Ofsted publishes commentary on teacher education curriculum

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has announced upcoming changes to how Ofsted inspect initial teacher education (ITE) partnerships

Spielman released a statement detailing the upcoming changes, it included:

“The education inspection framework (EIF) has been underway for over a month now. Although it’s early days, first impressions are that it’s been well received by the leaders and staff at the providers we’ve inspected so far. This is down in part to the hard work and quality of our inspectors. It’s also down to the work we carried out ahead of the framework change, both through consultation with the sector and our extensive research and piloting programme. The EIF is the most evidence-based inspection framework that Ofsted has ever produced.

“A change of approach in one area also means that we have to think about the link through to other areas we inspect. The EIF has implications for the inspection of initial teacher education (ITE) partnerships.

“The link between inspection of education settings and the inspection of ITE has always been clear. This is as it should be. The core purpose of teacher training is to make sure that trainee teachers, in all sectors, are prepared to a high professional standard for a career in teaching. The ITE experience must equip trainee teachers with the knowledge and skills to teach all children well, whatever their background or barriers to learning.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that we are planning to align the EIF and a new ITE framework.

“Much like our previous education framework, the current ITE framework places a lot of emphasis on data. For example, it focuses on employment rates, completion rates and individual trainees’ effectiveness. Consequently, inspectors have put relatively little weight on what trainees are taught or how well the centre-based and school-based training is combined into a coherent package of learning. The reliance on other outcome measures may, therefore, cover up some kinds of weakness across partnerships, or even mask strengths.

“The sector has also continued to diversify since this ITE framework began. Our inspection outcomes data shows that, although four-fifths of trainees are still training in university-led partnerships, only around a third of inspected partnerships were university-led routes. There has been a large increase in school-led routes opening since 2015. These tend to be relatively small institutions, taking, on average, 50 trainees a year. As we approach the end of the current cycle, it makes sense to look again at the ITE inspection framework to make sure we can apply it across a more diverse sector.

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“Finally, inspection practice needs to keep pace with sector developments to ensure a consistent approach and to avoid confusion for course leads, teacher trainers and trainees themselves. The Department for Education has a new recruitment and retention strategy and a commitment to reducing workload. It has also created the Early career framework (ECF) and is developing a new framework for ITE core content to align with the ECF. These developments are welcome and suggest that now is the right time to re-assess the ITE framework.

“Overall, the evidence from phase one of the research has provided a good account of some of the things that appear to matter when it comes to identifying ITE curriculum quality and that will be essential areas of further investigation for the fieldwork.

These are:

  • curriculum balance
  • the sequencing of theory and practice
  • mentor support and guidance
  • the training of teacher educators
  • the quality of communications between centre-based provision and placements

“This evidence has also contributed some ideas to the methodology for phase two. Trainee and NQT responses to the questionnaire were particularly rich, which suggests that speaking to a range of trainees during the fieldwork may be an effective means for determining the quality of curriculum. This could move us neatly away from an over-reliance on employment and completion data when making accurate assessments of impact. Additionally, variation within the same partnership in how well some subjects and aspects are taught to trainees suggests that the model of the deep-dive process from the EIF is worth testing in an ITE context.

“I am very encouraged by these initial findings. They put us on the right track for designing a model of inspection for ITE that reflects the increasing diversity of provision. We will report on the further research of this model early in the new year to support the public consultation on the new ITE framework.”

To read the full commentary, click here

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