Amid the daily kerfuffle about changing exams, Academies, Free Schools, Ofsted and standards, one alteration is taking place without a great deal of comment. The training of teachers is undergoing a revolution.
Teachers have largely been trained either by going from school straight to a higher education course preparing them to teach – a BEd course in most recent years – or, after a degree, undertaking a one-year PGCE course.
Both routes involved a mixture of theoretical work and training on the job. Over ten years ago, another hoop was introduced, the NQT year, when the newly qualified teacher continued to be closely supported, supervised and monitored.
Excellent teachers are the single most important factor in a successful education system.
There are some fabulous people currently going into teaching. Whether that is to do with the cuts in public service jobs or whether it is linked with a change in how young people think about their lives, I am not sure, but the initial supply chain is strong.
Teach First has been a successful scheme to encourage top graduates who don’t necessarily see teaching as their only career, to start off in challenging schools where they can satisfy their vision of making a difference. Other groups are targeted by the DfE from time to time – those leaving industry or the army.
Once they are committed, the goal is the best training and this is where the sea-change has come. For whatever reason, the DfE has for some time been convinced that teachers need to be trained by working teachers not by university academics.
So PGCE courses are diminishing and SCITTs (School-centred initial teacher training) are expanding. Teaching Schools have a remit to play their part in this so that the future landscape will be more various than it has ever been before. Funding is more complex and heavily politically influenced. The role of departments of education in universities is being re-examined.
Good or bad? It is early days. But the encouraging quality of those wanting to enter the profession is a promising sign.
* Sarah Evans, Principal, King Edward VI High School for Girls