywhere, regularly refers to Universities – for example:

P.26: Introducing a programme to recruit maths and physics ‘chairs’–post-doctoral maths and physics researchers, who can combine teaching with further study in their universities.

What ‘their’ universities means is unknown – but perhaps more importantly ‘where’ in these universities this will take place is what will be interesting. Will they be in their Mathematics and Physics departments (hooray) or will they be in the education departments (booooo)?

P.31 There will continue to be an important place for high quality universities in ITT with a strong track record in attracting well-qualified graduates. We want the best universities to establish ‘centres of excellence’ in ITT, drawing on their world-leading subject knowledge and research. We will seek to recognise both the best university and school- led ITT through guaranteed, longer-term allocation of training places, allowing providers to plan their provision into the future.

Now again the question is – is this drawing upon their world leading subject knowledge and research in education or is this from other parts of universities or perhaps a combination of both? Therefore:

  • Perhaps the White paper finally recognizes and acknowledges that Universities are not the place that Michael Gove was referring to and that education departments and the social sciences are in every way as rigorous and challenging, whilst also acknowledging the differences, as other parts of universities?
  • Perhaps there has been a failure to recognise that often there is interdisciplinary work taking place across universities which understands the different strengths that each brings to discussions about education, teaching, pedagogy, content, etc., and that a subject specialism/ education binary is misplaced?
  • Perhaps there been an awakening to recognize that the rigour, the research and expertise in universities offers something distinct that can significantly enhance and sustain the notional ‘school-led’ system?

If this is the case then perhaps there are no more pantomime villains and:

  • Perhaps the government has finally recognised the need to cherish its world leading education departments?
  • Perhaps instead of creating an anti-intellectual, unqualified teaching workforce there is now recognition that teacher education in universities offers something distinctive that we need to be careful not to lose?
  • Perhaps valuing the intellectual and cultural capital of universities and teacher education programmes is not such a bad thing?
  • Perhaps cherishing the scholarship and research within university teacher education programmes is integral to development of the profession?
  • Perhaps there is now acknowledgement of the scale of provision in universities is critical to maintaining a high quality teaching workforce?
  • Perhaps there is some recognition that a ‘craft’ based approach to teaching is overly simplistic and that teacher education is a complex dynamic that involves learning to teach in multiple ways?
  • Perhaps there is now acknowledgement that a strong ‘school led’ system is ultimately reliant upon a strong teacher education university sector?
  • Perhaps the recent White Paper is also recognition that teacher education in Universities wasn’t as bad as was made out to be (for political reasons) and now that others have had a go at it doing it – there is recognition that a mixed economy of provision is the way forward?

The current White Paper would seem to be recognition that aspects of the previous White paper (2010) were wrong and ultimately naïve. However the next round of allocations would seem to be an opportunity to PERHAPS further demonstrate this through providing an appropriate and sustained allocation of training/educating places for universities?

 

 

 

 

 

Adding Context to the National Audit Office Report on Training New Teachers

The NAO report (published on 10th February, 2016) provides a  thorough overview of the whether the DfE is achieving value for money through its arrangements to train new teachers.

However cutting to the chase (spoiler alert) the conclusion of the report is:

until the Department meets its targets and addresses the remaining information gaps, we cannot conclude that the arrangements for training new teachers are value for money. 

Now I would recommend reading the report and the initial analysis by Schools Week but here are some additional points that might provide useful additional context to  the report:

  1. Too little emphasis on quality. Whilst the report focuses upon value for money a gaping hole in the DfE plans has been how it defines quality. The anomaly being, which the report acknowledges, quality of trainee is generally defined as subject knowledge and degree classification. Yet whilst the DfE will often quote that the percentage of 2:1 degree classifications is rising they do not acknowledge where the degree is from, that the degree will not necessarily be in the subject that the trainee is teaching or that financial incentives will now be paid to those with a 3rd Class Degree. For example bursaries of £9,000 are now available “if you have a degree in a relevant subject that is lower than a 2:2, and have a grade B or above in physics at A level”. Personally I am not necessarily against this but if the DfE wishes to be transparent they perhaps should not be using 2:1 classifications as the indicator of quality.

A second issue related to quality is the reckless growth of provision, which according to the report will take until at least 2018 for all new SCITT (growth from 56 to 155) providers to be inspected by Ofsted. At the same time NCTL have, perhaps at a time when it is most needed, withdrawn the NQT survey, which was an important part of the quality assurance of training. Furthermore, previously under the TDA Provider expansion into new subjects and different phases was carefully controlled yet it now appears that expansion into different phases and subjects is not robustly quality assured and the quality of provision of almost 100 new providers is unknown?

2. Provider Viability. The report makes an unusual statement by suggesting that ‘only ‘five higher-education institutions (out of 75) have stopped offering training. It would seem that this is almost a disappointing conclusion! However whilst ‘only’ five providers may have completely pulled out of training teachers  a more important point would be to ask how many current providers had stopped one or more routes? I suspect the majority of providers may well have had to close one or more routes or may well be  considering delivering such routes in very different ways due changes in government policy (the well documented History provision at Cambridge being a good example).

3. Positive New Partnerships. In our meeting with the NAO I was keen to stress that positive partnerships have been established and have grown as a result of the changes in the last 5 years (it hasn’t all been bad). However I also indicated that some long standing relationships had also been damaged. NCTL policy of growing SCITTs and School Direct has often been provocative and damaging with often ill informed advisers pursuing DfE ideology for their own benefit and at the expense of existing relationships.

4. Is this really School Led? The table below whilst classifying some routes as school led fails to illustrate that actually the vast majority of routes remain firmly based upon partnership. This is not school led or university led but based upon genuine partnership. On accountability alone – as in who is ultimately accountable to Ofsted for the training of the trainee – 93% of the accountability still lies with University led provision. However I would again make the point that the best training is based upon genuine partnerships.

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5. Local issues. A central tenet of many of the changes detailed in the report has been to deliberately increase competition amongst providers. The growth of SCITTS has actively been promoted often when there was already sufficient provision in an area. To give an example that I particularly understand, the Northwest has long been a net exporter of new teachers. The Northwest six years ago had a concentration of approximately six HEIs and a small number of SCITTs. There was little need to increase provision and if you were going to increase provision you might consider that any expansion should be strategic and not financially incentivized, as it would not represent value for money? Unfortunately this is not the case and the Northwest now has the highest (and still growing) concentration of training in the country (as illustrated below). Conservative policy may well be delighted at such competition but the growth has unintended consequences in that high quality HEI provision has been squeezed out in some areas whilst the viability of new and long standing SCITTs is also problematic given they are often competing to recruit in a challenging market against other similar providers. I am certainly not anti SCITT as they represent an important alternative form of provision where needed.  However too often SCITTs are being encouraged for the wrong reasons and face demanding circumstances which are often not sufficiently communicated.

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Ultimately, the report is unequivocal in its finding in that it cannot conclude that the arrangements for training new teachers are value for money. More significantly the report illustrates some of the damaging effects of government policy in the last 6 years.

Perhaps the biggest issue however is what could have been achieved in the last six years if the government could have worked with existing providers to challenge the major educational challenges and recruitment issues that we all face instead of pursuing ideologies, which have resulted in such a damming report.

In being optimistic (and perhaps naïve) this report may confirm some ‘home truths’ and it could  be that it is now time to begin to consider how we can  all genuinely work collectively and collaboratively in partnership, to tackle the genuine challenges of recruiting and educating high quality new teachers!

 

Combining Black Friday with Transfer Deadline Hysteria Approach to ITE recruitment

Last Friday afternoon I tweeted:

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.50.38

The reason for my tweet was that I had just received the message below indicating that School Led (still don’t know what this means) recruitment was at 90%:

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So like other providers who have already suffered a 25% cut on their primary core allocation – on Friday afternoon I had to encourage colleagues to scurry around to try to finalize offers in the system whilst keeping schools updated. As indicated the panic induced is a combination of Black Friday shopping hysteria and ‘transfer day deadline’ mania brought about through ill conceived recruitment controls which encourage ITE providers to recruit as quickly as they can. As such it penalizes the diligent who seek the best candidates. Less than a week later Primary School Direct is now closed (email below 00:01 12th February 2016) and thousands of very able applicants will not even get the chance of an interview this year, whilst diligent providers are left with significant shortfalls in their recruitment (and budget).

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.54.47

 

Ironically the NCTL rationale for introduction of recruitment controls was to “empower School Direct lead schools, SCITTs and HEIs and give greater flexibility in recruitment to meet local need”

 In fact this is the opposite of empowerment as the forcing of providers to compete against each other is debilitating and deprofessionalising. There are no winners in this silly ideological game!

 

 

Sorry Mr Gibb – This Is Not A Plan!

This week Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, gave evidence at the Education Select Committee  about the future supply of teachers. Now although a big fan of the select committee there is an immediate problem in that its members are not always tuned in to the fine detail and will often let witnesses off the hook. There are exceptions – Ian Mearns is always very good and Graham Stuart, when Chair, always had an eye for detail (and the twisting of the truth). This lack of detail was however very evident at this weeks meeting when Nick Gibb was pressed on the issue of Design and Technology (D&T) teacher supply.

Now I know a little about Design and Technology recruitment and I raised the issue of the dwindling of teacher supply with NCTL/ DfE back in 2013 – almost 3 years ago. I have also raised it at every possible opportunity since then and I have yet to see anything significant in terms of action.

At the Select Committee Michelle Donelan was the first to ask about D&T drawing attention to the impact of the EBacc and lower bursaries sending negative messages to applicants. All good points well made.

Nick Gibb accepted the problem with D&T and pointed out that numbers were in decline before the introduction of the EBacc measure.

Gibb: “part of problem was the content of the curriculum.”

Okay point 1: The Coalition wanted to introduce the most absurd national curriculum for D&T that resulted in a massive campaign to overturn it. It was the coalition who had failed to consult on the curriculum and content and who had created uncertainty over the future of the subject (see here for more information). At the same time the bursary for D&T was withdrawn causing a significant drop in recruitment!

Gibb: “we will see an uptake in those [D&T] subjects which will feed through into qualified teachers”

Now at this point I assumed this was an error. Surely Nick Gibb didn’t suggest the answer to teacher supply was the reform of GCSE? So the new GCSE will overcome the significant uncertainty in the subject created by the coalition? And it will overcome the limited curriculum created by Progress 8 and EBacc? And that the new GCSE will stop applicants taking the big money bursaries of Maths and Physics because the GCSE content is so good?

Gibb: “We have increased numbers from 409 to 526 this year”

Okay point 2: So this might sound like good news? Perhaps a better question would be to ask how many high quality ITE providers have pulled out of offering Design and Technology? The answer is perhaps more than any subject. Equally a further question might have been how many providers are also able to offer dedicated routes in the subject (or will be able to do so in the future)?

At this point Ian Mearns – pointed out you might have increased numbers but this is only 41% of the target.

Gibb: “but we have increased the target.”

Okay point 3: Now this was said as if increasing the target was positive and if you want to hear this for yourself (as you need to hear the intonation) it was at 1:33 into the committee hearing. However the obvious point was the target increases each year because of the significant under recruitment each year! Clearly not something to be celebrating?

Gibb: “but I’m optimistic for the future because we have improved the curriculum and that will feed through into more youngsters taking the subject and in turn more qualified people ready to come into teaching.”

So this is the plan? Really!

Er, who is going to teach the new content to these budding new teachers?

So these budding new teachers are still going to be faced with at least £36k of debt for fees and then presumably will still be faced with the option of choosing what subject to teach based upon variable bursaries?

Okay point 4: Perhaps the biggest flaw in this idea is that the new GCSE potentially starts in 2016/17 with the first cohort completing in 2018? Now we won’t ponder on dwindling numbers for GCSE or falling numbers at A Level but supposing these new teachers take the new A Level they will complete it in 2020. Now we will deny these new teachers a gap year, as we need these teachers urgently – so a three-year degree followed by a one-year teacher-training course (goodness knows what will be the state of teacher training by then) and this takes us to 2024! Working on 600 teacher shortfall each year (as is the present case) in Design and Technology means that by then we will have had a shortfall of about 5000 D&T teachers (not counting increases needed because of baby boom, increasing departure of teachers and the extra numbers of teachers needed to cope with the increased demand for the fantastic new GCSE with new content).

Sorry – this isn’t a plan!

As Ian Mears said “maybe some urgency is required!”

Now I know Mr Gibb has a lot of plates to spin and perhaps he didn’t expect to have questions about D&T. But the reality is that D&T and other subject (such as Business Education) have been marginalised and left to dwindle. Myself and the Design and Technology Association have drawn this to the attention of NCTL and again I appreciate they have equally been busy. However at the same time the Initial Teacher Education community for Design and Technology has imploded.

I don’t raise these issues to score points but to illustrate that this is just one example (of many) of there not being a clear plan in place for Initial Teacher Education and whilst ministers make noises – those noises are not convincing (at least not to me). To suggest twice that the new GCSE is in any way the answer and not offer anything else (when in fact the new GCSE will create its own problems) is  worrying!

NCTL may well have inadvertently driven down the quality for the 2016-17 cohort!

I once boarded a plane, which on landing landed in the wrong airport about 100 miles from where we were due to land at 2.00 in the morning. Despite this everyone was cheering, as there was huge relief that we had actually landed.

 

So when NCTL announced they were applying the ‘reserve organisation recruitment control’ for History, English and Primary postgraduate HEI ITT courses there was again some relief – once again we have survived the turbulence!

 

If you were not aware of what the announcement meant, it indicated that providers would be able to recruit a minimum of 75% of History, English or Primary totals from the previous year. So, hooray we are at least going to recruit 75% of last years total!

 

But wait this is still a 25% cut in students and income which is more drastic than was anticipated when the initial controls were introduced. This means that the very best (and the very worst) HEI providers all get a 25% cut! Diligence and quality remain unrewarded and those who can recruit faster than everyone else (by whatever means) may just be able to reach 95% of last years total.

 

So why did this happen:

 

Well firstly NCTL tried to manipulate the market and seriously misjudged the behavior of providers (despite being told what would happen).

 

Secondly NCTL also misjudged their own ability to manage the market as having initially indicated they would give providers regular updates about recruitment – suddenly they couldn’t keep up with the speed of recruitment and the system failed.

 

The reason for this was that some providers realizing they could be left high and dry resorted to recruiting in any way they could.

 

Examples of this include telephone only interviews and even offers of a place before interview. Whilst I can’t condone such behavior – I do understand it – but I really do hope that NCTL start to ask providers about the equity and quality assurance procedures that were or were not applied in the rush to recruit.

 

 

And what does this all mean:

 

If you read twitter you will see there are a whole bunch of applicants who are shocked at the speed at which their applications for a PGCE have been processed and the pressure they were under to attend interviews (where proper interviews took place) at short notice.

 

It will therefore be interesting to see how many of those accepted would previously have been accepted on to a PGCE. I am sure there will now be providers who may well be already regretting their panic recruitment in relation to the quality of applicants they have offered places to. Sadly NCTL may well have inadvertently driven quality down for the 2016-17 cohort!

 

To their credit NCTL did at least realize it was going horribly wrong and brought in the reserve control of 75% – but this is still bad news.

 

So what next:

 

NCTL have indicated that the application of recruitment controls was for one year – but they haven’t actually said what might be next. I do hope they consult on their next plans and more importantly listen to those who genuinely want to drive up standards and who want to maintain quality.

The Double Whammy of Rejection: Application of NCTL Recruitment Controls

I have previously written about NCTLs new recruitment process for educating and training new teachers: Zugzwang first move dilema.

This week NCTL have announced the detail for new ITT recruitment controls – the system that ‘empowers’ providers to recruit ‘as many trainees as they feel they need’ – followed by the biggest ‘BUT’:

BUT – you can’t recruit as many as you wish if you are an HEI, SCITT or School Direct.

BUT – you can’t recruit as many as want in particular subject.

BUT – you can’t recruit as many as want in a particular region.

BUT – you can’t recruit as many as you want in subjects you don’t already offer (HEIs).

BUT – you can’t recruit as many as you want in a particular phase.

Why – because NCTL will apply controls related to:

  • Subject
  • Route
  • By Organisation
  • By Region

What this system does reward is the quickest recruiter and this will definitely change the behaviour of providers and applicants as rejection of an applicant now has a double whammy effect.

Why – well here is an example:

Imagine 6 places have been allocated for training (I prefer educating and training) – previously these would have been allocated on the basis of a series of measures such as quality (whilst acknowledging there were problems with this method as well). Therefore you might have had the following allocation:

  • Provider A (Outstanding provision) – 3 places
  • Provider B (Good provision) – 2 places
  • Provider C (Good provision, just come out of RI) – 1 place

Under the previous system the provider knew their allocation and made decisions based upon experience about when to recruit and how they should recruit. Their destiny was in their own hands and applicants would also know how many places were available at a particular institution.

Now under the new system in this example there are six weak applicants and because of the new system applicants apply for up to 3 providers. Each is therefore interviewed.

Previously the 6 weak applicants would have been rejected by Providers A and B. And even though provider C in the previous system may have accepted them – provider C could only have accepted 1 applicant.

However here is the new dilemma of the new system – if Provider A and Provider B reject all six applicants – they are not only rejecting the applicant whilst maintaining their own quality – they are also reducing the pool of places they can fill from. In this scenario if provider C accepts all applicants – provider A and B will not be able to recruit. So providers A and B are not only rejecting a candidate they also have the double whammy of reducing the pool that they recruit from.

Now of course there are many other scenarios and whilst this is a simplified explanation – the reality is this is not a model that rewards diligence in recruitment – it rewards speed in processing applicants. Dither and the pool of places available to you gets smaller. Likewise we know this won’t happen in all subjects and phases but it will happen.

When I asked NCTL the question ‘does this model in anyway encourage quality’ –  the straightforward answer was ‘No’.

As a result we are moving away from training the ‘best generation of teachers’ to rewarding the ‘fastest generation’ of  applications and the processing of these applications. I am sure it will be reassuring for parents to know that their child is not being taught by the best applicant educated at the best provider – but by the quickest applicants and providers who could fill the quickest.

NCTL have stressed this is a pilot for one year which confirms this is a desperate attempt to recruit teachers. If so lets all work together on this and come up with solutions rather than trying to manipulate a pseudo market with unknown controls.

Ultimately, this is not about empowering providers – it is unfortunate way of treating high quality providers and applicants, paying £9000, who may also be denied their choice of the way they wish to be educated in becoming a teacher.

Questions the Select Committee should have asked about Teacher Recruitment.

The newly formed education select committee surprisingly chose to spend only the last five minutes of this weeks questioning of the Secretary of State for Education on teacher recruitment. Maintaining the jovial atmosphere the secretary of state fudged the issues of teacher recruitment and talked about cobbling together a workforce as opposed to the previous ambitions of creating a world class profession. Equally there was no clear message given about the future direction of NCTL (if it remains) or who will lead NCTL at a time when it desperately needs clear, informed, intelligent and dynamic leadership.

Perhaps therefore someone on the committee might have asked how after five years we have a recruitment crisis, a fragmented system, a lack of direction and what now appears to be a lack of ambition? Unchallenged, the Secretary of State neatly sidestepped the issues by suggesting we have ‘some challenges’ – but this really does not do justice to the genuine challenges that many schools now face in shortage subjects.

Nicky Morgan also talked about there being a plan (which the select committee have asked to see) and I suspect civil servants will now be working night and day to try and pull something coherent together and I look forward to reading it!

Acknowledging these are early days for the new select committee hopefully as time goes on they will get to grips with their new brief. Therefore, some questions they might ask the next time they get an opportunity might include:

Firstly, the root cause of the difficulties in recruitment is not simply down to an improving economy. The biggest lever for recruitment is through the positive messages aspirant teachers get from existing teachers – which currently is desperately lacking. Therefore how can the morale of the profession be improved?

Secondly, the marketising of teacher supply through a school led system risks marginalising the very schools many of the most vulnerable children attend. Consequently, how can we ensure there is equity in the distribution of high quality teachers to all schools and particularly those in challenging circumstances?

Finally, when you become preoccupied with teacher supply you are in danger of being distracted from the bigger issue of teacher quality and there is now a real threat that we will simply become satisfied with getting the requisite number of teachers in place. So, how can we refocus the sector away from the significant distractions the previous coalition created and get back to focusing on creating a world class profession?

Next Steps for a School(s) Led System?

The announced closure of NCTLs Nottingham base, the recruitment crisis, the moderate success of School Direct and the announcement of DfE cuts of £400M probably means this isn’t a bad time for Charlie Taylor to be leaving his role as chief executive of NCTL. Certainly the timing would seem right and whoever   replaces Charlie, if indeed he is replaced, they are going to be faced with some huge challenges!

One area that has however been synonymous with Charlie Taylor was his unequivocal support in delivering Michael Gove’s ‘school led’ system. Like ‘Personalised Learning’ and ‘Coasting Schools’ – ‘School Led’ is another easy to say ‘catchy’ term that is difficult to define and realize particularly in relation to Initial Teacher Education. Therefore the new leader of NCTL will need to think afresh how this policy is going to evolve especially given the steer that this is very much a new government with a new agenda and new personnel.

One of the difficulties with a school led system was it was deliberately positioned in a provocative way in challenging existing high quality provision. As such schools were used as leverage to challenge the illusion of ‘Enemies Of Promise’ whilst Michael Gove antagonistically used the policy change as the rationale for “moving teacher training away from university departments and into our best schools”. In doing this schools were being positioned in opposition against University providers and polarized as competitors or as consumers (through their commissioning of teacher training) whilst those entering the system, as new teachers, became commodified in the ‘school led’ market system. An interesting contradiction and emerging tension with this (which is still unravelling) was how students themselves also became more powerful consumers whilst at the same time were paying more whilst potentially getting less and having less choice (which may be even more apparent next year).

The antagonism during the last five years has at times appeared relentless but incredibly reassuring has been how many schools have realised the folly in polarising relationships and have continued to work incredibly well with universities. In fact if anything the establishment of the school led system has been a useful test of the relationship with schools, which in many cases have thrived, based upon genuine partnership rather than political ideologies. Equally one of the significant benefits of the emergence of a school led system has been the development of a shared dialogue and understanding between schools where there is a genuine commitment to establishing high quality provision.

A new chief executive of NCTL should therefore prioritise trying to capture the very best of what has emerged over the last five years in the move to a school led system and proactively support the best practice in ITE (perhaps they might also want to try to define what ‘School Led’ actually means). My own thoughts are that we need better discussions about how to attract, develop and retain new teachers. School led teacher education equally does not have to be framed as anti academic or anti university experience which has resonance with the way initial teacher education has frequently been framed over the last five years. Rather partnerships and communities should be contextualised not by what they are called or where they are located but by their orientation that should be authentic, transformative, intelligent and constructed through purposeful collaboration.

There is an interesting and huge challenge ahead for the next leader of NCTL and hopefully they will take time to listen and draw on the emerging best practice. If the next appointment is purely political, one designed to provoke, then we risk further damage and lose an opportunity of developing a transformative and sustainable initial teacher education system.

 

Zugzwang: The First Move Dilemma Created by NCTL Non-allocations

After some rumour – on 23rd June 2015 NCTL made the surprise announcement that after many years of making direct allocations to providers (telling providers how many trainee teachers they were allowed to train) – they were going to trial a system of not making allocations:

…We know that you have often found our allocations process complicated and you have been frustrated when you have not received the number of places you asked for. We have therefore simplified the process for the distribution of ITT places, and for the 2016 to 2017 academic year we will not be making direct allocations (NCTL 2015).

Amongst various spin was the message (and some belief) that this meant providers really could recruit as many as they wanted. A couple of weeks after the announcement I am still meeting people who think this is the removal of recruitment caps – so for the benefit of them:

…However, to insure against over recruitment and ensure sufficient national trainee coverage whilst protecting individual school and ITT provider viability we will also operate a number of controls on recruitment. These controls will place a stop on recruitment when certain thresholds are met (NCTL 2015).

 

So to paraphrase Marie Antoinette – you can eat as much cake as you can – but we are not telling you how much cake there is or when you will be full! Ultimately this is a controlled opaque process with some significant caveats:

…This control will allow for moderate growth in school-led provision where such demand exists (NCTL 2015).

As yet ‘moderate’ is not defined but this is a process that will favour school led (as yet undefined) provision and the extent of the growth is not being declared yet. However whilst this might indicate overall growth and create a warm glow amongst ‘school led’ providers the reality is ‘school led’ providers are now equally competing in an expanding market. A further interesting caveat is this message:

…Whilst we would expect to see some expansion at individual school or provider level we would not expect this to be at the expense of quality (NCTL 2015).

The above is interesting as again there is no defining of quality in this context. If anything this system would appear to penalise those that actively remain diligent and seek the best ‘quality’ candidates. Ultimately any provider of Primary, History, PE and English (the likely areas to meet national recruitment targets) are up against an invisible clock and at some stage – we don’t know when – they will be told to stop recruiting:

…We will write to lead schools and ITT providers if a course is close to meeting one of the recruitment control thresholds and again if it is met (NCTL 2015).

So what might be an underlying rationale for the change in approach?

Well, whilst trying to give the impression this is a freeing up of the market – this is very much the direct manipulation of the market whilst absolving NCTL of the unpopular decision making process associated with the previous allocations model.

On this basis I understand their decision-making. Why be unpopular each year when trying to allocate with a methodology that made little sense?

What this model does however do is directly moves allocations specifically away from previous performance and contradicts previous messaging from NCTL – but hey this is a new government!

The model is however a specific attempt to manipulate the market that NCTL have directly created and this is what I find the most interesting. Essentially in a small number of subjects/routes it would appear providers are going to be incentivized to recruit as quickly as possible (whether they wish to or not) as they are competing against each other before the finishing line comes to them – the Hunger Games of Providers!

THE

RECRUITMENT

GAMES

In game theory this is called the ‘first move dilemma’ where the welfare of the individual (or provider) is dependent on the actions of others. If the majority of providers pursue a quick recruitment policy (and potentially reduce quality) then the welfare of the minority reduces! NCTL’s changing the rules of the game forces a change of each providers often long established and previously held (game) strategy.

As such we have a situation of zugzwang where those who don’t wish to make a move are forced to make a move – exactly what NCTL want in relation to changing behaviours related to the speed of recruitment but potentially this could backfire in terms of quality! Forcing the market and manipulating the market is a dangerous game and as yet we don’t yet know of the unintended consequences this will create in the behaviour of applicants and providers – watch this space!