RONA TUTT R Columnist C
The more things change? The creation of (another) new agency raises many questions
arely a year after four executive agencies of the DfE rose from the ashes of the bonfire of quangos came the announcement that two of them, the Teaching Agency (TA) and the National College for School Leadership, are to merge from 1 April. While it may make sense for the TA and the National College to come together in this way, why did no one think of this when the change to executive agencies occurred? At the time of writing, the merged agency’s name is still to be decided, will it be the: Teaching and Leadership Agency; Leadership and Teaching College; or National College for Teaching and Leadership? Its head, however, has been announced: Charlie Taylor will move across from his role as chief executive of the TA. Perhaps one of the tasks that awaits him is clarifying the various routes into initial teacher training (ITT) for prospective trainees. As the TA’s own website puts it: “There are hundreds of different ITT courses. Choosing between them is a challenge in itself, and you should be prepared to put in a lot of research.” Indeed, there has been such a proliferation of routes into teaching that there is a danger that potential recruits may give up before signing up.
Schools take the lead The Government’s determination to encourage more school-based training has seen responsibility shift away from universities. Now the focus is on schools delivering training in a classroom setting, with higher education playing a supporting role School-centred ITT has been around for some time. School Direct, however, is newer and has replaced the Graduate Teacher Programme. It allows schools to pick the graduates they need to fill posts in their schools,so that they can be trained in-house and then moved straight into their first teaching post. Teaching schools are becoming established as part of the landscape too. By December 2012, there were more than 180 primary, secondary and special schools that had been designated as teaching schools. All these routes have brought clusters of schools together so that they can deliver training between them and maintain links with higher education.
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There are also schemes targeting particular groups. The Teach First programme, designed to meet the needs of London schools, has spread further afield, and now fasttracks promising graduates into teaching after a six-week crash course. They commit to spending at least two years teaching in a challenging environment. More recently, the Troops to Teachers scheme has attracted some attention. The TA’s own website assures those looking for a change of direction that “Your experiences during your military career will have given you a firm grasp of how to behave in unexpected situations and an authority that will help you manage a classroom and be a role model for pupils.”
There are hundreds of different ITT courses. Choosing between them is a challenge that requires research
Tougher entry requirements There is also some confusion about the Secretary of State’s desire to toughen up on entry requirements. Candidates with lower-class degrees are being discouraged and tougher entry tests are being brought in, with potential teachers allowed only a couple of retakes. Like the previous Government, Michael Gove would like to see teaching becoming a master’s level profession. All this tightening up, we are told, is to create an outstanding workforce of teachers who can match the best performing countries worldwide. However, in the same way that a national curriculum is supposed to raise standards, but academies are said to raise standards faster without having to follow it, academies are also being told they can appoint people who have no qualifications to teach. Rona Tutt is a retired head teacher and a Past President of the NAHT
Leadership Focus March/April 2013