In-depth analysis on the DfE’s QTS consultation

The DfE has launched a consultation on Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and Improving Career Progression for Teachers. What might this mean for the education sector? The National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) has responded and here executive director Emma Hollis shares some of their key points from

Have your say before March 9

The objective of the consultation is to support teachers, ensure the right structures are in place at the beginning of a teacher’s career, improve access to high-quality professional development and improve progression opportunities for all teachers throughout their careers.

In the first half of the consultation sets out the DfE’s proposal for a strengthened Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which includes:

  • an extended induction period with QTS awarded at the end;
  • development of a structured early career content framework setting out what all teachers need to know and areas for development;
  • a stronger mentoring provision for new teachers.

In the second of the consultation the DfE has set out how they could support career development for teachers once they’ve gained QTS, which includes:

  • expansion of professional qualifications to include specialisms to promote specialist career pathways;
  • a range of options to help embed a culture of continuing professional development, building on work already underway;
  • a pilot fund for work-related sabbaticals.

Have your say before March 9

NASBTT has responded to the DfE consultation, following the submission NASBTT’s executive director Emma Hollis said: “NASBTT widely welcomes the proposals set out in the QTS consultation and feels very positive about the way the DfE is engaging with all stakeholders and is genuinely listening to what the profession wants. We are grateful for the explicit recognition of the excellent work already being carried out by the ITE sector and would endorse the view that the ‘work’ to be done is in the induction space rather than during the ITT year.”

However, they also raised concerns over the semantics of the proposal.

Emma continued: “Having recognised that the mechanism which leads to QTS is in an excellent place, it seems anomalous to then suggest that QTS needs improving. In fact, we would argue that QTS should remain where it is, with all the prestige and recognition that it, rightly, holds, and that Endorsed QTS should be awarded at the end of an extended induction period.  Rather than ‘Strengthened QTS’, we would argue that what we are, in fact consulting on is ‘Strengthened Induction’.

“In all of our responses to the consultation we make the assumption that central funding will be provided to schools to allow these changes to take place. What is absolutely clear is that schools do not currently have the finances to support additional CPD for staff nor the reduction in timetables proposed for the extended induction period. For any of these proposals to be successful, funding must be committed which allows schools to commit time and resource into developing their staff. If left unfunded, the strain on schools would be too great and these proposals will have no chance of success.”

Over a series of questions, Emma and the team at NASBTT pose and answer some essential questions on the proposals:

Do you think that QTS should be awarded after a period of sustained professional practice rather than the end of ITT?

No. We strongly believe that QTS should remain where it is, at the end of the ITT year, and that ‘Endorsed QTS’ should be awarded after a period of sustained professional practice.

Do you agree that a core early career content framework and CPD offer for new teachers should be fundamental to a strengthened QTS?

We agree that a core early career content framework and CPD offer for new teachers should be fundamental to a strengthened induction but maintain that it is the induction period that needs to be strengthened, not QTS. 

How else can we improve the quality and quantity of mentoring for all new teachers?

One of the main barriers to effective mentoring is that it is seen as an additional ‘burden’ rather than a natural step in a teacher’s career. Often mentors are pushed into the role by a headteacher seeking to make timetables work rather than being a self-selecting role which is recognised with higher status, financial recompense and increased release time.

In many cases, training and development are not offered and skills are assumed rather than explicitly taught.  Excellent mentoring takes great skill and should be given the recognition that is deserves. It should be, for example, one of the career pathways identified for those who seek to extend their career within the classroom context.

Do you agree that the QTS assessment should be conducted internally and be independently verified by an appropriate body?

No. As has already been recognised, an internal assessment which is independently verified is the system we already have and this has resulted in inconsistencies in approach and variability in the quality of training and support. We would recommend greater involvement of ITE partnerships in the induction process, with assessment being carried out by ITE providers who have extensive skills and knowledge when it comes to assessing progress against the Teachers’ Standards.

How do you think we should strengthen the independent verification of QTS accreditation?

If, as per our recommendation, QTS accreditation is carried out by accredited providers, extensive quality assurance measures are already in place through the Ofsted inspection compliance with the ITT criteria. The QA process is ‘ready-made’ and Ofsted inspections could be extended to incorporate the assessment for Endorsed QTS at the end of the second year of induction.

Do you think we should maintain the limitation on how long a teacher can teach on a supply basis without completing QTS?

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Whilst we maintain that QTS should remain at the end of the ITT year, we agree that there should be a limitation on how long a teacher can teach on a supply basis without being awarded Endorsed QTS.

What impact would this model of a strengthened QTS have on the wider school system?

The obvious hurdle which schools will face will be a financial one.  The consultation represents an incredibly positive step towards raising the status of teaching and teachers but unless properly funded, it could be disastrous for schools, adding immense pressure to already shrinking budgets and leading to ‘cutting corners’ to ‘tick the boxes’ rather than entering into the changes in the spirit with which they are intended.

Are there any other implications that we should consider, and what are your suggestions for addressing them?

The language used around these proposals needs to be carefully considered so that unintended consequences are avoided. If prospective entrants to the profession see what was a one-year process suddenly appearing to be a three year ‘marathon’, we may lose applicants which would be disastrous. It is for this reason that we are so strongly advocating for QTS to remain where it is.  It is well understood and widely recognised and moving this may well result in confusion and discomfort.  It may also devalue those that already hold QTS and lead to greater negative messages about and within the profession at a time where, more than ever, we need positive messages to be disseminated.

There may also be confusion around the term ‘Provisional QTS’ (if this were to be introduced) in terms of international recognition of our ITE provision.  You have rightly pointed out that this is currently well respected on the international stage and to change the award given at the end of this year may lead to a devaluing of our provision in international circles.

Whilst we agree with many of these proposals to strengthen the ‘foundation’, there is a danger in doing so without a clearer idea of the ‘building’ such foundations are intended to support.  A review of the Standards themselves, or at the very least, a clear set of statements which exemplify what is to be expected at different stages in a career, would go a long way to helping with a clearly mapped out pathway for progression.

What additional support should be offered for teachers who work in more challenging schools to undertake further professional qualifications?

Grants/bursaries which fund these qualifications.  Rewards (financial or otherwise) for schools who are seen to be promoting professional qualifications among their staff.  Opportunities for secondments to other schools as an integral part of these qualifications.  Access to networks and peer mentoring opportunities.

How should government incentivise effective professional development for teachers, particularly in the areas and schools where it is most needed?

The proposed incentives are positive but could easily become an exercise in ‘box-ticking’ if not managed appropriately.

We feel there is a mismatch between the scrutiny and accountability placed on ITE providers who offer training for the first year of professional development comparative to the complete lack of quality assurance, accountability and inspection for providers of CPD.  We would recommend that, should the entitlements be set out as per the consultation (and we would agree that they should be), providers of this CPD should be subject to the same levels of compliance and accountability as ITE provision.

We further recommend that existing ITE providers are encouraged, through financial incentives and support from the Department, to expand their offering into career development throughout a teacher’s career as there could be few organisations better placed to do so.

Schools’ should be required to evidence involvement with high quality CPD provision as part of their own inspections and high levels of genuine engagement with training providers should be a pre-requisite for an outstanding inspection grade.

How can government best support the development of a genuine culture of mentoring in schools?

We welcome the focus on the mentoring role and the proposals around ‘train the trainer’ style CPD as this reflects the work we are already undertaking with our suite of qualifications for Teacher Educators.  As we have mentioned elsewhere in this consultation, mentoring must be seen as a valued and valuable role and should be recognised as such.  Sharper focus on the development of high quality mentoring through inspection foci, messages from central government and a greater expectation that CPD provision is quality assured and monitored will all help to change the culture around mentoring in schools.

Do you think that a fund to pilot sabbaticals would be a positive step for the profession?

Yes, in principle, although if funding is limited, we feel that other proposals in this consultation should take precedence.  We should not underestimate the effect of a short break for those individuals for whom the stress and workload associated has caused exhaustion to return to the profession in which they are experienced suitably refreshed.  Enabling a teacher to continue would be more cost effective than recruiting and training a replacement.

What would the impact be for teachers and schools of enabling more teachers to take sabbaticals, providing they are related to their teaching practice?

Possible outcomes might include improved long-term retention, a dovetailing of research and practice, improved attractiveness of the profession, improvements in quality of teaching resulting from lessons learned whilst on sabbatical.

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