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Faculty of Education Statements

Statement from the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, regarding the Initial Teacher Training and Early Career Framework

30 January 2024

In our capacity as a centre for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and education research, the Faculty of Education fully supports the principle of an improved framework for ITE and early career teachers. Teacher education programmes should be developed around a shared understanding of what new entrants to the profession require, supported by high-quality scholarship and research evidence.

Having assessed the new framework in detail, we believe that it falls short of these objectives and does not enhance the existing frameworks that it is meant to replace. As an ITE provider, we lack confidence in this document.

While some of our concerns relate to specific, technical details, the essence of our position may be summarised as follows:

  1. The framework sets unclear and contradictory objectives for ITE providers. ITE programmes last for one year, but the new framework only sets learning outcomes for new teachers that will be identifiable after three years.
  2. The framework therefore raises serious issues about how ITE providers will be held to account by Ofsted. It is unclear how Ofsted will be able to inspect ITE programmes with fair and reasonable expectations.
  3. Significant flaws in the existing frameworks have not been addressed. For example, the new framework does not even help trainee teachers understand the purpose of education, implying instead that teaching is merely a set of competencies that teachers are expected to rehearse and master, without any sense of how they interrelate, or how to deploy them effectively in different contexts.
  4. The evidence base for the framework is incomplete and thin. It appears to rely on a limited set of studies that endorse a “cause and effect” approach to teaching and assumes that there is one, single, ideal way to teach any given topic or skill, regardless of who the student is. It overlooks most of the evidence endorsed by authoritative UK educational research bodies. Furthermore, a core concept of the framework is that teachers will learn through the repetition of certain skills, which appears to be based on a misunderstanding of some key principles from teacher education research.

Overall, it is not clear how the new framework will prepare new teachers to be successful professionals who can cope with the diverse needs of students, or the unpredictable realities of working in different communities and schools. It is therefore difficult to see how this will equip new entrants to the profession to remain in teaching long-term.

The Faculty is committed to the education of outstanding teachers. We believe that we have a duty to provide this service, especially given the present shortfalls in recruitment and retention nationwide. To ensure that we can continue to do this to the highest possible standard, we recommend:

  1. That the framework’s implementation happens no earlier than September 2026, if at all. This will enable further consultation and refinement to address some of the challenges above.
  2. The longer-term development of a more comprehensive and thorough framework for Early Career Teaching. This should be led by a non-party-political, cross-sector, expert professional group which can take authoritative responsibility for improving teacher education, while liaising effectively with Government.

Faculty of Education statement on Initial Teacher Education

27 June 2022

The Department for Education has issued a number of clarifications regarding its Initial Teacher Training (ITT) reforms. These address several concerns previously raised by the Faculty of Education and many other Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers.

Broadly, the clarifications refer to operational details which we were concerned would constrain high-quality ITE at the University of Cambridge. For example, they confirm that there will be additional flexibility around the requirements for “Intensive Training and Practice” and mentoring. We have also been assured that providers will retain the freedom to use their own expertise and evidence base as the cornerstone of their curricula, while integrating the requirements of the Core Content Framework.

These clarifications have been published in an ‘ITT Reform Accompanying Document’ and need to become part of the ITT Criteria 2024-5, which will govern the new system. We understand that this will happen, and that the DfE are open to further clarifications. We therefore have sufficient confidence to submit an application for Stage 1 accreditation, have done so, and hope to be able to pursue this to completion.

This decision has been taken after consultation with colleagues in our partner schools. In addition, we are aware of nationwide shortfalls in teacher recruitment and are keen to help alleviate the recruitment crisis.

Separately, DfE has recently issued further Stage 2 guidance for ITE providers whose Stage 1 applications are successful. Unfortunately, this again raises a number of potential obstacles to providing outstanding ITE at Cambridge. We echo the views of bodies such as UCET that it will constrain providers and therefore restrict quality. We understand that the Government is already consulting more widely, in light of cross-sector concerns, with a view to revising the process described in the Stage 2 guidance, and we await the outcome of that process.

The Faculty shares the Government’s aspiration for excellence across the system. We will continue to deliver world-leading teacher education, through innovative, personalised programmes that continually evolve on an evidence-informed basis. We regard this as an obligation so that today’s young people are properly supported by inspirational teachers to become well-rounded, critical thinkers, capable of solving the challenges of tomorrow. We will continue to monitor whether the reforms remain compatible with these standards.


Faculty of Education statement on Initial Teacher Education

25 February 2022

As explained in our statement of 1 December (below), we welcome the fact that the Government has accommodated some of the concerns raised by ITT providers about the Review. We also continue to support the underpinning aspiration for consistently high quality initial teacher education across the sector.

Having considered the documents specifying what providers will be expected to deliver, however, we remain concerned about a number of important inconsistencies in the detail of what is being proposed on which we are seeking clarification.

Our decision not to apply in February reflects, in part, the need to consult fully with our network of partner schools on the implications for the Partnership, and to gain full reassurances about these outstanding points, before the next accreditation opportunity in June.

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Faculty of Education statement on the UK Government response to the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Market Review

1 December, 2021

The recommendations in the Government response to the ITT Market Review consultation involve a number of notable changes to the original proposals which were published in July. While we welcome some of these modifications, we have significant concerns about a number of important inconsistencies which continue to prescribe and constrain how teacher training should be delivered. The Faculty will be seeking further clarification about these from the Government.

As we have explained in previous statements, the Faculty supports the underpinning aspiration for consistently high quality ITT across the entire sector. In order to achieve this, it is important to ensure that any reforms not only guarantee high quality, but also build on well-established processes that already exist.

In this context, it is encouraging that the Government response now states the importance of provider autonomy and the use of the latest and most robust research evidence available.

We are concerned, however, that a number of the proposals enforce a high level of standardisation which would constrain our ability to provide an innovative, personalised curriculum, which is fundamental to high-quality, evidence-informed teacher education. The Faculty therefore remains concerned about several key recommendations in the response. These include:

  • The requirements for trainees to undergo stipulated periods of “intensive training and practice”, in addition to existing placement time. This would significantly reduce the existing opportunities we provide for trainees to fully engage with the latest evidence in their subject areas and age group.

  • While some points on mentoring have changed, the proposals need to go much further in permitting flexibility around mentoring. The current requirement for mentors to fulfil prescribed training criteria and time demands would divert teachers from their core responsibilities for classroom teaching and learning.

  • The requirements concerning accreditation. As an already-accredited provider ourselves, we acknowledge the importance of providers being accredited. However, the current proposals involve meeting a detailed set of prescriptions which would limit providers’ ability to draw on their own expertise to prepare new teachers for diverse settings and to support pupils with different needs.

  • The two accreditation rounds currently envisaged, the deadline for the first of which is in February, involve an unrealistic timescale.

Along with many colleagues from across the sector, the Faculty has actively engaged in conversations with DfE officials about its plans in recent weeks to make sure the proposals succeed in delivering high-quality ITT provision across the country. We are concerned that the review contains important inconsistencies. We would welcome the opportunity for further constructive dialogue given that these outstanding matters remain to be addressed.

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Initial teacher training (ITT) market review: full consultation response

18 August 2021

The University of Cambridge has submitted its response to the public consultation on the Government’s market review of Initial Teacher Training. This follows a general statement of concern about the proposals published on 6 July.

Read and download the University of Cambridge full consultation response

Our overall position remains that, while we support the objective of promoting consistently high-quality teacher training, we are deeply concerned that the proposals themselves would require us to adopt a model within which we could no longer guarantee the high standards we have achieved to date. The market review proposals appear to confuse quality with uniformity and conformity. We cannot, in all conscience, envisage our continuing involvement with ITT should the proposals be implemented in their current format.

We have called on the Government to halt the review, particularly given the fact that the consultation period itself has been much-reduced and occurred during the school holidays, limiting engagement. Instead of pushing ahead with these flawed proposals, representatives including university and school-based colleagues from a range of ITT programmes should be consulted in an open and transparent way, so that genuine challenges can be identified and addressed, drawing on national and international understanding and a wider range of research evidence of high-quality teacher education. We would welcome opportunities to work with the Government, alongside representatives of other providers, to help develop an alternative way forward.

This document highlights some of the key points raised in our response.

You may also be interested in:

Read other organisations’ responses to the Market Review (updated 17 September 21).


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University of Cambridge statement on the UK Government Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market review report

05 July 2021

The University of Cambridge prepares around 300 new teachers to enter the profession every year; many in priority subject areas such as STEM disciplines. Our PGCE courses have repeatedly been rated ‘outstanding’ by different reviewers, across multiple inspection frameworks. These assessments consistently highlight our close partnership with more than 250 state schools, where our trainees spend the large majority of their course; our ambitious curriculum which draws on our expertise as a world-leading centre for education research; and our team of teacher-educators, who have decades of experience in teaching and training.

We support this review’s objective of promoting consistently high-quality teacher training, but we are deeply concerned that the proposals themselves would require us to adopt a model within which we could no longer guarantee the high standards we have achieved to date.

There are a number of reasons for this, but in particular, the single model of training proposed would obstruct our delivery of a flexible, highly-personalised, innovative curriculum, responsive to trainees’ and schools’ needs and based on the best available research. The evidence overwhelmingly shows there is no single ‘right’ way to train teachers to work in diverse settings and to support pupils with different needs. The proposals could erode long-standing partnerships with, and create a number of serious challenges for, partner schools who have themselves contributed to and greatly enriched the design of our programmes for trainees. In addition, the distinction made between accredited providers and delivery partners poses serious challenges. These, and several other specific concerns will be reflected in more detail in our response to the consultation.

The University cannot in all good faith accept or offer aspiring teachers a programme that would lower standards in this way. Now, more than ever, children need teachers of the highest possible quality. These recommendations would compromise the essential characteristics of programmes such as ours, which are already producing outstanding teachers, year after year.

We recognise that these are only recommendations. Were they to be implemented, however, then with great regret we would see little option but to review the viability of Initial Teacher Education at the University of Cambridge. We have therefore asked the Government to adjust the proposals to accommodate the continued delivery of University-based PGCE courses. Programmes such as ours are already providing new teachers with the very best education, training and development opportunities and, through them, shaping the education of countless children for the better. We very much hope that the Government will take the necessary steps to allow us to continue to do so.

Professor Graham Virgo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education
Professor Susan Robertson, Head of the Faculty of Education

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