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ITT market review: facts, figures and further information


Teacher education at Cambridge and the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market review: facts, figures and further information

07 July 2021

The Government has launched a public consultation on new proposals to change initial teacher training in England (ITT). Unfortunately, these could have a serious impact on the effectiveness of teacher education at the University of Cambridge. Were they to be implemented, then the University would need to reconsider whether its PGCE courses were still viable. The University published a statement outlining the reasons for this on 06 July.

This page provides information about the review, the University’s position, and how members of the public can respond to the consultation process. The consultation closes at 11.59pm BST on 22 August 2021.



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What is Cambridge’s role in initial teacher education?

  • Initial teacher education has taken place at Cambridge since 1879. Today, we accept about 300 trainees per year in the Primary and Secondary age ranges.

  • Our graduates are awarded a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and are recommended for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England. Many go on to complete a Masters in Education which further informs their professional work in school.

  • Our PGCE programmes have been awarded ‘Outstanding’ accreditation by Ofsted on multiple occasions, and were ranked no. 1 in England in the last Good Teacher Training Guide.

  • 95% of our trainees complete the course. Within three months of completion, 92% of our trainees are working in schools – and 94% are employed either in schools or other jobs in education. All these rates are above the rates for the sector.

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Why is initial teacher education at Cambridge so effective?

Reviewers and evaluators, including Ofsted, using different inspection frameworks, have praised the same characteristics within the Cambridge Primary and Secondary PGCE courses:

  • We offer a personalised, innovative and high-quality curriculum, drawing on the most robust research evidence and making full use of the expertise available to us in the University’s Faculty of Education, which is a world-leading centre for education research.

  • We have a team of experienced teacher-educators, who have worked as teachers in classrooms as well as with trainee teachers, and who possess deep expertise in their subject and age phase.

  • We work within a well-developed and tightly-integrated partnership, involving around 250 schools across the East of England. Our trainees spend the majority of their time in these schools and they provide carefully-managed, excellent mentoring, which prepares trainees extremely well to begin their teaching careers.

  • We provide our trainees with access to the resources and wider intellectual environment of one of the best universities in the world.

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What is the ITT market review?

The Government recently commissioned a review of the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market, which refers to the full spectrum of programmes and approaches available to anyone who wants to train as a teacher in England. University-based PGCE programmes like ours are just one such available model within the current system.

The review aims to make the ITT system work more efficiently and effectively, and to ensure that all trainee teachers have access to high-quality provision. The government has published information about the rationale for the report as well as the main recommendations, which include:

  • new intensive school placements with a limited number of schools hosting large groups of trainees identified as “intensive practice placements".
  • the creation of ‘lead mentors’ in each placement school, with prescribed training and roles.
  • new quality assurance measures for all ITT providers.
  • the requirement for all ITT providers – including University-based training courses – to reapply for accreditation from the DfE within a very short timescale (by Spring 2022).
  • the requirement for training providers and Teaching School Hubs to work together.
  • the restructuring of courses, to correspond with the duration of the school year, with at least 28 weeks in schools.
  • additional responsibility and accountability for school colleagues.
  • more frequent Ofsted inspections for ITT providers and their partnership schools.

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What is the University’s position?

The University supports the review’s objectives of promoting consistently high-quality teacher training. Unfortunately, however, these proposals would require us to adopt a model of teacher education which we believe could no longer guarantee the high standards that we have achieved to date.

We are therefore asking the Government to ensure that any final changes it makes to teacher training accommodate the continued delivery of university-based PGCE programmes.

Within the University of Cambridge PGCE Partnership, it is essential that we:

  • retain the freedom to develop a high-quality, innovative curriculum. The review proposes a single training curriculum as a condition of accreditation, prescribing what trainees should learn and when/how they should learn it. This would obstruct our ability to provide a flexible, innovative curriculum tailored to the specific needs of our trainees and schools, based on the best available research. While our curriculum accounts for existing statutory requirements, we know that there is no one ‘right’ way to train teachers, just as there is no single ‘right’ way to teach children.

  • protect our long-standing relationships with local schools. The report makes a series of specific recommendations about how school placements should be structured, which threaten to erode some of our existing relationships. In particular, it prescribes more intensive placements in a smaller number of schools and new regulations for the training and responsibility of ‘lead mentors’. It is likely that all these measures would prove very challenging, for many of our existing schools, which are already providing the high quality of mentoring envisaged. The imposition of a top-down system for managing mentors threatens to dismantle existing strong networks of mentors which have formed over many years. Their rich and substantial local, national and research-based expertise ensures new teachers can make the biggest possible impact on the schools they work with. Many of our trainees also take jobs in these schools, and the erosion of such relationships would therefore jeopardise teacher supply in local education services.

  • continue to provide and take responsibility for our own teacher education curriculum, rather than having to operate through ‘delivery partners’. The proposals raise the possibility of universities having to partner with other ‘delivery partners’ as part of a revised framework. It is unlikely that the University would be able to work in this way. Nor is it clear how we, or any other HE provider, would be able to take a leadership role in a system with these features.

  • preserve existing Faculty-based teaching time. In its renewed specifications about how long trainees should spend in schools, the recommendations would cut teaching time in the Faculty by approximately 10 days. We believe that this would impact further on our ability to provide the ambitious curriculum described above.

Moreover, we ask that the Government take the following actions:

  1. Work closely with universities, to find ways in which high-quality programmes can be retained before they are forced to withdraw from ITE. The proposed timelines would make it almost impossible for universities such as Cambridge to reapply for accreditation – even if we agreed with the terms. We would welcome a period of reflection, collaboration and close consultation so that we can work together to contribute towards a stronger ITT system as a whole that accommodates courses like ours.

  2. Clarify questions over funding. The recommendations include the suggestion that additional funding from Government should be made available to accredited providers “as they prepare to deliver against the new Quality Requirements”. It is not clear that funding is guaranteed, and whether the University would have to cover the costs of staff time, extra training, and new placement arrangements itself, within the short timeframe referenced above.

  3. Preserve choice for trainees. While we support the need for consistently high-quality teacher training, that does not mean that everyone must conform to the same model. At present, trainee teachers have a range of options available to find a course that suits them: many university graduates, in particular, enjoy and benefit from HEI-based PGCE courses such as ours. The more rigid conformity proposed in this review compromises opportunity and choice.

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How can I get involved?

There are various ways in which anyone interested in helping to protect university-based PGCE programmes can do so. In particular, you can:


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