If you follow education news, you will not have been able to avoid the tension between teacher training providers and the Department for Education this summer.In July, the DfE published their recommendations from the Initial teacher training (ITT) market review and consultation. Since the controversial recommendations have been published, there have been a lot of adverse reactions from ITT providers, across the sector, with both Oxford and Cambridge University’s education departments threatening to no longer deliver initial teacher training if the recommendations go ahead. So what were the recommendations which have caused so much consternation in the sphere of teacher training and how might IRIS Connect help ITT providers prepare for the re-accreditation process?
Perhaps the most contentious part of the DfE’s proposals are that all providers of initial teacher education will have to undergo a ‘rigorous’ re-accreditation process, where they will be judged against ‘raised standards.’ The report sets out what some of these ‘raised standards’ may look like, with the DfE admitting that it will probably result in ‘significant market reconfiguration’ with some providers needing to form ‘different partnerships’ to gain reaccreditation. Providers were given just over a month to formulate responses, before accreditation in early 2022, with successful providers being announced before the end of the 2021/22 academic year, ready for teaching in September 2023. Many providers have released statements criticising the proposal and the short time scale given to respond, with NASBTT stating, ‘there is simply no need for an expensive, untested and enormously disruptive reaccreditation process which puts providers and, therefore, the supply of teachers into our schools at unnecessary risk.’
Curriculum and the Core Content Framework
Other changes recommended in the report are that all providers should ‘develop an evidence-based training curriculum’ which ‘explicitly delivers the requirements and principles of the Core Content Framework in full.’ The Core Content Framework (CCF), which replaced the Framework of Core Content for Initial Teacher Training (2016) defines in detail what trainee teachers should learn and learn how to do by the end of their training. The DfE state that the CCF draws on the best available evidence and that ITT providers need to ensure they can evidence that trainees can ‘understand and apply the principles of the CCF in a controlled, cumulative and logical manner.’ The restrictive nature of the CCF has also been questioned by providers, with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education responding: ‘The market review proposals appear to confuse quality with uniformity and conformity.’ The DfE have refuted these claims by asserting that providers ‘would still have freedom to design their curriculum and programme as long as these requirements are met.’
The curriculum in universities and schools and the CCF being a visible part of the curriculum, will be one of the conditions of re-accreditation.
With the implementation of the curriculum being such a key part of the process, IRIS Connect’s platform provides an environment to structure and securely communicate a curriculum across a diverse network. IRIS Connect Groups bring the content to life with exemplar videos, discussion forums, assessment tools and powerful blended learning experiences like Film Club. This positively evaluated professional learning model uses theory and exemplar videos to foster collective reflection and rich professional dialogue focused on key pedagogical themes. IRIS Connect’s education team has extensive experience in supporting providers to structure and deliver content in this way.
Another condition of re-accreditation is the introduction of intensive placements for trainees within providers’ curriculums. The intensive placements will last at least four weeks for postgraduate courses and six weeks for undergraduate teaching qualifications. The report adds that these placements should be ‘moments of step change in understanding, competence, and confidence’ and can take the form of group placements at ‘pivotal points’ across the school year. The placements must include ‘substantial elements of practical classroom exposure’, with the review also stating that effective delivery methods such as video recorded teaching - just one of the many features of the IRIS Connect platform, will also be a valuable tool to providers.
Currently, students usually complete placement windows of at least 24 weeks, but under the new guidance, this looks set to increase to at least 28 weeks. This may make it challenging for ITT providers to teach all of the required content if students’ time in universities is reduced. Luckily, IRIS Connect’s conferencing system: ‘Rooms’ - can make holding seminars or tutorials at a distance much more viable and sessions can be recorded for students and lecturers to revisit later.
In addition, the review suggests that the role of the mentor may be even more vital than it has been previously. Since the launch of the Early Career Framework and the announcement that mentor training will include an additional second year of support for early career teachers - mentoring has really been in the spotlight. This spotlight will only be brighter with the recommendations in the market review, as providers will be required to equip their mentors with ‘detailed’ training curriculums and appoint lead mentors, who will oversee intensive placements across a number of different schools. Of course, this may have challenging cover ramifications for schools, where it is difficult for lead mentors to be in more than one school supporting and quality-assuring. Part of this support will involve observing, deconstructing and critiquing examples of teaching, and here is where the analysis of video lessons could be integral to making this requirement a reality. It would allow lead mentors to meet with other mentors and trainees in their own time, so that time and distance barriers can be eradicated. This ‘wider mentor oversight’ means that IRIS Connect’s platform could be instrumental in facilitating the review's recommendations.
For teacher training universities in Europe, these changes are not new practice. Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia have all been using video technology effectively for many years. In the Netherlands, our IRIS Connect system is used in 40% of ITE programmes nationally and in Denmark, our partner VIA University of Applied Sciences, trains 30% of all teachers in the country, with our system also being used by the other major ITE providers in the country, University College Copenhagen. At the heart of these learning experiences is a collaborative partnership between the student teachers (trainees), university-based tutors and school-based mentors, aimed at supporting the trainees to link educational theory to real-world practice and develop skills needed to sustain their growth throughout their teaching career. The use of the IRIS Connect platform can help to build a shared understanding of where practice is now, what it should be in the future and what the incremental steps required to get there are. VIA, who have been successfully using IRIS Connect across their programmes and courses since 2012, have used the platform to enable student teachers to record, reflect and analyse their teaching practice. The student teachers are also given the opportunity to record their own curriculum lessons delivered in their placement schools and share those lessons with each other, as well as with their tutors, with ease. A student teacher at VIA University said, “when you see each other teach you gain a deeper understanding of what exactly we are talking about. When you watch a video of your practice instead of just talking about what you have experienced, it becomes more tangible.”
Schools will also be asked to ensure that should they be used as a placement school, they have at least one member of staff who has undertaken the National Professional Qualification for Leading Teacher Development. Providers must also work much more closely with their school partnerships to quality assure ‘all aspects of the delivery of the course’ and that they ‘meet the high expectations to which all trainees are entitled’ - including the work of mentors. This is significant, as the review states that evidencing this will be a key condition of accreditation. Filming mentor meetings would be a valuable asset in the quality assurance process, along with conducting joint observations using video recorded lessons - all of which are capabilities of the IRIS Connect platform. Our collaboration with Teach First has shown how the platform can help providers to deliver world-leading Initial Teacher Training. Video observations can be shared seamlessly with lecturers, mentors and lead mentors and feedback and dialogue between participants can be shared via in-video annotations and rubrics. Importantly, all of these activities can be undertaken over distance and at a time which best suits the participants, overcoming the practical barriers to fluid, frequent and informed professional dialogue.
Finally, there has been a call in the review for teaching school hubs to partner with an accredited partner and ‘support local ITT delivery in specific strategic ways as required.’ This may include building active mentoring networks, or demonstrating what high-quality intensive placements should look like to local schools. When the accreditation process has been completed and these partnerships have been formed, there may be more frequent inspections from Ofsted, as the DfE have recommended that the ‘robustness of providers’ quality assurance arrangements’ should still continue to be tested, with the market review suggesting that going forward, ITT should be included in the education inspection framework. This process of developing stronger links between ITT providers and their partners is something that the IRIS Connect platform already facilitates. Providers set up trust networks with their partners, where the fluid sharing of expertise and feedback and the development of wide libraries of practice enable multisite collaboration. Partnerships can really focus on key pedagogical themes and see these exemplified on video; these are also then later available to deconstruct and discuss when needed. These networks of trust may enable providers to work more effectively with partners, while also ensuring that the Core Content Framework is being delivered on placements effectively.
Teacher training providers have now been given the opportunity to respond to the proposals, as part of the consultation process, so it will certainly be interesting to follow what the Department for Education chooses to do next.
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