Howard Pilot, National Head for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Development and Advice at the Education and Training Foundation

As the Education and Training Foundation’s (@E_T_Foundation) National Head for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Development and Advice, a White Paper which talks of reforming “initial teacher education so it is based on employer-led standards, is driven by quality, and offers attractive and accessible training routes” attracted my attention.  

Highlighting the fact that “practice across the system is not uniformly good, and that the initial teacher education offer is too fragmented, difficult to navigate…” is welcome. 

Through our FE Advice service and other FE workforce interactions, we are aware that some trainees have had questions about the programmes offered to them.

It is surely appropriate that those who offer qualifications for FE teachers should be subject to some common quality assurance (QA) programme and in the ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper we find the Government looking to tackle this issue. 

The recognised qualification for teachers in FE, and the qualification that allows them to apply for professional status - Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) and then Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) - is the Diploma in Education and Training (DET). 

At the ETF, we issue the guidance for this qualification, and we have worked with relevant bodies to maintain the currency of this qualification, including setting appropriate mitigations to allow for the impact of Covid.

However, the qualification may be awarded by different organisations subject to different quality mechanisms: 

  • Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) delivering the DET usually as Cert Eds or PGCEs, who are subject to Ofsted inspections 
  • Other training providers including FE colleges or independent training providers (ITPs), offering the DET through Awarding Bodies (ABs). There are currently 19 ABs awarding the DET, where the providers are subject to external QA from the Awarding Body. 

Any system which has two parallel quality assurance processes will mean inconsistencies and so this focus on bringing the systems together under one umbrella can only be a positive move. Everyone can be clearer about what they are getting and to what standard. 

Plainly, the Department for Education see this as a joint approach in the first instance - let’s work together to align what’s happening – but are indicating they will be more directive should this not deliver the goods: “we will consider introducing new statutory powers for the Secretary of State to take a more active role in regulating the provision of initial teacher education, if the improvement we need to see is not achieved.”

Having this as a fallback position may ensure minds are focussed and collaboration achieves the desired outcomes of consistent high-quality programmes.  

This of course would be a great outcome for the FE sector and comes at a time when the ETF will be working with relevant players to update the qualifications in line with the new employer standards generated by the Trailblazer group for the Level 5 Learning and Skills Teacher apprenticeship. This means the near future offers a reliable qualification covering the skills employers say they need for the modern FE teaching setting.

The FE 'Skills for Jobs' White Paper and its Lifetime Skills Guarantee are predicated on good teachers and this part of the strategy ensures the teacher workforce supply will be receiving the initial training they need to do the job. 

Howard Pilot, National Head for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Development and Advice at the Education and Training Foundation.

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